See you back here on January 7, 2013, with new questions and discussions.
We thank you for your continued support and wish you and yours a lovely holiday season and a Happy New Year.
"Oh, Collector, when are you going to learn? For all of your moralistic hand-wringing – about your role in this world, your perceptions of my actions, or the origins of your precious Maker – existence is not as simple as all that. There are no good guys, no bad guys – just a giant fucking mess, and a bunch of damaged beings trying to muddle through as best as they can... We're each of us nothing but frauds and liars. I mean, look at you! You fancy yourself a decent man, but if that's the case, then how did you wind up here? How did any of us?"Lately, I've been preoccupied with the question of how dark a character can be, and yet still be redeemable in the audience's eyes. In fact, I daresay that's the accidental theme of the third Collector book, THE BIG REAP, which (knock wood) I'm a couple weeks away from finishing. Oh, and speaking of, it has a pretty, pretty cover already: you can see it here, and read a brief interview with me besides.
Tariq and I didn’t speak for most of the drive back to the city. Just before the driver took us into the Midtown Tunnel, Tariq spoke. “Are you so appalled that you cannot even look at me anymore?”
I watched his reflection in the window. “Why did you kill that woman in Claudia’s apartment on New Year’s Eve?”
In the glass I saw his full mouth tighten into an angry line. “Now you think that I murdered her?”
“I’ve just seen you in action. I know how far you’ll go to find Claudia. You’d kill anyone who got in your way. It may have been an accident,” I remembered what Bruxton had said about the woman’s weakened heart, “but it was you.”
“How could I do that, Lily? I was out of the country.”
“Maybe you had one of your thugs do the dirty work. To make it look like she killed herself.” I turned to look him in the eye.
“That is really what you think?” He watched me, the reflection of the tunnel lights shimmering in his eyes like ghosts. It was uncomfortably intimate to sit next to him, the knowledge of what we’d both just done hanging in the air between us. “I suppose I cannot blame you, but I promise you, I do my own dirty work.”
“You’ve killed people,” I blurted out before I could censor myself. “Claudia told me.”
“Did she?” His voice was quiet but flat, without any trace of emotion. “Did she tell you the reason why?”
“Anyone in this world could kill, in the right set of circumstances. The question is, what circumstances?” I didn’t answer, and Tariq went on. “For profit? For passion? For revenge? To protect those whom you love? Tell me, Lily, are all of those reasons equivalent to you?”
What do you do when the story/characters/etc. bring you to a spot where you can go one way or another and both are great twists? How do you choose?
A writing instructor once told me that a book is simply the result of an infinite number of choices a writer makes as he/she tells his/her story. (To which I replied, “Simply?”)
To visualize that concept, I sometimes picture a giant pachinko machine (or the Plinko game on The Price is Right) when I outline my story. As the idea “ball” drops through the story, it encounters thousands of junctures where the story could go one way or the other. Unfortunately, this complexity usually freezes me up, and I’ll have to lie down for a bit to recover.
Seriously, though, that’s exactly what I do when I’m faced with a significant choice, a Path A or Path B kind of decision. I’ll step back and really think about the ramifications of each option. I’ll try to noodle through how the story will go under Scenario A, and then I’ll do the same with Scenario B (and C and D, etc.).
After I do that, I’ll flip a coin go with my gut.
Let me say that I do most of this “What Iffing” during the outline process, which makes it less likely I’ll face a significant decision point during the actual writing. But it happens once in a while (I welcome those flashes of inspiration with open fingers), and when it does, I’ll go lie down for a bit to think it over. Ah, the possibilities.
Of course, if the chosen twist turns out NOT to work out in the end, I’ll go back and revise my story until I get it right.
How and when do you decide to make a minor character recurring? Or don’t you?
Some writers are lucky enough (skilled enough?) to create characters that speak to them. The characters “tell” the writers where they want to go in the story, what they want to do, who they want to kill. Sometimes I envy those writers because my characters just sit there, like misshapen lumps of modeling clay, waiting for some kind of direction from me.
That’s why, when I do create a character that’s complex, fully-formed, and compelling, I like to keep him or her around for a while. I mean, those are the characters that are fun to write!
Thankfully, most of the “funnest” characters I’ve created are main characters who appear in every series book. But when I stumble upon a minor character who fits the bill—someone who is unique or fascinating (or humorous or dark or whatever) and is fun to write—then I’ll find a role for him or her in future books. (I’m all about the fun!)
It’s not just characters within a series that get considered for inclusion/exclusion. I took a fun-to-write character from a standalone work-in-progress and plopped him into one of my Last Laff books (with a name like Jimmy the Raisin and a face to match, how could I help myself?).
But Jimmy the Raisin didn’t seem to mind at all, or if he did, he didn’t complain to me. After all, I’m the writer, this is my show, and I can do whatever the heck I want. I don’t have to answer to anybody!