I watched For Love of the Game last night, but a different version than the one that was released in theaters or on tape or DVD.
My deceased life mate/soul mate was sick for many years, and one way kept himself busy when he hadn’t the strength to do much else was to tape movies. He started with our favorites, then went on to taping good parts of bad movies, and finally edited movies that we didn’t like. (It’s rather amusing — he turned a few dreadful serial killer movies into sweet romances by ending the movie before the charming killer showed his evil side.)
The problem we both had with For Love of the Game was the constant intrusion of the backstory. Billy Chapel is pitching the last game of his career and he keeps stopping to reflect on his past — detailed flashbacks that would take up more than a few seconds between his pitches. Would fans in the stands really care that he was pitching a perfect game if he spent most of his time on the mound staring glassy-eyed into the past? Would he really be able to “clear the mechanism” so easily if his mind wasn’t on the game?
My version is told in chronological order, from the meeting of the girl in the beginning to the remeeting at the end. When Chapel is pitching, then, his pauses are short, and seem more evidence of exhaustion than anything else.
So why am I mentioning this? I’ve been working sporadically on my novel about a grieving woman. A few years ago I wrote many scenes or parts of scenes, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to arrange the scenes and tell the story. As it stands right now, the story begins when the funeral people deliver the urn with her husband’s ashes, which is a good place to begin. (In a classic beginning, either a stranger knocks on the door or the character goes on a trip.) The only trouble is, there is a vast backstory that needs to be told, which is okay because it is about a woman grieving, after all, and much of grief is about unwinding the backstory, figuring out who you are, where you are, and how you got to that point.
Sometimes — most times, actually — stories need to be told in chronological order. It might serve my story better if I began when the husband got sick. It would show her dealing with his illness and would explain how she ended up in love with someone else while her husband was dying. This way, there would need to be only a few mentions of the past, such as when the met, what happened to her parents, etc, and not the constant intrusions into the past that are required if I were to start with the knock on the door.
But . . . a gun plays a role in the story. Finding the gun and eventually discovering the significance of the gun makes the grieving woman realize that she put so much of herself into the marriage, and if she doesn’t know who her husband is, then how can she know who she is? If I told the story chronologically, the gun wouldn’t show up until the middle of the book, and it would lose its significance.
I suppose the best thing for me to do is to forget about the chronology and just type up the scenes. Afterward, if necessary, I can edit the book and put everything in chronological order. Either way, it’s all for love of the story.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.