V is for… [V]iews #AtoZChallenge

Plans change. When you start building, you don’t expect to find an underground river beneath your foundation. When a bride-to-be hires you to design her gown, with intricate lacing and beading, you don’t expect for her to tell you that the wedding is in a week. When you have a novel all planned out and eager to be written for NaNoWriMo (which seems so far away now), you don’t expect to eliminate what you thought could have been a main character—and certainly a co-narrator—along with their subsequent subplots.

But that’s exactly what I did.

The editor bitch in me has awoken (I knew it was time), and she’s itching to make some changes. Better to change things now before I start writing. I know all too well how editing a story before it’s even finished can completely derail progress.

So what’s changed?

Reviewing my latest posts, I’ve discovered that Detective Maye isn’t as essential to the plot of the story as I had originally intended. While I won’t ax his character altogether (we still have a “Lost Boy” to find) his part will get significantly reduced to make room for Tony, who’s character grows more and more with each new post.

A few things contributed to this change. First, I’ve barely mentioned Detective Maye since K is for Kindred, and his last dedicated post was I is for Ice Cold, which seems like ages ago. However, what really sealed Maye’s fate was the outline, or more specifically, the fact that if you sneezed, you probably would’ve missed him.

I’ve said before that Lost Boy is a family story, and the outline was an obvious clue of which family I needed to focus on. So I’m not going to force a subplot that simply isn’t there. A good writer (or maybe a better editor) knows when a character has overstayed his welcome. The three scenes that Maye had (without Leslie) didn’t really affect the plot much, and I don’t think they would be missed if I tossed them, so…

Let it gooooo!

I don’t want to completely give up on the Detective Maye character, which I think is very strong on its own, so stay tuned—you make see more of him on this blog in the form of a separate short story or flash fiction.

However, concerning Lost Boy, Maye is now just the cop Leslie enlists to search for Gregory. He won’t have any dedicated chapters, although I will keep the multiple points of view structure (for now), alternating between Leslie and her son Tony. With Leslie and Tony as the narrators (actually, I think I prefer Leslie’s chapters to be in first person, and Tony’s in third), you will get to see the drastic contrast in how the two main characters react to Gregory’s disappearance.

Well, that’s it for today’s post. A short one, I know—I’m just relieved to post it at a reasonable hour for once. I haven’t decided what “W” is going to be about. I’m debating between a post on potential research interview questions for Leslie’s prison ministry (which is currently still a plot point until editor bitch decides otherwise), or another backstory on Tony. What’s your view? Which do you prefer?

By the way, if you’re wondering if anything else will change with the novel between now and NaNoWriMo, the answer is a definite YES. I still need a real title!

Until tomorrow, A to Z-ers!

S is for… [S]cripture #AtoZChallenge

Thank you for tuning in to another planning session for Lost Boy! The novel is quickly coming together, and I’m so excited for November, when I will actually begin writing it for NaNoWriMo.

Throughout this A to Z Challenge, we’ve talked a lot about the contents of the novel—outline, character sketches, backstory, and more. Today I want to dive into the structure of the novel, specifically how I plan to open each new chapter.

I love epigraphs in literature. An epigraph is a short poem, sentence, or quotation from another work that appears at the beginning of a piece of literature. An author may use an epigraph to introduce a reader to the themes on context of his or her work, similar to a preface.

I love epigraphs because they are like quick previews or summaries to the stories or poems I am about to read.

In my very first A to Z Challenge, I began work on a novel/novella (still not sure how long it will be) entitled Love Poetry. As the title suggests, I wanted to incorporate the use of love poetry (written between the characters) throughout the story. After the challenge was over, I decided to put the poems at the beginning of each chapter in the form of an epigraph (although the thought of ending each chapter with a haibun has crossed my mind also), as a way to introduce what will happen in the chapter.

In a similar fashion, I want to introduce each chapter of Lost Boy with an epigraph. Because the novel has very strong Christian themes, I thought it would be a great idea to begin each chapter with a quote from scripture.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

One thing I love about reading the Bible is that no matter what situation you’re in, there is always a bible verse that speaks to that situation and helps you get through it. Even for those bible verses you’ve read a million times. On your one million and first time reading it, a new revelation will come to you that you never even thought of, and you will see the verse in a totally different light. It’s true! I can’t tell you how many times it has happened for me. It’s that power of the Holy Spirit—He convicts the world of sin, and He leads and guides you into all truth.

The purpose of using a bible verse as an epigraph at the opening of each chapter is to show, especially in Leslie’s case, that there is help in the Bible for every situation. There is help, hope, a lesson to be learned, guidance, conviction, etc. There are 66 books in the Bible, over 1,000 chapters, and thousands more verses—there’s no reason why you can’t open it up and find one that pertains to your particular situation, which is why Leslie reads hers twice a day.

I haven’t decided which ones I’m going to use yet. The verses about the Prodigal Son is an obvious choice since this entire novel alludes to that parable. The above quoted Jeremiah 29:11, is also an option, maybe for one of the earlier chapters.

But I also want to use verses that most people don’t know. We all have those memory verses and scriptures we were taught growing up in church, like John 3:16, Philippians 4:19, and Psalm 23, just to name a few, but what about James 4:3 (“When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.”), 1 Samuel 16:7c (“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”), or Exodus 22:22 (“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.”)

There are so many other bible verses that could help the characters of Lost Boy get through their problems. I guess I need to open up my own Bible so I can get some of those verses in my arsenal!

Until next time…

R is for… [R]esearch #AtoZChallenge

One more week to the finish line… Almost there… Don’t get burnt out. Do not get burnt out…

I’m all caught up, and I’m even early with today’s post—compared to my usual knocking on midnight posting time—so let’s skip right to it, because I have a feeling this post is going to be short—A to Z starting to weigh down on all of us. I think we’re all looking forward to the grace of Sunday . . .

. . . pun not intended . . . but sweetly satisfying.

In this planning session, I want to talk about research. I don’t think people really understand how much research is involved in the writing process. And I’m not just talking about papers for school or academic journals, or articles in the New York Times. Fiction writing requires heavy research as well. Unless you’re into the fantasy genre and you’re creating a whole new world, there’s bound to be something about the subject you’re writing that you are absolutely clueless on.

How can you write a war novel when you’ve never been in the army? How can you write a love story set in Victorian London when you’re an east Texas millennial? How can you write a story about a murder trial when you’ve never stepped foot inside a court room? How can you plan the perfect murder when you’ve never killed anyone? (Ok, poor example. Please don’t go kill somebody. Just . . . I don’t know . . . google the Zodiac Killer and figure out how the hell he got away with it.)

Of course, you could always wing it and hope that your readers will simply accept it as truth, no questions asked. But the tricky part about writing fiction is that you have to make it sound somewhat believable, even though it’s totally made up. Most readers aren’t dumb (most, not all, because I’ve seen a lot of five star reviews on Amazon for books that were complete garbage, but that’s a rant for another day). I can’t speak for all readers, but when I’m reading a book and I start to notice that the author is just making shit up, I completely check out. I either don’t finish it, or I keep reading because it’s so laughable and ridiculous, and because I really want to roast it online.

Believe me, you do not want to get roasted online. There are enough trolls on the internet to begin with, and book reviewers are probably the worst. Save your writing career and do the research.

I know Lost Boy will require a bit of research. Especially on Detective Maye’s side of the story. The only thing I know about police is what I see on TV, and that could be horribly inaccurate. For example, is there really a 24 to 48 waiting period before someone can file a missing persons report? While we’ve accepted it on television, logically it doesn’t make since. The missing person could be dead in 24 hours! Also, what does the inside of a police station look like? Do the officers work at desks? Cubicles? Do detectives really have partners?

Secondly, there’s Leslie’s work in the jail ministry. What are the general rules for jail visitations? Do the evangelists need special paperwork to enter? What does the inside of a jail look like? Where do the visitors meet? In a common area? Behind a screen?

So I have a lot of questions, and as I’ve said before, I can either make shit up and hope that it’s believable, or I can do the research so that I can portray every scene accurately.

While searching online is usually the quickest way to find information, there’s too much fake stuff online, and besides, this type of research really requires some footwork. I have two people I plan to interview in doing my research: one of the members in my church’s Jail/Prison Ministry, and my godmother’s brother (god uncle—is that a thing?), a retired police lieutenant. He could probably even get me inside a station, though I have no interest in going inside a jail—too scary!

Of course, now I have to think of some questions to ask. Funny truth about me: I hate asking questions; I never know what to say, and I always stumble over my words (I write, I don’t talk). Maybe I’ll make that a topic for a future post. What to ask the interviewees. Suggestions welcome!

—Nortina