Saturday, March 25, 2006

Research roadblock

In the second draft of Bad Company, I'm adding a few short scenes to flesh out some of the secondary characters, strengthen weak plot points, and add a bit of world-building. Ideally, every scene in a novel, film, or play should serve more than one purpose.

Anyway, during the first of these scenes, which I started writing Tuesday morning, my main character turns to one of these underdeveloped secondary characters, a man named Noah, and asks him something about his background.

Noah didn't reply. He just sat there, because I had no freakin' clue what the answer was.

So I stopped writing and spent two days researching Jamaica and specifically reggae music, trying to figure out where he fit in to his milieu. I wanted him to be typical of that era and place, but not stereotypical (although when dealing with deejays, everything is in stereo (<--ha! I kill me! But not quickly enough for my audience.)).

Now that I know more about Noah, I have to change his behavior not just in this new scene, but in a later, critical scene already written. My original outline planned to have all the vampires (except the heroine's squeeze) act with one accord on a particular life-or-death issue. My deeper understanding tells me that Noah would never go along with the others. He doesn't care what the outline says.

Which makes things more interesting, but less tidy. If his behavior changes in that scene, it has a ripple effect on the following scene, and so forth. Arrgh.

But interesting beats tidy any day in my book. You can tell by looking at my house.

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Isn't it a shame when those characters come out of the background and tell you what they will do rather than just listening to you?

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 3/25/2006 4:42 PM

Excellent -- I'm glad he's coming to un-life for you!

Posted by: Blogger Rob S. at 3/25/2006 6:58 PM

Well, Anonymous, I don't personally subscribe to the mystical idea that characters somehow take over without the author's permission and write their own stories. They become real to me, but I'm still their creator, and they do what I say.

Noah grew a second dimension because after doing research, I decided he would be a Rastafarian. Not only because most of his peers at that time and place would have been, but because I wanted to explore the idea of a vampire who was still religious even after (un)death.

I thought it'd be particularly interesting using a religion that was more "light"-focused and less obsessed with sin and guilt. How does he reconcile the basic nonviolence of Rastafari with the fact that he needs to drink human blood to survive? They're supposed to be vegetarians, after all.

Anyway, my point is that Noah didn't rebel against me so much as he rebelled against the original outline, which I wrote when I barely knew him. And when I say "knew," I mean "developed" as opposed to "discover." The original outline wanted there to be a very distinct conflict between the hero Shane and his fellow vamps. But it's a bit muddied now, and that mud needs to be addressed in some way.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 3/26/2006 8:50 AM

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