Thursday, December 20, 2012

Who's a Friend of the Big Bad Wolf?

What an interesting question.  I managed to avoid nearly an hour of horrible first draft production, staring out of the window, thinking about it.

And the answer is . . . well, sort of. 

I write seatopants-style so very often the one I thought dunnit turns out not to have in the end and I suppose you could say switching a character from "murderer" to "non-murderer" is a bit of a moral upgrade.

One time I really did turn someone from a moustache-twirling, cape-swirling baddy (bwah-hah-hah, all that) to a bunny-hugging (well, bunny-shooting since it was the 1920s and this person was a countrydweller but let's not quibble) poppet.  But I did it after the character was dead so there wasn't much in it for them.

Usually though, it's a question of ever-increasing complexity.  I can't decide whether it's a drawback or a side-benefit of writing a series that minor comic characters grow and deepen over the course of a few books so that you can't use them for cheap laughs any more.

Dandy Gilver's husband, Hugh, was pretty much a stuffed shirt in the first book or two, but as I've written about his childhood, his reaction to his wife being in danger, his fears for his teenage sons as the clouds of war begin to gather, I've grown fonder of him and developed a grudging respect.  In the last two books I've given him a moment of glory to off-set the fact that I still laugh at his fossilised take on the world.

And actually,as I write this I remember that a few years ago, in a different frame of mind, and under a pseudonym (although not very far under: it was Catriona McCloud) I wrote a slightly cross-genre, tricky to decribe and therefore tricky to keep in print, puzzle novel called Straight Up which had a massive shift along the scale of sympathy for one of the characters.

I'm being cryptic because tis is the season and so I've decided to give a couple of copies of Straight Up away (should anyone want one).  In short, if you'd care to read a crime/road/buddy caper about lies, fibs, whoppers, tall tales and total bull in which a depressed florist takes on Hollywood and wins (kind of), just comment and I'll draw names  at the end of today. (With regret, US only.)

Whatever you're reading on the days off next week, though, have a wonderful feast/rest/holiday, won't you.


Karen in Ohio said...

That picture of Snidely Whiplash made me SO happy this morning! Have not seen the dastardly doer of dirty deeds since I was a child. Thank you.

So, is it more fun for the author when the characters insist on their own way, or more anxiety-making? It seems so schizophrenic, to write characters who change during the process. Thanks for the fascinating glimpse into the process. No wonder so many writers are characters themselves!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

As my readers and I got to know the Michael Steele character in my Odelia Gray series, he went from annoying and "bad" to being a good guy like Dandy's hubs. Sometimes we just have to let the good side unfold over time.

NoraA said...

I love it. I'd love to read a book like that as it sounds so much like a trip with my own highly dysfunctional bunch.

Oh, and if you'd like more Snidely I can loan you my DVD of the old shows.


Lisa said...

I'm an aspiring writer. It has just never occurred to me to make a bad guy good. Must thank you for this inspiration because now, in my head, I'm composing an entirely different direction for my main character. Does anyone else find themselves editing...repeatedly? Until you feel like you might just go nuts?? :)

Howard Sherman said...

I write from the seat of my pants also with just the vaguest notion of how the story will begin, should flow through the middle and which way things will go at the end. Course corrections throughout the process, like yours, makes the journey more interesting

Catriona McPherson said...

Lisa, I'm still editing with a pencil when I choose a passage to read out at the launch party. The trick for me is not to edit until the first draft is done. Stephen King says: first chip it out of the ground without breaking any bits off. Good advice. I would add: nobody washes a baby while it's being born.

Catriona McPherson said...

Hey, I should have said: "Comment" can be "Put my name in the hat, please." Just so I know.

Debi Huff said...

Sounds like a fun read no matter what you call yourself!!!

Risa said...

Put my name in the hat, please.

I love how the character sort of takes on a life of their own!



lil Gluckstern said...

154I think that your emotions as a writer must run to everyone I know about. Frustration, joy, grinding, and flying. Put me in your hat, Please.

Reece said...

I can relate. Once after completing a first draft, I had to basically line up the characters and say, "Okay, I know one of you MUST have done it." Merry Christmas!

bettiek said...

Would love a copy of Straight Up.
As Sue Ann said sometimes there is a good guy underneath that asinie shell just waiting to get out. Glad you let him have his way.

bettiek said...

Would love to win a copy of Straight Up. Glad you let your charactor take his own direction. It makes him more likable.

Catriona McPherson said...

Lil and Lisa, your names have been drawn! Please email your earth addresses to and I'll pop the books in the post to you, Cx