Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Back to the Drawing Board

I have been working on Doubtful Relations, the next Seamus McCree Mystery, for over a year. I wrote a first draft (pantser that I am) and discovered the basic story. I wrote a second draft, but still wasn’t satisfied with the story arc, and in the just completed third draft fixed those problems. I am still not satisfied with the result.

The story

In the story, Seamus’s ex-wife’s husband (Albert Cunningham III) goes missing. The ex-wife (Elisabeth Cunningham) connives to get Seamus to help figure out what happened. Before long, the whole family is involved including Seamus’s mother (Trudy), his son (Paddy), his love interest (Abigail Hancock), his son’s life partner (Cindy Nelson) and the son (Chad Cunningham) of the missing man. Whenever you have that much family together under stress for an extended time, old wounds reopen. In the end a family is strengthened or weakened or both.

Choosing POVs

I wrote Bad Policy, the first of the series, using Seamus’s first person point of view. It was a traditional challenge to the reader: can you solve this murder mystery before Seamus? I switched approaches in the second of the series, Cabin Fever, and used multiple POVs. As a result, that novel was more suspense/thriller than traditional who-done-it. In writing Doubtful Relations I stayed with multiple POVs to develop psychological suspense: Seamus continues with his first person POV, and because action simultaneously occurs in two locations, I chose to give Paddy his own POV. I also included POVs for the missing husband and his kidnapper.

The reader sees the kidnapping in the prologue. Seamus and friends start with less information, but eventually catch up to the reader. Thenceforth, it is a race to figure out who is behind it and why. The internal story involves the crucible of a family under stress.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet I just finished a rewrite this week of all the parts of the story involving either Seamus or Paddy and I was not a happy camper.

Rock to Head

I had decided to first self-edit those sections with Seamus’s or Paddy’s POV. I told myself it would be easier to follow their storyline that way rather than jump back and forth to the other POVs, which would happen if I edited each scene in order.

Sometimes I am so dense it takes a rock to dent my consciousness. You might have already figured this out. What I just realized is that my unconscious was trying to tell me to ditch the husband and kidnapper POVs. Those thirty-two scenes I wrote are now backstory for me. The story works much better if the reader and Seamus/Paddy learn about the husband’s situation at the same time.

At least that’s my current thought. I keep backups of each draft, so the work isn’t lost. I’m cranked to write another draft to implement this flash of genius. It will be a challenge to piece in that backstory and find out if I finally have a solution that will work.

Question for the authors among our blog readers: Have you had a similar revelation? How did that work out?

~ Jim


E. B. Davis said...

I feel your pain, Jim. My script is written in multiple POV. One problem is giving too much away. About 3/4 of the way through my script, I stop presenting a POV (who turns the tables on the antagonisr--he's covert)and let the events happen to the main characters (presented in two POVs). It works because in the beginning the antagonist's thinking and planning are presented through the covert POV.

Multiple POV is harder to write than single 3rd or 1st. All the plot points have to come together and align near the end. The process is more complex. It's like plotting four different books and then bringing the stories together at a given point in time and place--while aligning the plots.

I happen to think it is the most interesting type of book to read. The pacing to me is actually easier because while one character might be involved in action, another can provide a slower pace by observing. It's fascinating but also a slow process (I've spent years on one book!) The reader gets to know the MC better because they have other POVs opinions of the MC.

Good luck! I'm pulling for you.

Gloria Alden said...

I, too, write multiple POV, but all in third person. Because I like the murderer I'd planned to have, I just switched to someone else which means I'll have to go back and try to introduce this murderer sooner, or at least make some reference to him/her.

It took me multiple drafts to write that first book, but not quite as many for the next two.

Jim, it looks like you reached a sound decision in dropping the prologue and letting Seamus and Paddy figure it out before the reader. Half the fun for the reader is trying to solve the crime before the main character. Good luck in finishing this up for the readers - like me - that are eager to read your next one.

KM Rockwood said...

I pretty much write in one POV. My main series ins 1st person POV, which definitely has it limitations, especially when I struggle with resolutions to questions that the main character doesn't care about so doesn't bother to find put what happened. I know it leave readers hanging on a few things. I know this thwarts the "read to solve the mystery" type readers, but that's not really who I'm writing for.

Some other works have been in 3rd person, usually close, POVI haven't tried multiple POVs. Perhaps I should work on that. I tend to "see" a story from one perspective, the protagonist, and have trouble getting into the head of other characters sufficiently to write from their perspective.

Sounds like you have a good handle on what you need to do with your next book, Jim--and while it's a bit heartbreaking to eliminate so much of what you have worked so hard to write, sometimes it's the right thing to do.

I've been told multiple times that, in crime fiction, a flashback, which I find to be awkward, is much better than a prologue. Some authors use prologues very effectively, and to tell the truth sometimes I'd like to, but I haven't.

Good luck with the new book!

Warren Bull said...

When someone appears in my head to start a story it sometimes takes me a while to figure out who is speaking. There are advantages and disadvantages to each POV. Switching from one to another can often clarify what is happening.