Putting the HOTE Puzzle Together

In the last few days, a long-time visitor has peppered some of the HOTE pages with comments, which was wonderful for me to see during what was otherwise a pretty difficult week. So, thank you for that! They made my day. :)

An image of Dezyrí broken into puzzle pieces.
An incomplete picture.

I wanted to take a moment to share a little bit of what has been going on behind the scenes on the creative side of my life. Since I’ve been concentrating on trying to get ready to put my home up for sale, there hasn’t been much, but there is some!

In a prior post I mentioned one task on my “to do” list has been to revisit the plot of HOTE and fix some long-standing problems with the story. Those problems have been the major reason the story itself has not advanced in some years.

To date, writing HOTE has kind of been like putting together a puzzle where I was sure at the start that I knew what the puzzle’s image was supposed to look like, but when I actually got down to putting the pieces together it turned out they didn’t quite fit together as expected, or the overall picture had morphed into something else when I wasn’t looking. Or both.

I got as far as the chapters already posted and then found myself stuck because the holes in the puzzle (problems in the plot) that seemed small and a bit insignificant at the beginning had become huge and ragged over time, kind of like a tear in a knitted sweater that slowly unravels the more the sweater is worn.

When I got to this point I decided to make a big chart. I put all my characters on it in a column, and across the top I started noting dates in the story’s timeline. The intersecting cells were then filled in with the things each character was doing (or was supposed to be doing) on those dates and why. Anything that was posing a problem was coded with a bright yellow background.

The chart got pretty big pretty fast. I ended up adding columns for dates far before the story begins in order to help myself understand where certain plot threads started. The earliest date ended up being some six million years prior to HOTE’s opening scene. Yeah. Six million. Evolution FTW? The latest date was shown only as “Year XX” because one of the biggest problems in the story centered around how long things were going to take. In the end, the notes in the chart only went up to just after the end of chapter ten.

When it was done, the chart looked like this:

The first version of HOTE's timeline chart.
The first version of HOTE’s timeline chart.

All those yellow boxes on the right-hand side might not seem like a lot when compared to all the other ones, but they represent significant problems. And obviously most of those problems come up at around the same time in the story, which is why the chart peters out shortly afterward.

What to do about it? Some time ago I had several brainstorming sessions with other creative people I know who didn’t mind having the guts of the story spoiled for them, which was greatly beneficial to me. But then life happened and the notes sat on my hard drive, waiting patiently for a day when I could finally put some attention to them.

After I finished rebuilding the site at the end of November that day finally came. I sat down, dug up the notes, and dusted off that chart. All that yellow? Well, now it looks like this:

The current version of HOTE's timeline chart.
The current version of HOTE’s timeline chart.

Big difference, eh? In comparing the two it’s easy to see where the timeline has shifted around on the right-hand side of the chart, and there are much fewer problems remaining than before. On the other hand, one of the characters that had notes before no longer has any, and might end up cut from the story completely. Some characters still have no notes because I’m still not sure what they are up to at these earlier dates since they aren’t expected to appear in the story until later on.

The remaining problems are questions like, “What consequences will this character face because of this choice?” and “Why is this event important?” and “Who is going to instigate this stuff?” among others. Some of it requires doing a bit of reading up on things like sweeping religious change. In particular I’ll be looking at certain schools of thought regarding the impact Christianity’s arrival in Britain had on more traditional faith systems of that period, as well as various events that happened with the Church of England between the years 1534 and 1558. Other stuff…is a secret. :)

Having solved many of the issues I faced before means I can revisit the existing chapters to make them fit the new timeline. I still need to solve the remaining problems before I can continue past those events, but at least the story appears to be in much better shape now than before, and it means I should be able to finish mapping out the rest!

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