Saturday, April 21, 2007

Truth

I've spent the last ten days talking. About writing, about life, about truth. I'm understanding the snag I've encountered in my book much better. And it begs the question, which is more important - the story or being published?

My heroine is a demon who wants to convert the hero into a demon. Is it a romance with paranormal elements or a paranormal with romantic elements? Answering that question can have a significant impact on the first one. Each publisher has different guidelines; elements they're looking for, others they abhor.

Cathy's thoughts about love led us to a conversation about truth. In love and life. About self-truths and the way people respond to that honesty. Some embrace it while others flee. It takes courage to be that truthful.

Redemption is impossible without soul deep sincerity. Right now Nea has neither. My fear has been how to make her a demon yet sympathetic at the same time. She's done some rotten things but nothing reprehensible.

I've known some people who've done some truly horrible things. People who struck out in anger, in anguish, in self-defense. People who confronted the ugliness within and eradicated it. Their redemption is sincere, and believable. I'm not sure that would fly in fiction, particularly romance.

Everyone has their own opinion. Everyone has their own life story. Everyone has their own triggers as to what they would never read in a book. Jenny Crusie had to create two posts to manage all the comments on that one.

I've been easy on Alex and Nea because of a concern that my original intent would alienate some readers. I think this makes the story weaker. So now I'm thinking about putting it all back in. Demons are nasty creatures but not Nea. If she really hates and hurts as much as she does, why has she been so careful with her rage? Furthermore, I've set up her backstory to suggest that she's feeding people's evil expectations of her. It's a fine line and I've failed with the darker aspects. For both of them.

Is it better to be true to the characters and story or true to publisher demands? It won't sell if Nea killed people. Who will believe that love showed her the error of her ways? What drives Alex to the point where he seriously considers becoming a demon? Someone dies. Part of the flaw lies in my timeline. He wouldn't be over that trauma in the two weeks that follow that revelation.

Alex's black moment isn't black enough as it stands without the death. Without any true evil on her part, he's not horrified enough by Nea's existence, nor his own actions in a situation that drove him to this moment. The way I've written it doesn't ring true.

Despite the fact that I'm not published and likely shouldn't take a big risk so early in my career, I'm convinced I have to write the story, and characters, with as much honesty as I can. Nothing irritates me more than when a writer isn't true to their characters.

But how do you feel? Would you expect the demon heroine in a romance to be nicer than your average demon; no matter how well motivated she is to commit evil acts? Regardless, Alex must plunge into a pit of despair and seriously consider Nea's offer or the reader will not believe in his black moment. Or Nea's redemption when she saves them both.

I have more thinking to do.

20 comments:

  1. Mary!9:44 PM

    My problem is that I'm not sure how the average demon would behave. Is a demon a type of devil, that is a fallen angel who was once a creature of Light? That somehow suggests the possibility of redemption from the fall. Or were demons creatures created in darkness, who thrive on chaos precisely because it is evil? Or is chaos is their version of normal?
    C.S. Lewis wrote once about the difficulty of writing about a character who was interested in Evil for the sake of Evil. Why is Nea full of rage and darkness?
    I'd really want to know what leads Alex to trust Nea after witnessing her commit evil acts.
    It's a complicated situation you've got here. I think if I saw it on the bookshelf I would buy it for the very reason that you're having trouble writing it -- because it is so unusual.
    (Um, I don't suppose I could peek at it before it is published? Maybe? Possibly? Oh well. It was worth a try.)

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  2. Chaos is their version of normal. ea is half demon and half nymph so her identity is conflicted. If I told you why she was full of rage and darkness you wouldn't have to read the book :D

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  3. I've been pondering this one a bit more. Seems to me that it's not enough for Nea to be loved, she has to accept the love, open herself up to the person loving her. Love can't show her the error of her ways so long as she's wearing self-imposed blinders.
    When I try to imagine someone half-nymph and half-demon, I see someone who alternates being good and being evil, i.e. she's in a constant internal tug-of-war. Is that where she's coming from? Half of the time she wants to be loved and to give love, the other half of the time she's pushing away all good things, and doing evil as a way of rejecting the light. It is kind of like someone in an abusive situation, wanting to move to a better place but not quite daring to believe they are good enough for real happiness. Hmmn...
    Heck, I'm blathering instead of answering your question. Thank you for explaining the devil/nymph dichotomy. To answer your question, I wouldn't expect a demonic heroine to be nicer than the average demon, just so long as I could identify with her.
    Simon Brett once wrote a murder mystery from the point of view of the murder. It was awful in a way, because I knew the character had done something horrible and wanted to get away with it. But at the same time his was the only POV in the book, so I was split while reading it: even though I knew he should be punished, part of me wanted him to get away with it because while I was reading the book, I was part of him. It seems to me that your storyline for Nea starts out like this? She does evil things and wants to get away with them. Your story would be more fun to read because she's going to change. Especially if I knew while reading the earlier part (or was lead by the sneaky author to suspect) that she was going to accept love and vulnerability.

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  4. Dagnabbit, even with preview I can't read properly. I meant to write that Simon Brett wrote a murder mystery from the point of view of the murderer, not the murder.
    Sheesh, Mary

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  5. It's okay I followed along, though there's a movie out now from the pov of the murder victim.

    I show her motivation, her rejection of love (you don't love me then fine, I won't love you kinda thing) and when she has ALex in her talons she's not going to go through with it. Together they force each other to examine how worthy they both are of love both from themselves and each other. yeah that was a sentence that convinces you what a wonderful writer I am. :D

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  6. I hope I've done it well enough that you can identify with her, and understand why she embraces the demon half of herself

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  7. I'm thinking, write the story, figure out the market later. You may have a work of "literary fiction" on your hands or somesuch. :-)

    But I think it would be a real shame to waste the such great characters by limiting the scope of what you allow them to be.

    You knew I'd say that... LOL

    Cath :-)

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  8. That's the same advice I'd give someone else, Cathy lol

    But given how strongly everyone reacted on Jenny's blog, I have to think about what I'm doing.

    I also advise people to know their market.

    How contradictory am I?:D

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  9. Write your story the way it comes to you. Trust your instincts. Understand the rules, and then if you want to break them, go right ahead, as long as you have a valid reason.

    Never write to a market. understand the market, but don't write to it because by the time you're book gets published, the market will have changed, again.

    The whole thing over at Jenny's blog shouldn't dictact what you write, or what you put in your book. If I want a rapist in my book, I will have one thank you very much. But i will do this with the understanding that I might have just made my market smaller.

    Also, consider what I like to read is going to be different from someone else. I like contraversy. I like things that push the envelop. I like dark and edgy. I like dead people. I have friends who have a hard time critiquing my lastest work because the antagonist is so twisted and they are truly disturbed by it. Good. Will they want to buy that book? Probably not, but I'm sure someone will. It's a damn good book.

    My point. Don't think too much. Don't anaylize. Write your story. Submit your story. It will finds a home.

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  10. In all honesty, I may have shied away from the darkness because it's difficult to write. Confronting demons can stir up a lot of crap. really, who needs more of that?

    I'm not worried about writing to the market so much as I'm concerned there isn't a market. Fine distinction but there is one.

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  11. I don't think you need to worry, unless she's incinerating babies or torturing small, furry animals. Paranormal is very edgy now, or certainly can be. Go check out Angela Knight's blog, Knight Errant, for just that discussion. I bet you'll see you demons are pretty tame.

    I always figure, write it the way you think it should be, from your point of view, and see what happens before you decide it won't work.

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  12. If a market isn't there now, that's not to say you can't go create your own market. "If you write it, they will buy" sort of them.
    (Sorry, but for any novel with any element of romance in it, I couldn't use the traditional "Field of Dreams" slogan without changing the meaning of the phrase completely. ;)

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  13. All of this discussion is helping me fine tune her nastiness. Watching someone die affects the soul. Which would add to her angst. No rape, small animal or baby killing. Okay. I handle that.
    I tend to read light paranormal as that's what appeals to me - another reason I've avoided the dark. If I don't enjoy it, why would anyone else? I've been inputting all my notes during this discussion and discovered Alex's despair was already addressed. I'm pretty sure at some point Kate and I discussed Nea's killing only bad people was a cop-out, and not truly demonic. They're equal opportunity evil for evil sake. Nea's nymph genes counterbalance that but as she's in denial about them - oh look, I've got a scene with Alex pointing out her denial. Maybe I should have finished reading all my notes before I started this discussion. It looks like I've tackled a few of my concerns already.
    Thanks for the link, ZaZa. It was very interesting.

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  14. Anonymous6:40 PM

    write to stay true to the story. Jenny may have had to post twice but one thing that came through is that there is a market for everyone out there.

    just be careful how you word your BCC. :)

    but if i'm reading a book and the character is supposed to be dark and isn't, she's just there, i'm going to be annoyed. i'm going to think the author didn't go as far as she could have.

    -OH

    p.s. what book was that mary? and movie? both sound interesting.

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  15. Mary!7:08 PM

    OH, the book was "A Shock to the System" by Simon Brett. Apparently it was made into a movie with Michael Caine.
    http://www.amazon.com/Shock-System-Simon-Brett/dp/0330315951/ref=ed_oe_p/103-9041384-8367055?ie=UTF8&qid=1177283158&sr=8-1

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  16. Mary!7:09 PM

    Sigh.

    http://tinyurl.com/3bqmug

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  17. Some of the books along this bent refer to varying levels of demons, which should work well with your character. It doesn't sound like you are writing a demon-lite humor novel, but one of my personal favorites is from the Dilbert comic strip. He's Phil from Heck, in charge of paper cuts, dead batteries, expired parking meters and daily life annoyances. Nothing truly horrible.

    Translation: Making her a lower level demon doesn't make her responsible for the really bad stuff out there. We all have bad days, and I don't think there would be a problem relating to her.

    The shows Buffy and Charmed both gave us examples of shades of gray with the "with a soul" story lines, so I think there is almost room for redemption for everybody.

    Good luck!

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  18. Hey guys. Zaza said: I don't think you need to worry, unless she's incinerating babies or torturing small, furry animals.

    Well I'm in trouble. In my WIP I kill children. Not on-camera, as it were, but they die nonetheless. I've had friends tell me they won't read it because of that. I respect that, but then I worry, should I be doing this at all? Can I have a romantic suspense with dead children? So i just write for me, market be damned.

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  19. I :ducking: never watched Buffy or Charmed.
    Me - write what you want. You can kill children in fiction. It's a much harder sell if it's your hero or heroine. Which is my dilemma. I'm working on it. Bye-bye trailer park, hello answer to why that's always the target of tornados.

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  20. Ms. Sheryl?
    (Note the absence of the other M word here ;)
    A quote from one of the Amazon reviewers struck me. I think it was written before people started paying reviewers to write things, for it's not exactly complimentary, but to me it exactly summed up my feelings about the Murderer-pov book:
    "The book is unsettling because we find ourselves alternately loathing and encouraging the man. We deplore his wholesale discounting of the value of human life, yet some of his prospective victims are in themselves so vile, we are temporarily swayed to Marshall's point of view. Brett keeps us off balance until the very last page."

    See? So you could throw us off with your initially unsavory character, but then bring us around to the cheering side when redemption triumphs over darkness. After that it's just a matter of watching the book sales increase, hopefully with your feet up and whilst sipping a fine vintage.

    I mean, you've already got several discerning readers intrigued by your story. I say this is a Sign that you should wrestle with your demons and write the story the way it demands to be told.

    (Dang but it's so nice and easy telling someone else to do stuff like this.)

    One more thing: excerpt done yet?

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