Deconstructing Design: Joy in a World Where ‘Wild Things Will Roam’


Now that we’re a few weeks into January, I wanted to check in and see how everyone is doing. If you’re like me and started the year strong by recommitting to new/old habits, then you may have (like me) already hit what I call the point of critical fatigue.

Even if you’re not the “New Year’s Resolution” type, there’s an emotional shift that comes with the beginning of every new year. Janus–the god of doorways, beginnings, change, and transition and for whom January is named–had two faces; one turned toward the past, the other toward the future. We do the same thing, whether we mean to or not. So we start the year with a renewed energy, ready to work out, to write, to read, to get clean, to be a better spouse, etc., and we do an awesome job for a few weeks.

But then we get very tired. Worse, still, we haven’t been doing “the thing(s)” long enough to actually see results. We come out the door in a strong sprint, get winded, and then get discouraged when we realize we’ve barely covered any ground. And we have to make a critical decision: do we continue? Or do we resolve ourselves to the internal monologue that reminds us what a lost cause we are?

(If you need a pep talk: you’re doing as much as you can, and that’s enough. Patience sucks, but it’s the only way to see any change in any thing. You’ll be grateful to yourself for just doing enough until you reach your goal. I promise)

So in the spirit of looking backward and forward, and recommitting to things long forgotten, I thought I’d revisit an old series: Deconstructing Design.

Deconstructing Design: A Wild Things Will Roam Scene

I ran a poll several months ago to ask what scene(s), if any, readers might want to see deconstructed. One of the suggestions that caught my attention was a snippet that actually happens off screen and spans only two paragraphs, but serves as the height from which the story is dropped in the last quarter.

LOTS OF MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

The reason the reader suggested this scene is exactly aligned with the purpose that I hoped it would serve: “It’s such a nice moment before everything gets flipped on its head.”

So let’s deconstruct this bad boy.

We’ll start with the trees before we expand to the forest. Isolated, this scene is simply one where two people get a little high, a little fresh, and a little crazy in the wake of a life-threatening experience. I wanted to create a feeling of joy, desire, and anticipation.

Perspective.

When they were with the Cajun Navy and shared their first kiss, the story focused on Liv’s interpretation of these events. Here, I wanted to circle back and show the budding relationship from Lash’s perspective (more on this in a moment). Lash as a character represents the physical aspects of the story. He’s the one who notices details in the world around our characters, he’s our clue into the heat or the sound or where everyone is physically located in a scene. You want strategy? He’s the go-to guy. So it makes sense that for him, the best way to communicate desire and anticipation would be through physical movement. We become anxious not because it says “Lash was antsy,” but because we see the result of that anxiety in his actions.

We also see him wrestling with the fact that how he would like to feel about the situation presented in the first paragraph (‘The night between had served Lash least’ and ‘Such a stupid mistake’) contrasts directly with what his actions, and his memory, are telling us in the rest of the excerpt. Even as he recalls the night, he’s focused on the ‘good time,’ the kiss, their skin, dancing, singing, the fire (got that heat, y’all).

Antici… pation.

We end the summary on that anticipatory combination: His body starved for attention. It wouldn’t go hungry much longer.

Anticipation here does two things: first, it begins to resolve the romantic tension built throughout the center third of the novel. We want these two together, no matter how doomed the pairing may feel. They have real chemistry. They’ve fought and survived together, been naked together, and kissed. Now more than once. But in the context of the broader forest of the novel, this also provides us a crucial high. Emotionally, we need a break from all the exhaustion, fighting, and running as much as they do. We, as readers, want to feel like there’s a reason to hope.

The Drop

And all that hope leads us right into the following scene: the corn. I’ll leave this vague for anyone who hasn’t yet read the text, but know that this scene we’re deconstructing is the top of a rollercoaster, and we are about to begin the drop.

This is the second purpose of the anticipation built in our scene. The why is a broader discussion (which I’ll try to address in the future!), but what happens next happens the way it does in real life–out of nowhere–and, as in real life, fully upends both Lash and Liv’s lives. This was not a scene I took lightly, and the height the characters reach the night before intentionally emphasizes (by contrast) just how devastating the next few pages are.

The Future

This scene is, incidentally, one of the building blocks as we head into the next installment of the core Collapse series, Run, You Hunted Things. Everyone is processing the events of WTWR, but for Lash and Liv, there’s a bond between them that they’re struggling to reconcile.

“All that shit before Atlanta, that was just… two lonely people left alone too long, yeah?”

Lash Farrow – Run, You Hunted Things

What do you think? Is Lash right, or is there something more there? Leave your comments below and let me know if there are other scenes you want Deconstructed!


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