Saturday, March 24, 2012

What I'm Working On - A Writer's Blather

I wrote a long post about this blog today (which I'll have to read through it to see if it's actually worth posting). But I know it was worth writing, at least, because it was on the purpose of this blog: which is to help my writing. And that made me stop and think about how a blog helps my writing.

One of the things I realized is that sometimes you just need to talk about your writing.

So here it is: some blather about what I'm working on and where I am with it right now.

Devil In A Blue Bustle, a Mick and Casey Mystery

This is my work-in-progress. It should be the second Mick and Casey novel, but it still remains to be seen if it's a long novella or a short novel. And it got kinda stalled at the end of this past quarter, even though I have a lot of enthusiasm for it, etc.

I think a part of the problem is that Mick needs to get into more trouble. I need to dump him in mud puddles and get him bopped on the head. Some of this sort of thing happen early and late in the story, but there hasn't been enough of that in the middle.

This puzzle here is more intellectual than in Have Gun, Will Play -- it's not exactly a locked room situation, but it involves a hunt for evidence of what happened in the murder room. Two people are dead, and the person found standing over them with a smoking gun has an unlikely story -- but a story which isn't proven wrong by the evidence any more than it's proven right.

And this hunt for evidence has left the middle of the plot kind of linear. I realize, though, that is just the first part of the second act. I need a wow for the middle of the act, which turns the question and gets things moving again. I wasn't picturing the next sequence as being very long, but I realize it's a whole other act -- and that something I thought would happen toward the end of that has to happen at the beginning. (But it may happen off screen.)

The Man Who Stepped Up, A Starling and Marquette Mystery

This is the next WIP -- which I want to work on over summer. The first book took a LONG time to write, but I hope this one will be more straight forward. Part of the problem for the first book was that I was exploring the nature of the series, I think. Setting it up. I hope that this one will go faster.

I just came up with a kicker of a Chapter 2, which brought this book to life for me. It's a perfect new entrance for George, and imho, gives me a handle on the series pattern I'm looking for.

A good series has a certain magic in how they introduce a character's key element. How they establish what the essence of the character is.

For instance, in The Moving Finger, the third Miss Marple novel, she doesn't enter until almost two thirds of the way through, and she plays a rather small part, really. But it's still satisfying as a Miss Marple book because someone, a few chapters before she enters, tells the protagonist that it's time to bring in an expert. The hero objects that the police have already brought in an expert from Scotland Yard. The woman answers, "No, I don't mean that kind of expert. We need an expert in evil."

That's the essence of Miss Marple. It isn't really that she's a "noticing type person," it's that she's an expert in evil. She is Nemesis, the unflinching goddess of justice. She has a very bad opinion of the human race, and she can spot evil even in its most pleasant disguise. She is also not misled by the red herrings of lesser weaknesses of human nature.

In my series, the essence of Karla is relatively easy: she's a lateral thinker. And she is very much a "what you see is what you get" sort of person. She lives in the moment. (And yes, one of her prime traits is that she is a "noticing type person".) Her brain moves too fast, but it's pretty clear what's going on.

George is much harder because he has trained himself to mask his basic nature. He's a little dishonest and slick, but that's just a coping mechanism to cover the fact that he's compulsively earnest. His need to Make Things All Right just makes him seem, most of the time, like he's nice. (And sometimes it doesn't show at all, because he's learned to protect himself from parasites.) So his compulsive behavior shows in little ways, but it's not clear what's going on until something triggers him in a big way.

And then, even if he still seems under control on the surface, he'll do something way out of proportion -- which reveals the truth: He isn't just a nice guy, or too good to be true, he's got a problem.

"The Serial"

"The Serial" for those who haven't been following, has quotes around it, because I don't know if it will be a a serial -- it's just inspired by serials of the silent movie era. (But not just movie serials, also written ones.)

I'm a long way from really writing this. I have characters and a world, and an idea of the character arcs. Right now I'm doing research, and I'm working on the overall plot structure for the stories. Something that will allow me to develop the stories with some fun and freedom, but also have a good idea of where things are going, and what nefarious plots are going on underneath.

At the moment, one of the central figures of the story is Lady Pauline (a la The Perils of Pauline), who is a smart young flapper who is a baroness in her own right. She is the original inspiration for the series (something I had an idea for back when I was in high school), but it seems to be the other characters who are developing around her.

I am thinking, though, that she may enter the story in a scene which was inspired by the illustration in the header of this blog. That comes from a story which appeared in The Strand in 1915 -- a story which, sadly, was not quite as much fun as the illustration. Pauline will fix that with a much more fun scene, in what may be merely a cameo appearance in the first story.

You'll be hearing more about that, and about the period serials I'm reading and watching to prep.

See you in the funny papers.

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