Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ripping Off Hamlet

So, work is going slow on BURIED.

At first I thought this would be an easy one, a finished manuscript that needed little more than a quick polish an off to the Beta readers. It's a tidy wee thriller about a young woman who returns to her hometown and starts asking questions about her brother's death. Think Walking Tall meets Pink's song Trouble.

Naturally, there was one small problem. A little thing, no more than a dangling thread at the edge of a garment, really.

The story read too fast. Not 'wow I finished it in a single night' fast, but 'who are these people and why are they doing this stuff' fast. In my haste to keep the action moving, I had neglected my sequels.

So I sat down every morning with my feathery quill, ruffled shirt and candle-drippy skull (so I'd know I was a *real* writer, see) and go through my manuscript. Correct a typo here, tighten some language there. And yes, broadening out those sequels so those characters could explain their who's and where's and why's...

That dangling thread metaphor a couple of paragraphs back? I bet you can see where I'm going this.

Yup. As I filled in the bits I had glossed over, that thread pulled further and further. I was writing about messed up families, about the ties that bind us to our pasts and histories, about the strange relationships between mothers and daughters. I had two mentor characters, one a hero who has to choose between her heart and doing the right thing, the other a black-hearted villain who did it all for love. And my poor protagonist, sucked into all these plots and feuds and jealousies and betrayals by the loss of a brother she barely knew, her last family.

Once I started pulling those threads, I felt like the biggest asshole to ever stare moodily from a garret window. Glossing over good meaty stuff like that should be criminal.

And of course, it wasn't long before the entire hem of my garment had dissolved. Stepping gently away from an overworked metaphor, my old ending no longer worked.

It was tidy. It was fun. It littered the bodies all over the stage.

But my old ending didn't do justice to these characters and what they were going through.

So, once more into the breach and all that. And this morning it hit me: the REAL central conflict of my story...

My heroine really was fine being a black sheep. She liked it. But family does hold its ties and obligations over us. Going home was the last thing she wanted to do, but it was what she had to do. And now that she's back, everyone wants her to further *their* agendas.

Basically, my story is one long Call to Action.

My earlier version had her answering that call at the Act I Climax, just like every other bloody Hero's Journey. Lot of good stories go that route, but it was making my heroine's choice seem shallow and facile.

But, who the hell writes about HALF the Hero's Journey? Okay, maybe the fiction team behind the Synoptic Gospels. (I mean, sure, maybe you could say Jesus answers the call before the start of that story, but I'd argue that he spends damn near every minute up until the Last Supper trying to find a less painful way to answer that call.) But those folks are NOT the writers to turn to for characterization...

Had this ever been done by anybody GOOD???

Oh yeah, Hamlet! That poor Emo's entire story is about the difficulty he has answering his call to action. If your dead father's ghost is crying murder and howling for vengeance, do you *really* need investigation and fake plays to figure out what you have to do? No. He knows from the start what he has to do, and what it will cost him.

And when he finally DOES take action, man do the bodies pile up quick!!!

This is gonna be fun..... :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Next Big Thing — Find the New Authors You Need to Read

I’d like to thank fellow author Avery DeBow for tagging me to participate. Click the link to find out about her book, Resonance.

In this particular hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?

BURIED. I'm planning to release it as a summer beach read.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

The opening scene came to me out of whole cloth, just sort of landed in my lap. From there it was a matter of figuring out what the heck was going on there.
Once I'm revising, it's easier to see the certain sources (action movies, the strange relationship between mothers and daughters, my grandfather's old place in rural Georgia), but at the time it's all just getting to the next chapter...

3: What genre does your book come under?

Thriller/Suspense: Think a less-Floridian John D McDonald with better-written women.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For Kira, Either a young Isabelle Adjani (maybe late 70's), or a current Leslie-Ann Brandt. Neither looks how the character is written, but both crackle with that exotic wild intensity. Of course, with my luck it'd turn out Taylor Swift was looking to get into acting...
And for the Sheriff, Jody Foster. Hands down, Jody Foster.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young woman returns home after a long absence and starts asking questions about her brother's death.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I self publish. I had an agent for a couple-three years, and some interest, but in the end I'm happier this way. :)

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This one went quick, I seem to recall- maybe three months? Rewrites, of course, took considerably longer....

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'm sticking with John D MacDonald with stronger women. MUCH stronger women...

 9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Sheriff just kind of wandered up one day, brought Kira with her, and the two of them wanted me to write a story. They were standing in that parking lot, kind of freaking me out.

 And they were pretty patient with me when I got lost, never let me write them too far off-track.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Let's see... I've got a sleepy Southern town with a tough-as-nails Sheriff, an oily and evil crime boss, a team of professional killers and a hot chick who kicks major ass!

Sound like you? No?

Well, how bout it's also a thoughtful meditation on the love and antagonism and tangled loyalties of family and the way that no matter where you go you'll always feel the pull of home...

Because it does both. I swear! :)

Happy Writing and Reading!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Recap and Intro

Hey everyone, just a quick intro/recap for any of you who are new here:

My name is Steve Malley. I write thrillers with a hard dark edge, full of action and intelligence, sex and violence and bad, bad love...

At least, that's what it says on my Amazon profile. :-p I'm an ex-pat American in New Zealand, an artist in my day jobs (tattooing, painting and comics). Basically, life rocks. :)

My books:

Street kids are disappearing from pre-quake Christchurch, and tough cop Sarah Crane is going to find out why...

Drifting bluesman Kane and a murderous Irish girl hell bent on revenge stand against a wicked and aging country singer with a serial killer in his entourage...

Vengeful ghosts, dark sorcerors and the walking dead all have it in for Sam Roark in this urban fantasy set in the world of tattoos and piercings.

Half Gothic ghost story, half two-fisted suspense....