Sunday, August 25, 2013

Killed it? Resurrect it!

To go along with this month's theme of "Killing your Babies," I've decided to do a post on resurrection. It's difficult to cut scenes (or characters) from your novel, after spending weeks, months, or even years of outlining, writing and polishing your manuscript. One thing I've learned is that you've got to be true to your story, and true to your characters. This is the only way you'll know what to do with your baby.

While writing Dark Seduction, I had a few more Guardians in the mix than what made it into the final cut. Even though I love every one of those characters, I had to face facts and make some cuts. There were just too many for readers to get to know, and I didn't have to throw every single immortal warrior at them from the get-go. So I took some of them out and modified my story using the Guardians that were left. My point is that just because you kill something or someone off, it doesn't mean you can't resurrect them. I've introduced some of those characters in subsequent books, and plan to add even more later on. Did it suck to have to make those cuts? Yup. Do I think the book (and the overall series) is better off with those changes? Abso-freakin'-lutely!

No one really wants to kill off scenes and/or characters, sometimes it's a necessary evil (or blessing depending on how you look at it).

So go ahead and cut scenes or characters, and save a new draft of your manuscript. If it flows well, then you've made the right move. If you're just not sure, then get a critique partner.

If you killed it, resurrect it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Happiness in Death

Love scenes: some of the hardest writing I do.  I don't know why I have such a hard time writing a decent romantic scene.  Maybe I'm dead inside and don't feel emotions like other people, or maybe it's because I go too far when I write them, either too cheesy, too aggressive, too pornographic...who knows?  All I know is that I struggle with them greatly.

The irony of that opening statement is that I can't stand to read a novel without some element of love.  I enjoy that giddy sensation that gives me a chance to change the emotions I'm experiencing during the rest of the novel.  It adds climax and excitement to the story.

So, while I know what I like, making my characters act that way, making my brain think that way is difficult.

With my work in progress, there is an element of romance that builds and builds.  At the height of this romantic relationship, I felt like the scene where it all came together fell flat.  Something wasn't right.  All of the actions were right, but it didn't fill me with that sense of giddiness, that excitement of something that had been developing throughout the novel coming to its climax.  It just wasn't working.  I wrote this scene a few months ago and moved on with the novel, knowing I was going to need to come back to it.  That time finally came this month.  I read it and changed a few things here and there, but it still didn't feel right.  I left it and came back the next day, and the next, and the next.  It just wasn't working.

Finally, it came to me in the dark of a sleepless night after being stuck for about two weeks: the protagonist wasn't behaving like she would.  Her emotions weren't congruent with her character.  I was writing her acting, feeling in a way contrary to any way she would ever act or feel.  When morning came, I eliminated all traces of the previous emotions I had given her and rewrote that romantic scene.  She no longer felt things she would never consider; she was focused and driven, just like she had been since the beginning of the book.  While her actions surprised us, her motive didn't.  It was the same as it had always been.  The scene came together.  The feelings I had been trying to force onto the reader came, not because I wrote them, but because our protagonist acted like herself.

Killing that scene, which I would have loved if I didn't know my protagonist like I do, brought the emotions it had been deprived of.  While it sounds hard, and it is, it is always worth the change.  I won't ever regret erasing that scene and changing it like I did.  I love it now and it brought the energy to the novel, to that plot element that I had been missing.  Have the courage and kill them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Everything else I thought to put here sounded too morbid...

Well, this months theme, is "killing your babies". Up until this last weekend, I knew exactly what I was going to write about. What inspired the change? Well, lets just say, I finally realized that in a sense, I had to kill my first born. I am going to have to start from the beginning and rewrite my whole novel.

 I started my novel probably 6-8 years ago. Obviously, I was never really consistent with it through those years, only pulling it out when I felt some new bit of inspiration, day dreaming about the kind of story I wanted to tell. It has only been in the last 3 years I have been serious, and even then, I haven't been committed to it fully. Life happens.

Over the years as I would write little scenes here and there, I knew what story I wanted to tell, but I didn't put much thought into characterization over the whole novel. Later on when I wanted to bridge the gap and make the little scenes piece together, I found I was constantly making changes to what the characters would say and do, because they didn't fit.

A couple months ago, I decided to change a huge plot point in the book. My heroine originally suffered the loss of her mother, which devastated her. In that loss, I wanted to write a book where she could grow and regain herself through her friends and the people around her. I was constantly struggling with, "Would she really care about that?" or "Why does this even matter to her?" Those questions were constantly circling the inevitable drain. SO, I changed her struggle from a loss of a parent to a devastating break up. Maybe a little more mainstream, but I feel for the story I want to tell, it really opens up a lot of avenues. I found my character's responses started to make sense, I felt an urgency to get on with the story to find resolution for them.

Now I have tried to go back and implement this large plot change through out all the work I have done. I kept hitting walls. Even though I was on board with the plot changes, nothing felt congruent. With all of this, I have decided to rewrite the whole novel. Some scenes will be the same, but I feel that if I leave it open as a blank canvas, it will open up a lot of room for discoveries that I couldn't quite reach before.

It could also send me into depression. I feel as though all the hours and work I spent on the previous 97,000 words mean nothing. I know that isn't true, because with out that, I wouldn't know what direction I wanted to go.

I realize this has ended up being a eulogy for my dead "baby", but don't worry, I am working on a new one, and by darn it. Its going to freaking rock.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Killing Your Babies

Don't let the title fool you, we're not talking about killing real babies. Our theme for this month is about making your characters do something or change something that you didn't want to do or change, or killing off a character in order to make the story better. A sacrifice you've had to make for the greater good. While I haven't had to kill off any of my characters (yet) I have definitely had to make some hard cuts in order to improve the flow of the story. One particularly difficult cut was a scene where my main protagonist is spying on the main antagonist and overhears a conversation between him his mom. The reason this scene was hard for me to take out is because I think it really shows the motivation and core of my antagonist and reveals a more luring side to him. But alas, as my story developed I realized that this scene not only gave away too much too soon, it also didn't quite fit in with my new revisions of the story and had to go. I still very much plan on adding it as a deleted scene after I publish my book. Want a sneak peak? You got it! Okay, it's not really a peak, it's the whole thing, but I couldn't decide where to stop it. Enjoy.

I crept a little closer so I could hear what they were saying. Mrs. Thomas’s voice cut through the air and it was obvious she was not happy.
“Why her? Darling, you could have so many other girls and they would all be a much better choice than her.”
“No, mother. I want her and I will have her,” Lucas replied confidently.
“But why? She’s nothing special; she’s not even that pretty. I don’t understand why we can’t just get rid of her.” I felt my heart beating faster. I could only imagine what get rid of her would mean for me. Like I was some dog that bit her hand and now had to be put down. That’s how she saw me. I noticed a sliver of light spilling out by the door and leaned toward it to try and see inside. The only thing I could make out was the form of Mrs. Thomas, sitting in a large chair by the fire. From the way she kept moving her head she was watching Lucas pace the room.
“I’ve already told you, I want her,” Lucas said again. When Mrs. Thomas didn’t reply he said impatiently, “You don’t see the way people look at her as she walks by. Or how she lights up whenever she talks about something she’s passionate about. People are drawn to that light and they listen to her.” I felt myself frowning in the dark where no one could see me. He thought people were drawn to me?
“She can be a very powerful asset if she chooses to be on our side,” he finished.
“Or a very powerful enemy if she chooses not to be,” Mrs. Thomas countered.
There was a moment of silence while they both contemplated this. Mrs. Thomas was the one to break the silence. “And she doesn’t even like you.” At that Lucas sighed. I thought he’d lost the battle, but he wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“Just give me time, mother. She’ll come around and you’ll be glad you decided to let her stay. She can live here so you can keep a close eye on her and I’ll be with her at school. If she steps out of line even once, you can send her back,” Lucas said.
“Sounds like you’ve got this all worked out. You realize how much of a liability she is?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
“I do, but I’m willing to take that chance,” Lucas replied. I was taken back at the utter confidence he had in me of all people. I found myself a little flattered that he was willing to risk so much for me, but I felt bad for him. He was a fool to think I’d cooperate. A fool to think I could just sit by and pretend like everything was real. He would risk a lot and he would lose it. Mrs. Thomas seemed to think the same thing.
“I hope you’re right about her darling. I would hate to see you heartbroken over such an unworthy girl, but I love you too much to not give you what you want. Especially when you’re willing to risk so much for it. She can stay,” Mrs. Thomas said as she got up and walked toward the door leading back to her wing. She paused in the doorway.

“For now,” she added. I couldn’t see Lucas through the crack of the door, but I heard the exhalation of breath. He was relieved. I could have hid when I heard him coming, but I didn’t. He came out the door and stopped short when he saw me standing there. He didn’t look embarrassed or angry like I thought he would be. He simply smiled and bowed slowly, his eyes never leaving mine. Then without a word he continued on his way as if he’d never been interrupted. As if he hadn’t caught me listening in on his conversation. He wasn’t disappointed that I heard.
*Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*