In cinema or television the second unit camera is a separate team that films additional sequences. These sequences are often shot at the same time as the main unit to save both time and money.
Similarly to cinema, novels contain hundreds of references to drama that is only mentioned in passing but that has a crucial role to play in the plot. Much of ancient Greek theatre was derived from explanations of action that the audience were asked to believe had taken place elsewhere.
These digressive plot points are crucial to an understanding of the main thrust of the novel but are often barely fleshed out. It seems enough to say “He did this, and then she did that”.
We’re going to have a go at some second unit writing.
Take a novel that you know well, or one that you admire – now might be the time to reach for that 600 page Penguin Classic that you’ve never quite managed to get around to reading. Scan through the book until you come to a passage in which events are mentioned in passing. This could be something that happened many years ago, it could be action described by a returning character, or even events only alluded to in the briefest sense.
The following is an example from The Money Master by Gilbert Parker:
Ever since Zoe’s mother had vanished–alone–seven years before from the Manor Cartier, or rather from his office at Vilray, M. Fille had been as much like a maiden aunt or a very elder brother to the Spanische’s daughter as a man could be. Of M. Fille’s influence over his daughter and her love of his companionship, Jean Jacques had no jealousy whatever. Very often indeed, when he felt incompetent to do for his child all that he wished–philosophers are often stupid in human affairs–he thought it was a blessing Zoe had a friend like M. Fille. Since the terrible day when he found that his wife had gone from him–not with the master- carpenter who only made his exit from Laplatte some years afterwards–he had had no desire to have a woman at the Manor to fill her place, even as housekeeper.
Parker has offered us the outline of several plot points; not least the departure of Zoe’s mother. These were, until now, surplus material. Your job is to write it.
Write a long paragraph describing Madame Fille’s departure. You do not need to know anything of the book, you are just using this random clip to generate new material. Have fun and take this mere aside anywhere you wish.