Sunday, September 25, 2016

In the Villain's Head

I'm not happy with my rewrite of the scene where my antagonist tries to get my male protag to work for him (in more ways than he realizes).

I made an attempt to improve the scene and got some feedback. Ack, it still wasn't working. Try again.

Best approach? Redraft the middle of the scene to be from the male protag's point of view. This way, the reader can witness how he rationalizes away the odd things the villain is proposing, and, I hope, agree that he isn't being gullible, he's just going on the information and experience he has. Getting inside his head at the time will make it easier for the reader than waiting to hear him tell the female protag all about it.

But this requires that I do something I've said categorically that I don't want to do: Get inside the villain's head as well. Too bad, gotta do it. How can I show how my hero normalizes the bad guy's demands, unless I know how the villain works to make his demands seem normal?

What's more, I have to tone the villain down and stop making him so obviously villainous.  For why would he be, at this stage?  He'd want to lure the hero in step by step by enticements that sound innocent at first.  He'd reveal how dangerous they are only when his victim is entangled and it's too late.

I'm not giving the villain a point of view. It'd make the book too much longer and too much more complicated and it'd spoil the suspense if the reader knows for sure what he's up to. But for awhile I'll have to climb into my antagonist's devious little psyche. My hero must have something "real" to react against.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


This afternoon I walked into town to check out my county's annual BookFest. The goofy thing is that I totally forgot it was this weekend until yesterday evening when, as I was driving to work, I spied the writers' pavilion being set up in the middle of the street that bisects the park in the town center. 

This year I remembered to bring a tote bag for all the bookmarks, postcards, pens, candy, and other swag my fellow authors were handing out. What I forgot to do, way last winter, was to start a book-buying fund. So frustrating and embarrassing to have all these local writers making their books available for purchase at a discount, and I couldn't afford a single one. 

I collected a lot of author business cards and passed out a few of my own. One writer was kind enough to say she'd be willing to read over my manuscript of The Single Eye once I incorporate the last of my beta readers' suggestions, and she suggested I attend the monthly lectures sponsored by the local chapter of Romance Writers of America, which meets in a town not overly far from me. And on a Saturday, too, so my work schedule wouldn't get in the way.

And, what fun, I got to talk to an ATF agent who'd written a nonfiction book about his career. He had a lot of interesting things to say about the Waco and Ruby Ridge standoffs and about the Atlanta Olympics and Oklahoma City bombings, and he was able to assure me that I'd gotten the events surrounding the explosions, etc., at the end of my novel right. (There's one place where I'm probably stretching reality, but I didn't ask him about that. Sorry, I need it for the plot.)

Unlike last year's BookFest, it did not pour down rain; instead, it was bloody hot and more than once I thought I was going to keel over from heatstroke. Never mind, it's a great event and maybe next year I'll have the funds to take better advantage of it.

Two Steps Back, Three Steps Forward Equals Progress

Thinking how I wanted to get The Single Eye published last winter.  Then by the end of August.  You mind if I fall over myself laughing?

Boy, do I have a lot of rewriting left to do. As much as some of my latest beta reader's comments bug me, three or four of them make me go, "Hmmm, what about it?" Does my villain come on too strong at the beginning? Given that he behaves like a consistent jerk from the get-go, isn't my male protagonist sliding into Too-Stupid-to-Live territory by not immediately seeing through him?  I've gone through a period of insisting that I can't make him more than minimally proactive, given his position in life. But is that really true? Aren't there things he would do to deal with the trash the villain is throwing at him? Then at the end, after the female protag saves the day with her "heroics," would she still feel like an idiot after law enforcement praised her for her bravery?

I've come to the conclusion that all these things call for revision, not because I want the approval of my latest beta reader or because I feel I have to change my work to fit her views, but because I believe that once rewritten, my characters will be more true to who I already claim them to be.

I'm starting at the beginning and working my way through. This past Wednesday I got to the point in Chapter 5 (now Chapter 4) just short of the scene when the antagonist (soon to be villain) makes his pitch. This is progress.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

“But That's the Point!" She Exclaimed.

Having received certain feedback on my writing this summer, I was moved to pen the following scenario:

Critic:  I see you have quite a few exclamation points in your work.  For instance, this line here:  "'I didn't hear that!'"

Author:  Oh, yes.  That's the male main character fighting with the female main character over the antagonist's intentions.  I put that exclamation point there to show how upset and annoyed and disbelieving he is.

Critic:  Well, you can't have it.  It's lazy.  Show his mood some other way.

Author:  Oh.  (Thinks).  How about, "'I didn't hear that,' he fulminated"?

Critic:  You can't do that, either.  "Fulminated" is what's known as a "said-bookism."  They're always bad.

Author:  "Shouted"?  "Exclaimed"?  "Scoffed"?

Critic:  No.  Stick with "said" and maybe "asked."  Otherwise the speech tag draws too much attention to itself.

Author:  Really?  Well, okay.  I'll try again.  "'I didn't hear that,' he said defiantly."

Critic:  (Holding head in hands)  Oh, no, no . . .  You just used an adverb.  They're even worse than exclamation points.

Author:  (Nonplussed)  Could I say something like "'I didn't hear that,' he said, his spluttering voice and red face betraying his angry mood"?

Critic:  No way.  You've got adjectives in there.  Three of them.  They're lazy, too.  And three nouns.  Didn't you read that article that said nouns don't do anything?

Author:  I guess I missed it.  And that's too long anyway, especially if I have to do it every time.  I'm way over the word count for my genre as it is.  (Considers.)  So what's left, verbs?  That gets me back to something like, "'I didn't hear that,' he spluttered."

Critic:  (Sighing prodigiously.)  Didn't you hear me?  No said-bookisms!

Author:  But then--- oh, I have an idea!  Oh gosh, sorry, I used an exclamation point there, didn't I?  Anyway, maybe I could get the meaning across by inner monologue?  Like this:  "I didn't hear that.'  How dare she imply I wasn't paying attention?"

Critic:  Oh, my goodness.  Inner monologue is Telling, not Showing.  And I heard those italics in there.  Whatever shall I do with you?

Author:  I'm sorry.  It wouldn't work anyway--- this scene isn't from his point of view.  (Looks frustrated.)  But--- but--- if I can't use exclamation points, or adverbs, or adjectives, or nouns, or inner monologue, or any speech tags but "said" or "asked," how am supposed to communicate how he's saying this?

Critic:  Why do you need to communicate how he's saying it?

Author:  Because if I don't, the reader might think he's admitting he wasn't listening.

Critic:  What's wrong with that?  Don't you want to let the reader bring his own interpretation to the work?  It's the modern thing to do.

Author:  The Post-Modern thing, you mean.  To heck with it!  I'm leaving it with an exclamation point.  It's clean, it's efficient, it does the job I want it to do.

Critic:  (Robotically) You can not do that.  It is bad, lazy writing.  It is immature.  I will have the Writing Police on you, just see if I do not.

Author:  Not very passionate about it, are you?  So why should I be?  See you around!

Critic:  Aaaaaaahhhhgggggghhhhh.