Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blowing off steam for a moment

I hate plots. Complicated plots are even worse. You know, the sort where every little piece has to fall into place and be foreshadowed many pages in advance. The Ocean's Eleven-type plot. Not my strength. My strengths are fascinating characters, evocative descriptions, and snappy dialogue.

So what do I do? I play on my weakness by creating a story about an ex-con artist who, in order to achieve her goal, defeat the Big Bad, and save the day, must devise a complex scam, one that provides a role for every minor character in the book (otherwise, why introduce them if they're not going to play a pivotal role in the climax?). There are roughly 3,497 loopholes in this scam, and every time I tighten one, another two open up.

For instance, I need to temporarily "dispose" of one character in a way that doesn't cause grievous bodily harm, then have them return at just the right moment to cause more headaches. Since it's a comedy, I'm allowed a certain amount of goofiness, yet I want the solution to be reasonably realistic. I want to limit the "Oh, come on!" factor in the reader.

Imagine beating your head against the wall, breaking through, only to find another wall behind it. That's what this feels like. I can almost see the end of the book, but the vision appears through a dozen layers of lucite.

I think it's important for authors to challenge themselves with each new work. With Eyes of Crow, it was my first time writing from a female point-of-view, first time building a world, and the first time writing without profanity. With Bad Company, I don't have any of those limitations (the main character's a woman, but I've gotten used to thinking like a female), but this one will, in the end (literally), test my ability to work my way into, and out of, a big friggin' mess.

There ought to be a rule: never create a character who's more clever than you are.

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I couldn't work with that rule. I'd have nothing to write about but second-graders!

good luck with the delaying tactic. Can he miss a boat or something?

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 2/01/2006 2:56 PM

I actually wrote this bit on Saturday and forgot to post it until now. I've since figured out how to dispose of the mark (not entirely sure it's plausible but good enough for a first draft), which led to a whole other bunch of 'what if?'s

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/01/2006 3:04 PM

Excellent. Con stories are among my favorites, so I'm really looking forward to this one.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 2/01/2006 3:20 PM

The funny thing is, after doing a lot of research, I've realized that people are a lot more gullible in real life than would be believable in fiction. So any fictional scam has to be pulled off much more smoothly than a real life scam.

The con artist book, by the way, is the same as the vampire book, for anyone who's confused. No, I'm not writing three books a year. The very thought makes me want to hide in the bathtub like a dog in a thunderstorm.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/01/2006 3:29 PM

So you've gotten used to thinking like a female. All I can say is "hunh?"

Jim Young

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 2/01/2006 9:37 PM

Oh, Jim, that's a whole other blog topic. But I'll just say that my first four and a half novels were from male points of view, because it felt more natural to me. Maybe because that's what I've been reading/listening to/seeing most of my life, because culture has historically been dominated by men (not a complaint, just an observation). But even now, I enjoy lots of "male" stuff when it comes to culture--sports, violent movies, The Three Stooges, etc.

I just finished reading High Fidelity, which is to "lad lit" what Bridget Jones's Diary is to chick lit. I found it much easier to relate to Rob Fleming than Bridget Jones and her ilk. Maybe because I'm not into shoes.

Dunno, sometimes I feel like I just don't get women. Probably because I don't think about them much. ;-)

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/01/2006 9:58 PM

High Fidelity was written by Nick Hornby, by the way. It's hilarious.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/01/2006 10:01 PM

I've heard nothing but love for that book. I dug the movie, and will definitely have to check it out one of these days.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 2/02/2006 9:41 AM

"Maybe because I'm not into shoes."

This is the very reason I just can't get too enamored by chick lit. I really don't care which designer the lead character is wearing, nor would I recognize it.

Posted by: Blogger Sharon GR at 2/02/2006 10:47 AM

Jeri, I think about women all the time. And I don't understand 'em, either.

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 2/02/2006 11:48 AM

I wholeheartedly agree with your chick-lit comment. Of course, maybe I'm not into shoes b/c my feet were destroyed by too much dancing the night away in pointy toed spike heels and now I can't find a comfy pair of shoes to save my soul! But I think the real reason is that I grew up on Nancy Drew, which, of course, implies some kind of predisposition to such. Of course, this is not to say I don't have my purely "girlie" moments.


Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 2/02/2006 12:53 PM

I like the snarky humor generally found in chick-lit, but I don't understand why it has to be combined with shoe obsession, or being a hip city-dweller. Bad Company's young, sarcastic, man-mad heroine lives over a pawn shop in a small college town and uses duct tape to patch the holes in her soles.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 2/02/2006 7:54 PM

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