Another fine mess

I’m fortunate to live in Denver. Besides the essentials: nice weather, fairly low crime, beautiful landscapes, medical marijuana, and plenty of watering holes (within shambling distance), we also have a thriving multi-faceted writers’ community. Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. MeetUps. Open mike readings at the Merc. And at the top of the literary heap, my tribe of scribes in the Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

This Friday, Lighthouse kicks off their annual LitFest with--what else?-- a party. The next two weeks of LitFest are packed with workshops, seminars, and readings.

On June 7th, Lighthouse and the Denver Civic Theater will host the LitFest Salon, The Final Word (on Final Words):

As writers, we often dwell too long on crafting a beautiful opening chapter. And we must keep our reader engaged during the narrative marathon in the middle of the book. But our story is a journey that goes somewhere, hopefully resolving the plot questions and tying all the loose ends before we get to THE END. Our esteemed panel will discuss how one might answer those nagging plot questions, wrestling with narrative twists, and leading the reader to a satisfying conclusion.

Presenting authors include: David Wroblewski, Oprah Pick and author of the NYT bestseller The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,

Eleanor Brown, whose book The Weird Sisters has been praised by everybody it seems, including NPR, People, and The New York Times,

acclaimed author of Agusta Locke, Lighthouse alpha instructor and literary ninja, William Haywood Henderson,

and me.

Actually, the salon topic was my idea (every once in a while, a little light does shine into the brain pan). I figured I’d use this League post for a preview on my thoughts for the salon. Like the description above says, we writers spend a lot of time on the first chapter, the first five pages, the lead paragraph, the opening line...but that’s just the start. But where the hell is the story going? There’s gotta be a destination.

To answer that question, let’s go back to the middle. Back further, to the beginning. In this case, my first published book, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats. I wrote that novel on a personal dare and as a standalone. But my agent said he had a better chance of selling my manuscript if it was a series. So series it became.

A lot of writers develop reams of backstory and a definite arc to the series. I never thought about that. Nymphos ended with the major story question resolved, and all the minor plot threads tied with a neat bow.

My protagonist , detective-vampire Felix Gomez, emerged from the plot swamp fully formed and complete. No need for character growth. All baggage checked and accounted for.

When I got my editor’s revision letter on my second novel, she pointed out there existed a lot of opportunities to flesh out my vampire. In other words, character growth.

Something else happened. The ending in book two got a little messier. Some of the plot threads, particularly those involving personal relationships between the characters remained undone.

By the third book, I decided to leave a lot unresolved. Sure, the bad guys got their comeuppance--Justice Served!--but the fallout in solving the case caused a lot of collateral damage among the characters.

With each successive story I introduced more moral ambiguity and forced Felix to choose between bad choices. And the lesser of evils sometimes led to worse outcomes.

Then, as if by magic, I found the series story arc. There are hints of it in each book but I can’t claim to have put them there on purpose. Obviously my subconscious was at work, no doubt shacking up with my Muse cuz the fickle bitch is rarely around during the day when I need her wordy ass. Also proof that I may be smarter asleep than awake.

Maybe the messiness in the final chapter of my stories is a metaphor for the way my life is going. In that case, I predict my end will be a big mess.


Jeanne Stein said…
Is that your living room before or after a party?


Popular posts from this blog

Rangers Lead The Way

Miriam Kriss: Vampire