Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Monday, March 7, 2016

I'm an Islander and a City Boy Too

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It's always a strange, sometimes frightening, thing. A story that's going exactly as planned suddenly compels you to write an unexpected scene. And part of you wants to resist because this narrative twist will force you to rewrite a number of earlier scenes. You want to keep it simple and proceed according to plan...but should you?

Example:

My two lead characters have been steered to a Seattle security guard who may be able to help them. He's a scarred, broken-down legend who'd once been the terror of thieves. But Elvis has now left the building. The plan: to have my guys show up, present him with a card from a cop he knows and arrange to meet him after his shift. But Boss MacTavin, my hero, is both moved and angered by the sight of the coward the guard has become. My right hand began to move.

And a fierce battle between that hand and my critical side now began. As I wrote, Boss slapped the guard several times to try to awaken his spirit...then DB, Boss' partner, grabs the guard by the shirt front--something no experienced fighter would do--and tells him quietly that he has stolen merchandise under his jacket--the guard should recover it, then throw him out.  So one side of me wanted Boss to play Mike Hammer with the guard, while the other side wanted both men to give the guard a chance to get his old bad feeling back and be seen as a star on the job. I now saw the guard becoming a major player in the book.

Another writer once compared writing to a creative balance between the island and the city:





I like the image and I keep it in mind. At the first draft, I'm an islander and I need to work as one, freely and openly...unburdened by bullying messages from hardheaded city editors: No, no, that'll never work...Boss can't really slap the guy--not that hard, anyway...And won't the guard be fired if he throws the two out?  Etc., etc., etc.

But hey. The city pros can have their day at the second and subsequent drafts. I'm an islander now and I let the words rip without any fear of mistakes.


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