Redemption: Even in fiction it’s tough

Redemption

Webster makes it sound so easy….

Redeemable. That’s a big word in fiction writing. When you create a character, sometimes you don’t want them redeemable. You want a villain so evil people stand up and cheer at their fate, a la Dolores Umbridge. (Sorry, I wanted that woman to die more than I wanted Voldemort dead!) Sometimes you want people to understand why they are the way they are, to perhaps feel a twinge of understanding. Sometimes you want the character to be puzzling, so readers can’t quite decide if they’re completely evil or not.

All of this, of course, presupposes you have A Plan.

blueprint

See how nicely it all comes together when you have a plan?

But life–and writing–being what they are, sometimes things just happen. Like an editor buying what you assumed would be a standalone book, and then, when it’s too late to change anything, asking for a spinoff. And realizing that only one secondary character truly stood out enough to be the main character in said spinoff. And that character just happens to be…well, darn near irredeemable. As in one of Those. Yes, she’s a b*tch.

Bitch-pups

Dogs are for the most part nicer than people anyway, right?

And I don’t mean this kind, loving, loveable, and generally sweet. No, this female, unlike the one above, hasn’t got a nurturing bone in her body. But at the time I’m young, still a newbie, and foolish. I think I can do anything. I mean, how hard can it be to turn somebody around, right? I’m the writer, in that world I created I’m God, I invented her, didn’t I? Besides, the heroine of the first book, who was absolutely heroine material, had been friends with her once. So there had to be something good about her, didn’t there? I only had to find it. So, I set myself to the task. And how did it go? Kind of like this:

 

Frustration

Whose idea WAS this, anyway???

It wasn’t long before I was pacing the floor, yelling at myself for being an idiot. Why on earth–or any of the worlds I was writing about–had I ever thought I could save this woman? What had possessed me to choose her as a heroine? How on earth was I going to make this woman in the least heroic, let alone loveable?

I finally realized there was only one way to do this. I had to go back to the bones. I had to tear this woman down and try to rebuild her into something heroic. And I had to do it so thoroughly that readers would believe that it was possible for this woman to achieve that redemption. Had I realized what I was letting myself in for, I probably would have rethought it. But as I said, I was young and foolish and probably a bit cocky thanks to landing on the fast track my first published year and having sold a ridiculous number of books quickly. Ha. That’ll learn me, as my uncle used to say.

So I began. And for a long time my life felt like this:

construction - roofing

Wait, where does that stick go again?

And nearly 600 manuscript pages later, it was done. Whether I succeeded is not really up to me. Whatever I think, it is the reader who ultimately decides. Although I will happily accept the assessment of reviewer extraordinaire I mentioned in the last post, Melinda Helfer, who gave SKYPIRATE that rarest of accolades, one that has since been retired–an actual 5-star review in RT Magazine. The book also won a Reviewer’s Choice award, a Reader’s Voice award, and along with its predecessor, LORD OF THE STORM, was on the RT top 200 of all time list. So I guess maybe I did succeed. But I swear I will never try that again. Next b*tch I write stays one.

Heroes, on the other hand…..

 

LORD OF THE STORM and SKYPIRATE, re-released and available now in both e-book and print! Links on the book page, here: http://justinedavis.com/booklist.html

 

 

 

Frustration: Tanya Little https://www.flickr.com/people/50965643@N06 via Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

 

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Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

ColtonDestiny cover link

COLTON DESTINY, Book 1 of The Coltons of Eden Falls mini-series

This post you’re reading was written quite some time ago. I was in the middle of writing the book that was released this month, so I saved it until now. But this isn’t really about the book so much as how I came to be writing it.

If you’re one of my readers, then you’re likely familiar with continuity series, although you may not know them by that name. These are editor/publisher-generated, a string of books by different authors with a commonality that ties them all together. Often the connection is family, in this case, the Coltons, who have become a wildly popular fictional family. I’ve done a few of these before, even another Colton saga. It’s always a challenge to take characters and a story line created by someone else, and make them enough your own to invest the passion and caring in them that makes the romance genre work. On the other hand, it’s not that far removed from how I started writing as a child.

Say what?

Yes, a child. My sister likes to say she’s responsible for the start of my writing career. She didn’t buy me a fancy pen, or a computer, or anything like that. What she did was sit down and turn on an old Disney movie on TV. One of those heart-wrenching, tear-jerking things. Which inspired my elementary-school self to grab my favorite pencil (and who but a future writer would even have a favorite pencil at that age?)and some of that kid’s paper with the wood chunks floating around in it, and rewrite the entire ending. In my version, of course, every character I liked lived, and every one I didn’t went away. Kind of like I’d like to arrange my life today, if only I could. But I digress. At that age I had no concept of creating my own characters, and simply wanted the stories for characters I loved, created by others, to go my way. An early form of fan fiction, I suppose.

Fast forward to today, where I’m knee-deep in a world I didn’t make up, with characters who, like those characters long ago, didn’t spring from my own imagination. It would seem difficult, and sometimes it is, but in its way, it’s much like returning to that old childhood world where I cut my writing teeth. Not that I didn’t have doubts. I had strong ones. The world these stories are set in, the Amish community, is very foreign to my experience. But I was intrigued by the idea of setting a romantic suspense story in that community. I mean, Witness worked for me in a big way. And then I have this little writer personality quirk. If you want me to darn near kill myself trying to do something just tell me I can’t. Or even get me thinking I can’t. It’s like waving a red flag. I’m cautious in most other areas of life, but in my writing I hold the firm belief that if I motivate it properly, and if I build the fictional world with enough care, I can make anything work.

It’s up to the reader to decide if I’ve succeeded. I may not always, but I always begin with the conviction that it CAN be done.