I’ve been reworking my middle grade novel, a contemporary fantasy about a young swimmer. Wanting to see if I was on the right track, or in the right lane, I took it took my critique group. Not surprisingly, they pointed out areas I needed to tighten as well as some typos. But I got another comment as well.
“There is no event where you go from butterfly to freestyle.”
“Then I wonder why I did that? Write it down because I’m going to have to noodle it over.”
In addition to writing me a note, the young critiquer pointed it out another time or three. Clearly, this was a very important point for her. He had to swim the various stroked in the same order as an individual medley (IM) or it was wrong.
I got it.
Back at home, I noodled it over. Why had I put the strokes in that order? I’m pretty sure it was the order suggested to me by a certain swimmer I just happen to live with but I couldn’t actually remember. Since the character was simply enjoying the glory of water after a day at school, I wasn’t sure it mattered.
Finally, I managed to track down my primary swimming source and explained my problem to him. ”Would my character swim the strokes out of order?”
“Out of order for what? I thought he was just having fun, not swimming an IM.”
“It is just for fun. Does that matter?”
“It depends. Who is he more like, me or Isaiah?”
“Then he wouldn’t care. There’s not a set order for fun. Unless your Isaiah, then you have to swim them in the same order as an IM or your head might explode.”
Eventually, I decided not to change it. He’s just having fun and he’s the kind of kid who not only wouldn’t care but might also swim them out of order just to tweak his best friend. That said, I didn’t know which way to do it until I thought about my character.
For more on how your character determines how you write about a given situation, read my post today on the Muffin.