A while back, when I was still working on HOC, I wrote about how I’d kind of gone above and beyond the torture of my heroine such that I made her something of a Mary Sue. I way overdid the angst and had to go back and more carefully pick and choose the tortures I heaped upon her such that they added something to the story. In an effort to avoid that particular brand of cliche, I wound up making both my hero and heroine in Til Death far too well-adjusted. Not that they both have to be tortured, but damn they needed some issues to make life (and the story) interesting.
This entire story originated from the germ of an idea, that a kid out playing with a metal detector winds up finding a ring–with a body still attached. Said kid turns into hero Wyatt, homicide detective with Atlanta PD. But other than being sort of a puzzle he couldn’t let go, he wasn’t really messed up by it. It was, as Pot put it, like an annoying ingrown toenail rather than something that tortured him (clearly she never had the kind of ingrown toenails I did as a kid). But she was absolutely right. It should have had more impact. That case, finding that Jane Doe, should haunt him. Give him issues. Then she made the suggestion that the haunting be literal. Like that Jane Doe sticks with him once he finds her.
That idea clicked immediately. I can envision all sorts of ways in which having a ghost haunting him for 2 decades would both direct and complicate his life and relationships. Sorry Wyatt, I can’t be a nice author anymore. The gloves are coming off, and I’ve got to screw with your head. There was a sort of vague notion originally of him questioning his sanity–now I’m absolutely going to play that up, forcing not only him, but everyone else to do so as well. And to further complicate things? Yeah, Marin no longer has a background as an accountant–she was a shrink. Someone who is both a natural and trained skeptic of the paranormal, who is inclined to think that someone who believes in ghosts, claims to see and interact with them, is delusional and hallucinating. She’s the absolute antithesis of what Wyatt needs in regards to someone he can tell all this stuff to. And he loves her anyway. Hello, I finally created an impossible relationship. From there, I came up with a really solid black moment that really fits the story and the characters rather than being or feeling contrived.
I spent last night and first thing this morning writing up a full story summary and sending it to Pot. I think it may be the first time I’ve written a solid plot with a firm beginning, middle, and end. Which is pretty exhilerating. Of course, it means trimming a lot of deadwood from the plot, working out a new outline and starting almost from scratch again, which sucks, but it feels like a much stronger plot. And I’ve come up with how to bring it more firmly into the realm of suspense liked I wanted–it’s just got a paranormal, psychological thing going on. Things are sort of clicking together and fitting. I’ve cut some of the subplots entirely (actually…I don’t know if I have any subplots now…I’m sure they’ll develop). I’ve cut some characters entirely. Changed others. It’s going to be a very different book, but still at the core about the same original idea. Lots of work to do.