Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Don't Mind The Corpse

by guest blogger A.J. Maguire (Aimee Dyer)

Main character – check

Love interest – check

Antagonist – check

Supporting cast members – check, check and check

Tally up the point of view (POV) characters – 5

This goes against the 4 POV limit, but we’ll live.  Or most of us will live.  By the time I write the fourth chapter, I already know how one character eats it in the end.  So, technically, I’m dealing with four characters and a walking corpse.

Keep writing.

Discover that the walking corpse actually resembles a walking corpse on the page.  He’s as dead as a red-shirted Star Trek character.  There’s no life to him, no color and no reason for us to care about his death.

Edit.

Try to force personality into the corpse, but find that the doomed character refuses to cooperate.  By heaven, he’ll be heard on his terms and not mine!

Take a week off.

Get back to work, pushing forward with the rough draft, and try to ignore the scent of decay coming from the corpse in the corner.  (I might try spraying some Febreeze on him, but at this point he’s taken to plucking his toes off like some gruesome rendition of; “She loves me, she loves me not.”  Which I find highly disturbing, so I just try to pretend he’s not there.)

Nearing the end of the draft, Point of View character number 3 gets hit by a flying ax.  Instantly dead, this character’s abrupt transition into the Netherworld is tragically beautiful.  The lack of his voice on the page is so startling that I can’t write for the rest of the night.

The corpse in the corner increases in stench exponentially.  I find him playing dice with his rotten toes, smirking at me as though to say; “So why did that character matter so much more than me?”

I toss and turn in fitful sleep that night, my corpulent character looming at the foot of the bed.  He’s getting impatient now and I can sense it.  I’ve finally reached his death scene, but find that the whole thing reeks of a setup.

Stop. 

Beat my head on my desk a few times.  Complain to my cat, who purrs and assumes that I want to drag a ball of yarn around for him.  I don’t, but I do anyway, all the while glaring at the computer screen from across the living room.

Complain to friend, who has come to the point in our relationship where she just smiles and nods, hoping I won’t ask a question at the end of my crazy rant because there’s no way she understands it.  And she’s lucky, because I already know the problem with my much-adored work in progress.  The truth is, I’ve known it since chapter four, when I spied the death of this character.

I didn’t care about the walking corpse because I knew the end of his story.  I never explored his personality, his tastes.  I never saw the way he lingered in the library, staring at the books with a longing that’s all too familiar to me.  He was dead before he got to live on the page. 

A.J. Maguire is a proud veteran and mother. Her first book, Sedition, was released by Wings ePress in January 2011. Her second book, Witch-Born, is scheduled for release by Double Dragon Publishing. When she's not reading or writing, she's hunting for a mountain to climb. Given her history in the military, A.J. Maguire has a soft spot for soldiers and uses them a lot in her work.

4 comments:

Joyce said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs!

I think you nailed the problem with knowing a character is going to die. When we think they're disposable, we don't want to invest the time or energy into bringing them to life. The best deaths (in fiction, of course!) are the ones that not only take the reader by surprise, but the writer as well.

PatRemick said...

Welcome Aimee -- I enjoyed your post very much and am glad to know I'm not the only one with non-writer friends who just nod and smile when I rant!

AJMaguire said...

Thank you so much for having me! I had a great deal of fun with this. This is actually true (minus the corpse, I do not keep corpses in the corner of my apartment) because my sequel to Sedition had several characters who died, two of them unexpectedly and one I had planned. I'll start editing it in August and try to fix the stale character.

And yes, I've got a wonderful friend who thinks I'm crazy but never says it out loud.

Patg said...

Hey, fellow Wingie, welcome to the Stiffs.
Multipal POV has Never been a problem for me unless the author doesn't show us the transition. As for the due-to-die guy, well I think he deserves a lot of attention. So lots of interesting characters is good. Nice blog.
Patg