Writing Wednesday

In rereading my urban fantasy fairy tale, I came across a scene that I had pulled from the trunk novel I was using for donor parts.

The scene features the MC and another character, the MC’s friend who is also the Homicide Police Captain.

My MC is called in to look at what turns out to be a magic circle, used to summon demons, because he’s an expert on the esoteric. He is often called in by the Police to identify occultish symbols or objects. Not because anyone believes in the occult, but in the hopes that by giving the item a historical context they will have a better chance of assigning motives and tracking down suspects.

Now as I said, this is an old scene, one of the original scenes from my trunk novel that I had started 15 years ago.

In the scene, my MC meets the Police Captain in a corn field and together they head toward the murder scene.

On the way, they pass the Medical Examiner, who is leaving the scene, heading back to his car. He quips a few morbid jokes and is gone. Never to appear in the story again.

At the time, I thought nothing of that meeting with the ME, nor did any of my beta readers mention it. I knew nothing about writing crime scene fiction nor had I read many police procedurals.

But this week, I started thinking about it. Something nagged at me that the scene was inadequate. But what?

It occurred to me that the ME just leaving the scene, the bodies, without so much as a “How do you do?” was a little odd.

If you’ve ever watched the television show NCIS (or any of the hyper-graphic crime shows), you know that Ducky never just leaves the scene. He and his assistant are there investigating and providing Gibbs with a running inventory of findings. Then, after they’ve done all they can at the scene, Ducky tags and bags the bodies and ensures they get to his lab for the autopsy.

My ME, on the other hand, tells a few jokes and is gone.

Because I now have a better understanding of how (fictional) MEs work, I’m going to revise the scene.

The ME will still leave, still make some jokes, but now I’ll add some more dialog. The Captain will ask a few questions, including something like “Leaving already?” And the ME can respond, “I know how to deligate.”

At the crime scene I’ll add a few ME assistants and forensic techs, even giving some pertinent dialog about the bodies to one of them.

Why did I start thinking about this scene this week? My oldest son just started interning with the local Medical Examiner’s office and I guess that made me more conscious of what was going on in this story.

A writer’s job is never done. That’s because writers are always expanding their knowledge and always applying that knowledge to improve their writing.

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Writing Wednesday with Chekhov’s gun

“One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” — Anton Chekhov, from an 1889 letter to playwright Aleksandr Semenovich

“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” — from Gurlyand’s Reminiscences of A. P. Chekhov

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” — Anton Chekhov, quoted by S. Shchukin, Memoirs

Anton Chekhov’s oft-quoted piece of writing advice, often referred to simply as “Chekhov’s gun,” is a literary concept that means every element introduced in a story must be necessary to the plot or it is superfluous and should be removed.

In other words, you should remove all false guns from your writing. This applies not just to physical objects and characters, but irrelevant scenes that don’t advance the story, as well.

gw077-chekhovs_gun

I bring up Chekhov’s gun because as I was reading through my own manuscript, I found one. I missed it my first read-through, however, it must have made an impression upon my subconscious because while I was sitting enjoying a cup of coffee (Sumatra from CoffeeIcon. Yum!)j Saturday morning while watching an episode of Star Trek on BBC America, it popped into my head.

“The knife!”

I immediately wrote knife on a notepad and placed it on my computer to remind me.

“Well? What about the knife?” I hear you ask.

I’m getting to that. Patience, young grasshopper.

I have a scene in my manuscript where my MC, an expert in things occult, and his friend, who happens to be a captain with homicide of the local police department, are together investigating a recent gruesome murder scene when one of the investigating officers discovers an ancient obsidian knife.

The knife turns out to be evidence from an earlier murder that the MC believes was a human sacrifice in a ritual to summon a demon.

The MC takes a picture of the knife and sends it to an expert in early Mesoamerican civilizations, who is aiding the MC in the hunt for the demon, in the hopes that he can identify the artifact.

When I had introduced the knife, I had fully intended to have it serve as a significant clue and later my MC and his Mesoamerican expert would get together to discuss where the knife had originally come from.

One thought I had was the knife was an actual museum piece stolen from an Aztec museum somewhere Central or South America and it would help the police to finally identify the killer.

The thing is I never mentioned the knife again!

That’s right. I placed the knife there for the reader to see and then I completely forgot about it.

Now, however, all sorts of new scenarios are presenting themselves on how to make use of the knife, including, but not limited to, adding needed information to not only identify where the killer came from, but also to help develop the relationship between the MC and his police captain friend.

I did a quick Google search just now and found a cool Aztec ceremonial knife that would work, but unfortunately, that knife is held in the British Museum nor is it ancient enough, which means it won’t work in my story. Shame.

aztec ceremonial knife

I’ve got more research to do. Down the rabbit hole I go!

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Writing about relationships

Welcome to another edition of Writing Wednesday! Last week I discussed my trunk novel and how I was disassembling it and using bits and pieces of it, including the main plot, in my current work-in-progess (WIP).

The new story, a blossoming relationship between the main character and a faerie is coming along nicely. I’ve almost completed the first draft.

My biggest problem is I’ve never written about romances or relationships. Not as the main focus of the story anyway. 

Snoopy knows

Most of what I’ve written, thrillers, action adventures, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, the main focus in on the main character surviving whatever the story has thrown at him. If there is a romantic relationship, it’s usually a very minor subplot hidden away in the main story’s focus.
And to be honest, I’ve never read a romance (closest l came was to start but not finish “Bridges of Madison County”) and in most of the stories I read, the relationship is also secondary, more like fill for the downtime between the action sequences. Something to simply make the MC seem a little human and vulnerable.

Take the romantic development in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars,” for example. John Carter meets Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman on two worlds, falls in love without really getting to know her, and spends the rest of the novel trying to rescue her from one predicament after another.

And considering I’m the nerdy bashful type, I don’t have a lot of personal romantic experiences to draw upon in writing this either.

So, its probably natural that I’m finding it difficult creating a believable relationship, a budding romance between two characters. It’s especially tough when the novel takes place over the period of only one week. 

I’m tasked with making the romance believable to the reader without them being pulled out of the story, “No one falls in love that deeply that fast!”

Sure, there’s a bit of Burroughsian boy meets princess, boy loses princess, boy fights to win back princess in it, but I don’t want to depend upon that cliche.

I want it to develop naturally into a believable romance that tugs at the reader’s heart strings. 

As I said, it’s hard. But then, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be able to do it.

Right?

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