Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Following my own advice


Yesterday I felt like kicking myself in the head, a quick check with my insurance agent informed me that I am not covered for that so I decided against that plan.

What made me feel like inflicting more pain on myself was seeing an obvious problem with my first chapter of my latest book, MIND THIEF.

I had the problem that I was introducing the two main characters in the very beginning, and was looking for ways to quickly unfold their characters which is not my strength. I've been told by a lot of editors that I don't write sympathetic characters, and these two are no exception.

I looked at examples from romance novels to try and get it right and although it helped I had to worry about the problem that I might actually get it right. If I did get that right my audience would be the women who consider TRUE ROMANCE and NATURAL BORN KILLERS to be light romantic comedies. Not a huge audience.

So then I ran across some advice I had given on this site:
RULE #1: The story comes first.
RULE #2: The story comes first.
RULE #3: If in doubt refer to Rules 1 and 2.

With that in mind I wrote a few paragraphs that show what my main character has to deal with throughout the book.

******

Mind Thief
Chapter 1

Howie put his left hand on the door handle to the office and couldn't help but be impressed, it was made of solid aluminum. “Even with the drop in price for Aluminum it still must have cost a pretty penny,” he thought.

He looked down and noticed his lack of shadow, surprised he looked to see how they had arranged the Edison Bulbs to create that effect. He was amazed to see that the hallway was lit by large mercury vapor lamps in the ceiling that must have cost a fortune.

He took a deep breath and looked back at the very common door handle and wondered why he thought aluminum was a semi-precious metal and how he could be surprised by cheap florescent lights. “Just one more thing to talk to the doc about,” he thought.

*****
Hopefully this new opening will make the reader want to know more about the weird thoughts that are going through Howie's mind so they will stick with me long enough to have the story play out. It also brings it out of the romance area so the murders, tortures, and leaving of “Love Stains” in the bad guy's car aren't as much of a shock to the readers.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of I KILLED THE MAN THAT WASN'T THERE

6 comments:

Stephanie Barr said...

Psst. "Following your own advice."

Just sayin'.

I think you have the right idea, but wrong implementation. True, aluminimum isn't semi-precious nor are fluorescent bulbs a big deal, but you have narrowed the field further with the technicalities instead of broadening it.

Can you put in weirdnesses less esoteric and more readily recognizable by laymen and laywomen?

Project Savior said...

I was attempting to have his mind flashback to roughly 1910, when things like aluminum and fluorescent bulbs weren't commonplace. Throughout the book he has this problem.
I just couldn't think of any other objects in a normal office building hallway that would be out of place in 1910.

Stephanie Barr said...

I understand that because I'm a technogeek, but I had to stop and think about it. Stopping to try to figure out what the heck's going on on the first page is probably not a good plan, I'm thinking. And I'm probably a bit more technogeek than average.

Instead of one bouncing from one time's mindset to another, he just seemed to be an uber-technogeek obsessed with lighting and material science.

And I'm now asking needless questions. Is it solid aluminum? Most door handles still aren't solid anything, right? How can you tell just by feeling? Given the differences, could you tell a fluorescent tube is the same thing as a mercury vapor light? Or would you just wonder what it was?

I'm wondering if specificity is best here or generalities. Or, better yet, don't start him in the hallway but on the street outside, where the differences would be telling and obvious enough even a layman could get them. Then, let him pause in the hallway, telling himself the strange otherworldly light source in the ceiling doesn't matter, before gathering himself together to go into the doctor office.

But those are just my opinions.

(Not sure how I feel about the word verification: fialis)

Project Savior said...

I appreciate your comments, I really do. At this point he is only experiencing quick memory flashes from 1910 -1920, 3 seconds at most. So it has to be him just looking a something, wondering about it, then wondering why he was wondering. I had been hoping it could have been a door handle as opposed to a door knob, but alas they did have door handles even in 1910, so he would know how to use one.
I think I'll need to go back to my original plan, and do all my edits to the book then come back and rewrite the first chapter last.

Stephanie Barr said...

Beginnings are the bane of my own writing, too.

Good luck. Didn't mean to confuse the issue.

Project Savior said...

After having decided to give it a rest, my mind came up with the perfect thing. He can reach in his pocket expecting to pull out his brass pocket watch and be surprised when he looks at his iPhone.
It conveys the same thought, it could be weird enough to catch the readers attention, but it is a small enough thing that it wouldn't have the shrink super concerned.