Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Poking the beast again

In my post two weeks ago, I described how I was "letting my manuscript rest" before beginning rewrites. That was a good excuse for my month of inactivity while I spent much needed real time with family at my cottage and received many much needed hugs after nearly five months of isolation.

This past week I finally began to think about the notes I had made and the questions that needed to be answered, and began to fill in the holes in my research. I contacted a friend in the local duck club to tell me about ducks and a couple of retired social worker friends to ask them about issues of client confidentiality because I wasn't sure whether there were different rules for psychologists (me) and social workers. I contacted the director of a local woman's shelter to ask about their relationship with the police. The answers are beginning to flow in and the gaps in the manuscript are slowly being filled in. Fortunately none of the answers I got created major problems for my storyline, just a tweak, elaboration, or small change here and there.

Next comes a serious examination of my characters, their emotional depth and credibility, and the vividness of their conflicts. I am not a believer in "larger than life" characters who "leap off the page". I want characters who inhabit and enrich the page. I want readers to imagine them as if they were real, interesting, complex, but believable as someone they might know, for good or ill. I want their conflicts and relationships to feel both unique and relatable. Apologies for that awful word; it's late, I've had two glasses of wine, and this blog is due. 

THE DEVIL TO PAY is a police procedural with a small group of suspects. Character and motive are crucial to my stories, and so each one of the suspects has to be fully fleshed out with a credible, interesting motive. I don't usually know until I've written the climax who all the suspects are and who the actual killer is, which makes for a lot of reworking and enrichment during rewrites. To a psychologist like me, fascinated by what drives people to the choices they make and by the possibility that everyone is capable of killing someone given the right circumstances and the right reason, this character work is one of the most interesting aspects of creating the novel.

I will do a lot of thinking in the next ten days as I toy with these questions, add scenes, and poke at the heart of existing scenes. It will be frustrating and puzzling and fun. So stay tuned for the next blog, when I may report on my progress. Meanwhile, I'm curious to know what other writers do in their rewrites.

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