Dancing With Madness

I’m getting to the end of the plotline dissections. As I’ve said before, when a person gets a revision letter from an agent, I think the first thing they or at least I wanted to do was rush through the manuscript and make obvious changes. It’s done! Whee! Zip it back to the agent.

That first read through got rid of obvious problems and cut some subplots no one would miss, but in my heart I knew the problem was much deeper. I really needed to dissect everything. I needed to rip everything apart and take it back down to the core components and ask a few questions.

Is this scene necessary? One scene I am still teetering on is where the mc goes to a garden to pick flowers with another character and they encounter a bard who has been banned from teaching music to the children of the keep as punishment to the children. They made the mistake of mutinying to get more music time at the expense of their other studies.

This scene was supposed to establish a few things. It reintroduces a character who’s been missing for a while. It shows Gen trying to be normal and act happy even though she’s on the brink of madness and suicide. It gives her an excuse to get around the plants she’s gathering to commit suicide with. It reinforces the strength of music as an anchor in her life.

That’s what the scene should do. In reality, it may be a place where the action slows down and people get bored. It might be perceived as a fluff scene.

Yeah, because people who are depressed are supposed to be brooding and sad.

I’m sure many people are. Certainly, if you look at the commercials for antidepressants on tv, all the people are sad and moving in slow motion. It’s obvious to anyone who sees them they need FeelGud three times a day and they’ll be out playing with their children and laughing again.

When Mirinda died, I got a job a few weeks later. Don went back to work driving truck and was gone for weeks at a time. I was happy at work and helpful. Everyone loved me, especially my customers who insisted I wait on them when they came in.

The side no one saw was a person who often forgot to eat for days at a time unless someone took me out to eat and then I remembered I should eat. I lost from 153 post partum to 87 pounds in a relatively short period of time. I normally weigh 130 when I’m in good shape and muscled up.

They didn’t see the person who rushed around to do chores outside so I could lock up the house at sunset because “they” were out there.

They didn’t see the person who refused to go in the bedroom after dark unless Don was there because I took some folded clothes back there one night and saw Mirinda lying on the bed. Obviously, anyone in their right mind knows a dead baby isn’t just going to appear in her pristine christening gown on the middle of the bed and that’s the point. Anyone in their right mind. I saw Mirinda and no amount of logic could erase that. I tossed the clothes in the air, screamed, slammed the door and never returned to that room after dark when I was alone again. I didn’t even go to the bathroom after dark because the bathroom was next to the bedroom.

They didn’t see the person who slept, when she could, curled up in a chair with her back to the wall facing the front door because “they” were out there.

They didn’t see the person who was afraid to sleep because every time she did, the nightmare returned. There was a knock at the door. I opened it and three hags stood there laughing. The middle one had a small blanket-wrapped bundle with lace peeking out in places. The blanket was covered in dirt as if it had just been dug up. Then, the woman held the bundle out to me and said, “Here’s your baby, dearie,” and they all cackled while I screamed.

I touched on these emotions with Gen and flitted around what was happening in her mind, but I never showed it. I said, “she was sad,” but it didn’t engage me or the reader. Maybe I just played with it because it’s painful or maybe I was being lazy. Either way, I realized this was one of those places I was going to have to either get rid of it or go much deeper and bleed all over the page without being melodramatic.

I haven’t really seen too many people get the dancing with madness scenes right. Joss Whedon in FIREFLY does. He actually does it better than anyone I’ve seen. Of course, Summer Glau was the perfect actress to pull off this difficult role. It’s not easy being crazy.

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