Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Exercising - It's Not So Bad

Exercise: Choose one of your main characters from any WIP and from his/her POV write about one of the most difficult decisions he/she had to make.

The character I chose for this exercise is Dorian Holt, the hero from my paranormal work-in-progress, Outcast. Dorian’s past includes a past decision that haunts him. The only problem - I had no idea what this decision entailed. Until now.

Hunted by a small army of powerful humans with unlimited funds, the one remaining vampire clan of the twentieth century battles against impossible odds and the threat of complete annihilation. A tragic and terrible compromise is offered. Continued existence in exchange for a sip from the grail of immortality.

Dorian Holt faced the man known as The Reaper and offered a smirk to the row of Death Dealers standing at attention behind him. He tugged on his starched French cuffs and straightened his antique Faberge enameled cufflinks.

“Marcus.” He dipped his head a notch. “I must apologize. I caused a bit of a mess in your pristine hallway. Wish I could say I was sorry about the waste.” No one mocked him. Ever. Human or vampire.

Disapproval seeped from every pore as Marcus pursed his lips. He snapped his fingers and a soldier stepped out of formation and exited the room.

“Be very careful, Dorian.” Marcus pressed his fingers together, tip to tip, and tapped them against his chin. “Not to overstep yourself. We wouldn’t want word of our little meeting to get out. So very bad for your reputation as High Lord.”

His fangs slipped and pierced his bottom lip. The taste of blood settled him, anchored him in purpose.

“I’m sure the rest of your ilk would be fascinated to know the depth of your betrayal.” Marcus titled his head. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

The growl started low in his belly and gained momentum as it worked it way out. The entire wall of glass shuddered. The Death Dealers braced their footing, raised their guns and red laser points dotted his chest.

“One day, Marcus, you and I will meet face to face and alone.”

“Yes, yes. But not today.” Marcus leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his stomach. “Shall we begin?”

“And if I refuse.”

“Then you die. Along with the rest of your … kind.”

“Here’s hoping you find immortality more of a curse then a blessing.”

“I’ll take my chances.”

Dorian pulled the small vial from his inside jacket pocket and rolled it across the conference table towards Marcus who stopped it with the tap of a finger one inch from the edge.

“I don’t think so.” He picked up the vial, inspected it, and sneered at it. “How do I know where this blood’s been? Only the best will do.”

"You’ll have to trust me.”

Marcus barked out a laugh. “Dorian, not even you could be that stupid.”

It was one insult too many. He’d had enough. His muscles coiled, bunched and initiated the leap across the table before his mind considered the wisdom of his actions. Fury blinded the human in him. Self-loathing brought out the animal.

The first bullet hit him in midair and sliced through his abdomen. The next two hit him on the way down. The last of them peppered his chest as he crashed through the conference table to the floor.

Unable to regenerate, barely conscious, he registered the prick of a needle and tried to lift his head. Another needle pinch. His head fell back. His eyes drifted shut.

“Sir, we’ve got it.”

“What should we do with him?”

“Leave him. He can find his own way out.”

Until today Marcus was going to be the hero in my next paranormal wip. Now I’m thinking not so much. While this exercise started out to be about Dorian, it also had to be about the villain, I just had no idea the villain was Marcus. The exercise was a success in that I did manage to finally nail down some of Dorian’s past. I learned what it is that haunts him. What it is that drives him. I learned the sacrifice Dorian makes will have far reaching consequences in the future, not only for his people, but the entire human race.

So – WOW! Overflow story ideas and plot threads are squirting out my ears. This story is supposed to be 15,000 words max. Now I have to decide whether to run with it or scale it back to fit my original plan.


Helena said...

Amazing what a writing exercise can bring out, Karyn. Stories can start going in all sorts of different directions, or completely new stories sometimes emerge. That is also my experience from taking workshops. One of those "little" ten-minute exercise can produce the germ of an idea for a whole new story.

Do you watch The Vampire Diaries? You may not have to discard Marcus as a hero in another story. Think of Damon in the TV series. He's the current bad guy, but don't you think there could be something redeeming about him if he were given the central role? (And he's so good looking!)

That's another discussion, tho, isn't it? Can the villain change?

Well-done! Not my usual genre, but you've made me want to read more nevertheless.

Ban said...

Hey - you know me ... I'm gonna say 'roll with it!' Maybe a whole series !!!
And as I'm posting this I see Helena's comment just showed up and she's mirrored my thoughts perfectly !
Marcus can sooooo be the bad guy in this book but think of how fun it will be redeeming him in a future one. (Helena - I'd almost given up on Vampire Diaries but the last episode has me all excited again - like Damon soooo much more than Stefan)
Another example: Anne Rice - in Interview Lestate was the bad guy but the rest of the series was about him as hero ...

Ban said...

sorry about the typo - my fingers get ahead of me sometimes and I add 'e's to the end of words that don't need them :(

Anita Mae Draper said...

Wow, Karyn, good job!

You know I'm not into paranormals but you caught my interest real quick and I easily visualized the scene.

Except for one thing: I thought you kept switching POV. Yeah, I know that isn't the exercise in question, but since this is all for learning, I'll take the chance of stepping on your toes...

The scene starts in Dorian's POV and he's facing Marcus.

When I read this: Disapproval seeped from every pore as Marcus pursed his lips. which is an excellent line btw, I thought it was Marcus's POV and then from the following line realized it was still Dorian's.

Marcus speaks.

Next is this line:
His fangs slipped and pierced his bottom lip. The taste of blood settled him, anchored him in purpose.
For some reason, I thought you'd switched to Marcus's POV.

Then Marcus speaks again.

And then the sentence where he growls.

In the sentences sandwiched between Marcus's statements, you show no designation of POV. I read them several times thinking they belonged to Dorian but it read like they belonged to Marcus until I noted where the Death Dealers pointed their weapons at his chest and knew that it was Dorian who bit his lip and growled.

This is one of the problems I'm having with deep POV. If you don't say who's doing the action, it can be attributed to the wrong person.

What does everyone else think? Am I the only one who had to stop and decipher?

Is this an example of deep POV?

Karyn, what do you think? Or should I not have gone off-topic with this today?

Karyn Good said...

OMGosh, thank you, Helena. I do watch The Vampire Diaries. It's one of my new favorite shows and you're right I could totally spin it in that direction. In fact, that's a very good point. Something terrible will have to happen to him first, he'll have to suffer some serious reprecussions for his actions and his grab at immortality. (Sorry, brainstorming in my head).

Thanks Helena, you've given me lots to mull over.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Ban. I watched the show last week thinking - I like the bad guy. I like Stephan too. But I really like the bad brother.

Okay, so Marcus is back on as the next hero. He may just have to crash The Sinner's Ball.

Oh man, so many ideas - such a slow writer.

Karyn Good said...

Oh, Anita. You can go off topic anytime! Thanks for insightful comments. I will definitely use them when I go to revise.

I started out thinking about Dorian but Marcus took over from the get go. So I'm not surprised at the POV confusion. I had no idea who Marcus was beyond being known as The Reaper when I wrote that snippet and he just kind of exploded onto the scene in my head. I tried to keep it about Dorian but I couldn't get as deep into his POV as I would have liked. I would have liked to spend more time on it but I had to get back to Nano!

Glad you thought it was interesting.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I've been terrible at keeping up with blogs lately, so my blanket apologies to all the Chicks.

Karyn, I really enjoyed this, and love seeing this story unfold and take on more layers. Marcus can certainly work in later incarnations, it just means he's a good opponent, and not flat with an unrelatable agenda. It also means he's an antagonist, in that he's capable of change and progress, rather than rooted to one mentality. The big thing to take into consideration for him later on would be how much you want him to change. If a character starts out as an antagonist and turns into a lead character, they should still feel like the same person... and a badass antagonist shouldn't lose his fangs, so to speak, in order to carry a story. You'll figure out a good way to bring him into a leading role while maintaining the core of his character :)

Karyn Good said...

Hi Hayley. It's good to have you back, all healthy and officially convocated!

Thanks, Hayley. You're so right. And while I can see Marcus as a lead character, I don't see him as ever being one the 'good guys'. In my mind (because it's only an idea) by the time he becomes a lead character he'll have traveled a course of great self-destruction from which there is no turning back. His sense of purpose my change but he'll always be a badass - intense, driven, uncompromising, and wanting things his own way, encased a see-through thin veneer of sophistication. Why is an image of Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale popping into my head :)

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

Hi Karyn,
It is amazing what a little exercise can do. I was quite amazed myself. Maybe because it forces us to sit down and really think about our characters and what they want, and what their story is.

I think the best villains (or antagonists - not necessarily the same thing) are the ones who believe that what they are doing is right and the protagonist is wrong. They have good reasons for doing what they do, at least in their minds. They're not evil just for the sake of being evil.

I love the idea of turning your villain into the hero in a later book. Think of how much fun it would be to read about a badass tough guy changed by love. Into a kinder, gentler badass.

Have fun,

Karyn Good said...

Hi Jana. I think it's safe to say Marcus has been downgraded to an antagonist. I like what you have to say about evil for evil sake. Marcus has more than one reason for doing what he's doing and one very desperate reason (at least for now).

a kinder, gentler badass - I like that!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Wandering back late at night when I should totally be sleeping, but I simply must say.... antagonist is not a downgrade. It's just a different term and a different type of opposing force, but not necessarily weaker or nicer.

The prime opposition in my book is an antagonist, rather than a villain (he'll be gracing the beta blog in a week or two), and he's anything but a downgrade :D

Janet said...

Obviously, you got a lot out of this exercise, Karyn! I can feel your excitement all the way over here on the East Coast.

And you might be surprised to realize your decision to write a longer, stand alone story has already been made. It seems that these characters and this story is much more involved that 15,000 words. Just my thoughts anyway.

Since I've had the privilege of reading about Dorian over on betabloggers I can say that I really love his character. And this story is becoming wonderfully layered. BTW - I love a bad guy (why do girls always fall for the guys who have that edge to them?). Marcus sounds like he has a history and a story to tell when you get finished with Dorian (and Common Ground, and Kate's story...)