Found this in my file of things to post one day … originally wrote it as I was going through the copyedits for Bones, and it’s a little bit spoilery. But as I went through those copyedits, I got to thinking about the whole revision process, and about how one thing often led to another.
One of the ways in which Liza’s mother fails her, in Bones, is that she keeps a secret from her for much of the book. (Well, possibly more than one secret, but one that she doesn’t keep from everyone else.) In the version of Bones I sold, Mom kept that secret because she didn’t trust Liza, who was more strongly in sympathy with her father in the original draft than in the final one. Mom had good reasons not to trust Liza in that original draft.
But Liza’s sympathy for her father got toned down after I received my editorial revision letter (because I agreed it kept the reader from having enough sympathy for Liza), though it didn’t go away entirely. But enough changed that Liza’s mother not trusting Liza no longer made sense. So Mom needed a new reason to keep her secret–and it needed to be a good reason, lest it look like Mom was keeping secrets for no better reason than to move the plot forward.
So I revised some more, and now, instead of keeping secrets because she doesn’t trust Liza, Mom keeps secrets to protect her daughter–because if Liza’s father found out the things Mom knows, he might hurt Mom–and Liza, too, if it looked like she was at all involved.
This breaks my heart, in a good way. In the draft I sold, Mom fails Liza simply because she doesn’t trust her. In the final draft, Mom fails Liza because she loves her so deeply that she wants to keep her safe from harm. She fails her daughter by trying to do the right thing, rather than by simply underestimating her.
And that’s much more powerful to me.
But what’s fascinating is, the things that eventually led to me to change Liza’s Mom’s motivations didn’t originally have anything to do with her. At all.
Pull one thread, and others get pulled, too, and everything changes and (hopefully!) grows stronger. Changes don’t happen in isolation; they often (usually?) ripple out to affect the rest of the story.