Monday, March 16, 2015

The Hard Choices

After agonizing about this development in the book I’m working on ‘In One Night’, I finally wrote in the death of one of the characters. 

Rationally it had to be done. It made sense to the story and it fit the plot; driving forward the story and the choices the characters now face. But on a gut level - purely emotional - it was almost as if I’d lost someone close to me.

How could I have done this? What was I thinking? Why did I feel I needed to do this?

Death is never easy. Not in real life and not in fiction. 
It got me thinking about how we’re confronted with death in the media almost daily, so why would one 19-year old fictional character matter to me, a secondary character in the story at that? 

Well, because I created her for one. And, two, her death represented something not just in the story, but also in the greater context of the history the story is wrapped around. World War II left many scars on many families, and landscapes. By losing one 19-year old I suppose I was trying to represent a larger group, a group that often gets overlooked in the counting of lives lost. 

This girl wanted so to be perfect, like many teenagers. To fit in and be loved, not defined by an, at that time, common deformity, that she let herself be talked into experimental, dangerous and doomed surgery by a fanatical nazi doctor. That’s all I’ll say. By the time the book comes out I’m sure you all will have forgotten this bit. 

What struck me, aside from feeling grief, was that my remaining characters are at a loss to determine their own next moves. They’re finding themselves reexamining their choices and making rash new ones that can have even greater, disastrous consequences not only for the Detweiler family, but perhaps others as well.   

I’m taking a little time away from writing to work on a translation. This will also give me time to step back and see where the characters go next, because even though my pen’s not on the paper, the story continues in my mind until I get back to the paper.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

And in further screenplay news

After a mix up with the mail, I finally received the marked up screenplay from the script consultant, via my client who sent it from his winter home in Palm Springs on a long and winding journey back to the Pacific Northwest.  

As a seasoned writer, having worked with editors, I’m used to scribbles in the margin and corrections, but my client … not so much. Rather than see it as a positive, he appears to be giving up on the project. I suppose at 81 years of age he was hoping for faster progress and instant success. He feels he’s running out of time, and let’s face it, writing and selling a screenplay takes longer than the lightning fast, mega real estate deals he’s used to making.

But, just because he’s giving up, doesn’t mean I will. Even just glancing over the notes and suggestions I realize I have gold in my hands. Reading through these notes and comments is like taking a master class to me. 

I intend to take the time to absorb the information from the script consultant and turn it around into something stellar. That’s something I’ve always done in my work … take a critique and learn everything I can from it and then do better. 

In order to have the opportunity to do this, I will need to renegotiate the terms of our agreement so I will be less constrained in the story development and writing. I’ll keep my client’s core idea, but will make it more viable. I’ve put too much blood, sweat and tears into this project to just file it away. There are at least 5 unfinished versions on my computer, abandoned but not forgotten. Each one offers something worthwhile to a proper rewrite. 

Hopefully I’ll be able to convince my client … unless of course one of you is willing to option it and let me write that new and viable version. I know he’d go for that. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

March Book Review

Doomsday Book 

Sorry for the delays in posting. February was busy and the book was long!

The Doomsday Book was a great read. It had many elements that I like; adventure, science fiction, history, and strong characters, including strong female characters. 

Set in both 2048 and 1384 (around the time of the black death). A history student at Oxford, Kivrin, prepares to got on a study trip, as many of her fellow students have done and continue to do, as part of learning. 

She gets all the necessary inoculations, clothing and together with her professor she prepares a detailed history for herself, along with a new name so she can blend in. She’s all set to go to 1320’s England and observe how people lived in that time by living among them. Yes, they do have some sort of ‘prime directive’ equivalent they are to observe so as not to alter history in any way. 

Unfortunately, a miscalculation sends her to 1384 right as the beginning of the plague. She arrives at the start of a cold winter, with shortages, and rats in the grain storage. Her professor back in Oxford is unaware of the error for quite some time, but when Kivrin doesn’t return when she’s supposed to, he begins to worry.

In the meantime, in 2048, an archeological dig just outside the city has unearthed victims of the black death who it seems are still contagious. As a mutated version of the plague rages through Oxford, effectively closing it off to the rest of the world, a race begins to figure out where Kivrin is in time and how to bring her back. 

The science seems sound, and the excitement builds throughout the 592 pages, but what really stays with you after reading the book is depth of human behavior and emotion described in a very accessible way. Ms. Willis has an innate understanding of human motivations and psychology. It’s makes her characters seem so very real. 

I won’t tell you the ending, suffice it to say, you’ll stay up late reading just to find out.