Archives for December 2003

Kill the quirks

Quirky stuff can be a real pain in the old arse…

I mean, characters with certain…endearing qualities, or things about them….or situations that don’t add a hell of a lot to the story, really, or are just there to add some flash, some chrome, to the world…

As a reader, those things are fine – the character quirks are fine, if they do indeed make the character endearing, or interesting, or something more than some kind of a goddamn charicature or cliche. And the flash & chrome is fine too – it can definitely improve the story…if you’re the reader…..

On the other hand, if you’re the writer, they can be a nightmare – one more thing to keep track of, one more thing to stay on top of, one more thing that keeps you from telling the story….

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought because of one aspect in the first draft of Night and Day. No, I’m not actually working on it yet, just thinking about it, in those idle moments of the day (driving to and from work, sitting out on the patio at work puffing my pipe, etc.)

I had this idea of having humans working for vampires being tattooed – big, bright, colorful tattoos on the sides of their neck – a status symbol and a symbol of “”ownership”” – they were employed by vampires, so “”don’t mess with my property”” (hence the tattoos on the neck – FangsBGone.)

So that’s all fine, and on the first page, I talk about the people with tatts, as they’re called – moving through the people on the street in an invulnerable glide, the swinging, hip, top-of-the-human-foodchain people with good jobs and social status. But then I have to keep talking about tatts – who has ’em, who doesn’t – what they look like – why one person has ’em, another doesn’t – what about cops – is their uniform enough or do they need a tatt as well, for off-duty.

What a pain in the ass – frankly, I kind of lost interest in it all before the first couple of chapters were written – and you really don’t hear much about tatts again in the rest of the story. So why the hell keep the concept?

I dunno – I still kind of like the idea, but it clearly needs some reworking – either I have to pay more attention to them, or perhaps less – either way, keep it consistant – if I’m going to talk about the damn things in the beginning, then I better be mentioning them all the way through. Jury is still out on what I’m gonna do…

And then there’s good ol’ Charlie Welles, ye olde hero – Charlie has two tatts – one on the left side that’s actually a “”bond mark””, which is a step up from a tatt, and one of the right, the Great Seal of the administrative Area the story takes place in. Of course, being a private detective, Charlie doesn’t necessarily want to be flashing these tatts around when he’s undercover, or on a case, pretending not to be a private detective.

So he has a gizmo – the tatts are visible in normal light to vampires, but humans can’t see them unless a light with a special frequency is shined on them. I call it a redlight. Charlie shoves it in his pocket at the end of Chapter 1, I think, and actually uses it to show off his stylin’ tatts in Chapter 2 – then his situation changes, nobody gives a good goddamn about his tatts, and we never hear about them or the gizmo again.

Another pain in the ass – he’s got to carry around this little thang and whip it out when needed – bringing everything to a halt as everyone ooo’s and ahhh’s over the tatts. Screw that.

I might keep some aspect of the idea, but again, the jury is out. Does it add anything to the story, to Charlie, anything for the reader? Right now, I’d have to say no. Perhaps with some reworking, I might be able to salvage some part of it, but right now I can’t say.

The rewrites are going to be lots of fun. I can tell…..

Cinematically speaking, watched Steven King’s Maximum Overdrive last night – hadn’t seen it in many years, and yeah, it sucks, but so what – it’s mindless, loud entertainment, and that’s what I was looking for – and the trailer, where King himself points and promises, quite forcefully I must say, “”I’m gonna scare the hell out of you”” is priceless. Tonight it’s Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty (didn’t realize Rodriguez had directed it until recently – when I found out, decided to check it out) and after that, Wasabi, written by Luc Besson and staring the incomparable Jean Reno – should be lots of fun.

Touchups

I’m in day 2 of my R&R period, and though I’ve managed to put aside some of my “”keep writing…must keep writing”” mania, I have been doing a few little touchups to Night and Day.

First was a name change to an important secondary character – there’s a police captain in one of the local municipalities who had the same last name as one my my police captains – it wasn’t intentional, the character is nothing like the real guy, who I deal with occasionally for alert and notification stuff. I think I just liked the sound of the last name – Mutz – and decided to use it, and it wasn’t until I was halfway into the piece that I realized the connection…” “Since I didn’t want any parallels to be drawn, I decided yesterday to change Mutz – so now he’s Captain Jimmy Metz – close enough, similar sound. It works.

I also realized, when going through my notes for Night and Day, that I’d somehow changed a character’s first name somewhere between the beginning and the middle of the book. I’m not sure how Jeremy became Jason, but it did.

I use a Microsoft program called oneNote to track things as I’m writing, for this very reason – if I’m unsure of a name, or some other detail about a character, it’s a lot easier to go through the various tabbed, labeled pages of my Night and Day OneNote section and find out a name, or some other detail that I’d jotted down while I was writing it.

I was going through the notes yesterday, checking each to see if I needed to add any more details that I hadn’t put in during the writing. Came to the section that contained Jeremy Cross, and remembered, in the final couple of chapters, that people were referring to him as Jason Cross – one even called him “”Jase””.

The name wasn’t important – he’s somebody we hear about, but never meet – so I could have either changed the name in the first half of the book to Jason, or the second half to Jeremy. I went with Jeremy, and instead of being called “”Jase”” he’s now “”Jerry””.

I imagine there may be other little details like that which will float to the surface during the rewrite. Still haven’t decided if I’ll do that before I start Bleeding Sky or after. There’s something to be said for after – I may make some changes to existing characters in the second book, and if I do, they’ll be fresher in my mind after I finish it. Like I said, still haven’t decided.

On the filmatic front, watched a flick called Bastoni – The Stick Handlers (film about the Japanese porn industry) and Journey to the Seventh Planet (early-60’s science fiction with John Agar – a film I remember seeing in a movie theater as a kid when it came out). Today I’m going through 3-4 episodes of the first season of Le Femme Nikita (I’m a big fan of the original movie – like the American remake Point of No Return well enough – the series is pretty good, without being great). After that, some chores (grocery store, coffee store), then probably more movies – haven’t decided whether I want to do an X-Men/X-Men 2 marathon, or maybe go for something like Once Upon A Time In The West.

We’ll see……

The End….

I finished the first draft of Night and Day at around two this afternoon….

Total word count was a little over 93,000 words – 18 chapters and a 4 page epilogue….

I have a feeling that it’s fairly good – I know that it needs a good rewrite, and then I’ll better know how solid it is. But that will have to wait.

What’s strange is that, for the first time since the beginning of October I can watch a movie or read and not feel that I should be writing….

Yet I do feel that way….

I enjoy writing – if I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it – what could be more miserable than sitting in front of a computer, pounding the keys, doing something that you hated -not for a weekly paycheck, mind you, but for the possibility of sale and publication…

Sometimes I think the writing is almost addictive – once I start, I want to keep going – I don’t mean that I want to write 24 hours a day – I am good about keeping some semblance of a normal life functioning while I’m writing – I’ll break early and read – I’ll hit the sack if I’m feeling tired – I’ll do the chores that need to be done if I want to eat, drink, and smoke my pipe. And I don’t ditch work so I can stay home and write.

On the other hand, take my situation now – just spent three months churning out Night and Day – I’ve been looking forward to this 2-3 week break before I start the second book in the series. I’ve got stacks of books and dvds that have been waiting for three months, things I want to see and want to read. You would certainly think that I’d have pushed Night and Day out of my mind, and that I’m not giving any serious thought to the second book.

If you thought that, you’d been wrong. Since I finished this afternoon, That’s about all I have been thinking about. I did watch Killer Tattoo, a Thai gangster  film that was, in turn, violent, funny, sentimental, absurd, warm, and depressing – I dug it. And I’m currently in the middle of Peter Watkins’s Punishment Park, which is, quite frankly, horrifying, perhaps more so than The War Game.

But still…..

“”should I do a prologue to go with the epilogue”” … “how much is it going to tighten up when I do the second draft”” …. “”should I bring back Father McCray in the second book”” ….. “”will I find an agent who’ll want to see the manuscript based on a query or will I have to write a synopsis””…

Can’t stop thinking about it. Hopefully the post-partum symptoms will fade over the next couple of days and I can have a true break before I start massaging the keyboard again….

Ho ho ho

Merry Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not.

Managed to knock out another 1200 words or so today – a little in the morning, a little in the afternoon, a little in the evening. Enough to get me to about the halfway point of Chapter 18.

At this point last night, I had some worries about having enough to fill a chapter. I mean, let’s face it, this is the payoff, the part where good triumphs over evil, or at least justice prevails. If a reader has hung through the proceeding 87,000 words, he or she deserves this. There are no more secrets, it’s all on the table, and it’s time for the badguys to lose.

The last thing I want to do now is start padding….  You ever read a book where the writer had about a chapter of plot at the end that he padded to two chapters, or even three? Or how about a movie that goes on about half an hour too long because they didn’t want to end it at 67 minutes, which is where it should have ended based on the story…

For the most part, real life moves pretty fast. Not all of it, mind you – there are certainly areas like the judicial system, where you can wait two years to go on trial for something you’ve admitted to doing. But overall, especially when it comes to cop and military stuff, life moves pretty fast. You break down the door, you go in, you arrest the people you need to, and you clear out. You apply sufficient force to achieve your goal. You don’t take your time. You don’t stop and talk about it while it’s happening. You just do it.

Violence is swift. Gunfights don’t last for half an hour. They last for seconds, a minute, two minutes. Bullets start flying and people start dropping. Sooner, rather than later, one side has men standing, the other side doesn’t. That’s it. Game over.

This final chapter of Night and Day has some gunplay in it. We’re going after the bad guys, and we’re not necessarily looking to arrest them. With that in mind, I was a little concerned that I couldn’t keep it fairly realistic and still fill the chapter, without shoveling in stuff that would take up space, but add nothing.

That hasn’t turned out to be the case. I’m halfway through the chapter, and it’s clear that I’ll reach the end of the story at about the same time I reach the end of the chapter, in terms of numbers of words.

That’s about the best Christmas present I could get right now….

And to all a good night…

Christmas Eve. When I was a kid in New York, one of the local independent TV stations used to show a picture of a log, burning in a fireplace, every Christmas Eve, throughout the night, while they played traditional Christmas music. It was called the Yule Log.

Well, it’s 30 years later, and the Yule Log is no more – a victim of changing times and, I’m sure, a desire to run more profitable programming on Christmas Eve (though I was just talking to a buddy in New Jersey who says that the Yule Log is now featured on the MSG channel (Madison Square Garden) – something that I refuse to pay extra for on my satellite dish since I have limited interest in sports that aren’t played on a diamond with a little white ball and a bat) Times change, things end… And the time for Night and Day is rapidly coming to an end as well. I finished Chapter 17 around 1 pm today, took a little break and watched Bounce Ko Gals, a Japanese flick about brand-name/designer obsessed Japanese high school girls who prostitute themselves to older men to afford the things they desire. It’s also about friendship, courage, and a bunch of other worthy stuff. Excellent movie, highly recommended – and no Japanese schoolgirls were disrobed in the making of it, either….

After dinner, I really should have relaxed and watched another movie, but with the eighteenth and final chapter of Night and Day waiting to get out, I just couldn’t. So I did 1200 or so words. With that, the word count’s at 88,000 or so – I should come in under my goal, even with an epilogue.

So that’s it – I’m tired, but looking forward to finishing up Chapter 18 tomorrow (or, since tomorrow is Christmas Day, more realistically, on Friday) – and finishing the whole damn mess, epilogue included, by Saturday.

And then I can rest for a couple of weeks…