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Character Mutiny: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Bright Eyes


So, hi.

I owe you an apology.

I had promised — and confidently expected — to finish and release Bright Eyes, book #2 in the Seasons of the Sword series, in 2018.

What happened?

Well, a character mutiny happened.

No, really.

I had about two-thirds of the book written, had a detailed outline for the rest, and was very happily cruising along. At this point, the plan was for one of the secondary characters to be killed off. Her death was going to lead to the unravelling of the mystery at the heart of the central plot. It was, quite simply, a plot device.

I’ve killed secondary characters before — even secondary characters I really liked. Heck, I’ve cut characters completely out of books.

But as I was about to send this particular young woman off to meet her maker, she balked.

YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO ME! she shouted.

This won’t hurt a bit, I answered, trying to calm her.

To heck with that! What do you think my death is actually going to ACHIEVE here? How does it actually advance any of what’s going on with Risuko and the other characters? How does it advance what’s going on in the book, other than to reveal what’s going on? It’s crappy storytelling!

I tried to come up with an authorial, authoritative response, but couldn’t manage anything but a mental, Uh…

Beyond that, she shouted in my head, it’s NOT FAIR. I was a nasty character in Risuko, I’ve been a nasty character in Bright Eyes, and now I DIE a nasty character — what kind of character development is THAT supposed to be?

At this point, I had to grant that she had a point. And having granted that she had a point, I had to admit that setting up a better transition to the finale of the book (and coincidentally making the character more three-dimensional) would make for a much better story — but would require me not only to rethink the conclusion of Bright Eyes, but to unravel a lot of what I’d already written.

So I had to go back to square one.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a quick writer. And re-writing is much harder, in many ways, than writing. It requires that you take out the bits that didn’t work and then patch together all of the remaining pieces with new narrative that not only fits, reading as if it were always there, but actually improves what you’d originally written.

Very, very hard.

So I here I am: a full year behind schedule.

I am sorry.

I’m back on track. I confidently expect (once again) that I’ll have the book written by the end of the winter and, unless another character mutinies, ready for publication by the beginning of summer.

Keep an eye out for more news!

Thank you.

Just to make it clear: my characters don’t actually talk to me. Exactly. 

When I was young, I was an actor. My teachers used to say that every character is just an aspect of us that we don’t usually expose to the world.

I think the same is true of the characters that I write: they are all the parts of me that I haven’t had an opportunity to explore. Inside acrophobic, male me, there is in fact a young woman who loves to climb. And a grumpy Korean cook. And a kunoichi who refused to be killed off thoughtlessly.

It seems to me that, if I’m going to write a book worth reading, one that I love, I have to love the characters. Even the ones I have to kill off.


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