Common Senseless

Well that was fun. Thanks to Patti, Gerald, Aldo, and all the other who organized the flash fiction challenge yesterday and thanks to everyone who came by to read my story. It was a fun exercise that I think has helped my overall writing. It was also a bit of a tryout for a different superhero story I want to write in the future. And that brings me to what I’m thinking about today. Plans.

After I finished the first draft of MURDER BOY I didn’t do much for a while and then I wrote a short story I really liked. As I prepared for that by reading short stories I got excited about them all over again and quickly thought of at least three more stories I wanted to write. But after I finished that first one, it had done what it was supposed to and cleared my head enough to give the MB manuscript a fresh look. At first I was horrified at how bad it was, then I let it sit for a bit and went to Mayhem in Muskego, and then I panicked a bit and thought maybe I should start writing a serial killer thriller right away to make money, and then I settled down and wrote the first half of a new short story. By then, I was able to look at MB with a different fresh take, and still saw many of the same weaknesses, but had a number of fun ideas of how to fix it. And most importantly, I really liked the structure of the book and the story and the characters. I just needed to figure out a better way to tell the story.

Common wisdom says to start your novel as close to the action as possible, sometimes in the middle of the action. Well, the type of story I’m writing is a caper with a botched kidnapping. The first draft had the kidnapping happening almost immediately and then deals with the fallout. That’s fine and good, for a different story, but for a caper story, half the fun is seeing these idiots try to plan and execute a complicated plan. I also didn’t like the brief mentions of character motivation my guy had for plotting this kidnapping so I wanted to go back and show how it develops. But this is a suspense novel, not a navel gazer, so I needed something else going on as well to keep the reader interested. And for the most part, all of that was already in play with my secondary characters so I just need to bring them into the action sooner. So the book now still starts with a kidnapping, sort of. It’s a writer showing up at his professor’s house drunk, attempting to do it on his own. Now I want to show how the man he ultimately enlists to help him with the real kidnapping manipulated my guy into that decision and how badly it fails. Fun stuff, and I’m having a riot writing it.

So what bit of common wisdom have you abandoned to make your story better?