I'm going to focus on romance today, because there's nothing better to discuss on such a wonderful day. Below is a short, tender moment between Lt. Sarah Bryson and her husband, William Bryson, from Ruby Caves. This is an important scene. The hug, the quietness- a moment to let everyone relax before the extreme, inevitable violence. This is one of the parts where I actually (mostly) stray from putting my characters into emotional turmoil. Here, Sarah is fighting the past, even while remembering it. Remembering helps her keep focus of what's ahead of her.
Violence in the world is a terrifying, brutal thing to watch. Some experience it often. Others may never see it their entire lives. Regardless, it is a catalyst or reaction of conflict in many of my stories. For this reason when I portray violence in my story I have made a habit of attempting to not glorify it. We have seen those really gory movies that appear to rip people limb from limb, eviscerate them, behead them, and more. We know the tools of the trade. I am going to discuss the detail I put in my stories, and the reactions of my characters. This post is devoted to creature violence seen in Ruby Caves.
Senioritis hit me hard for the Fall 2016 semester but I still made it out of my four classes alright. In three of them I earned a B. The fourth was a C+ (with .5 of a point away from a B). Papers, papers, and more papers. It is draining on the psyche to write so many of them. When I was finally done at the end of the day I don’t want to write. I’m so exhausted I need to let go of my laptop for a while. And I do not want to sit at my desk with a notebook. All I wanted to do was make dinner and watch a movie or TV show. Writing is not compatible with a tired me. It started affecting the pacing of my stories.
Back in October 2015, I released a few excerpts from my stories Mutant Cowboy Space Pirate and Ruby Caves in PDF format. If you haven’t read Halloween Excerpt 2 yet, check it out. Otherwise this post won’t make too much sense. This is about the werewolf problem in a sleepy little town in northern New Hampshire. During a violent werewolf attack on their cabin at a resort, Michael, the primary protagonist, discovers his father is also a werewolf. I only put in a couple of paragraphs about it in the excerpt, to find a clear enough ending for it.
I’ve been looking forward to WolfCop since last year and I’m proud to say it wasn’t a cash grab. It was a loving parody of B-horror and the werewolf genre. The hard work of everyone who made WolfCop shows.
I’m writing the ending to Ruby Caves, and I thought I needed to make my villain scarier than he already was. Mom pointed out that werewolves don’t need to be more frightening than they already are. She shoots down my ideas when necessary, and I’m glad she does. Otherwise I would be stuck in a cycle of getting nothing done for a long time.
My plan was to have mind control involved in the story somehow; I would have had Erika turn against her father at a crucial point in the last battle. It would have made everything worse for the heroes. There are a couple of reasons this would not work- one of which can’t be explained due to spoilers.
When a character is just so badass or interesting, I want to do everything in my power to keep them around for as long as possible. It’s a problem I will have to face, because every once in a while the hero dies in a story. They’re the best at what they do; or they’re the new rookie with so much charisma and character you can’t hope but see them get married and have kids. They’re the husband, the father, the dog owner, the hunter.
I try to keep my point of view in third person limited or first person. I can’t see everything around me. It’s one of the first assignments you get in an art class. Stare at your hand and try to draw it without tracing. Mine looked like the universal peace sign if I had just cut off my fingers. It’s a real test to what you can perceive and do with that perception at the same time. I noticed something while editing the first Feral attack in Ruby Caves. Take a look:
Sarah felt a hard thump against the back of her seat. She got the last of the padding out of her eyes and blinked the tears away. The pain flowing through her left arm was secondary to her rage. Doc finally got past the barrier of junk between the seats. William threw her M1911 standard issue at the werewolf. She didn’t see where it went. Doc launched upwards between Michael’s outstretched legs. Her heart lurched.
She could hear William finally jerking the gear into drive and revving forward. It threw the werewolf off balance. A marginally healed arm fell through the hole in the roof and dangled there, fingers searching air for anything to grab. Doc took advantage and again jumped at its arm. He missed by a few inches but instead bit into the soft flesh of the beasts’ calloused palm.
Sarah can only hear her son hit the back of her seat. She could only hear her husband get the SUV rolling. Her focus is extensively on the Feral because it’s trying to eat her. If I said Michael was an emotionless husk or something overly dramatic like that, it would go into 3rd person omnipresent. You, my reader, would be able to see something Sarah can’t.
I do something like this when Dave and Jabari are stalking the Case family late in Chapter 4. Observe:
Jabari and I were less than twenty meters away. He grunted and punched my shoulder. My gun dipped, grip loosened. I cocked my head and saw his claw pointing off towards our left.
My eyes were well adjusted to the darkness by now. We had been stalking through the woods for an hour. Another werewolf was peeking behind a cluster of trees halfway between us and the cabin. It wasn’t looking our way. Its fur was the color of wet sand. The forearm nearest us was matted with blood. It didn’t seem particularly worried about being seen; if only for the continuous plumes of steam rising out of its wet jowls. They weren’t smart, I knew that much, but the Feral camouflaged itself by dumping snow over parts of its body.
Dave can only see Jabari’s claw because once he saw where it was pointing the Feral would, well, obviously catch his attention. Otherwise Dave's job would be very difficult.
It’s not to say something like this can’t be written. 3rd person omnipresent isn’t a bad style in the right hands. But until I have more experience with writing different styles I won’t be able to do it. One thing I failed to mention in my review of David Jacobs The Devil’s Brood is the fact that he writes in this way. He makes it work. When there is mass chaos I could read the expressions and actions of most of the characters taking part. There was a lovely, easy flow to it.
This is one of the reasons I never put the raid in Ruby Caves. There was far too much going on for me to try to describe. Too many players I didn’t know what to do with- in writing. I know what I’m doing with them in my head, but putting it to paper would have been problematic. I’ll do another blog on why I didn’t put it in there soon. For now, try to see something you can’t.
Johnny B. Truant, my new favorite author of Fat Vampire and Fat Vampire 2: Tastes Like Chicken mentioned that at some point all authors hate their stories. A few others have mentioned this too. It’s true. I hate Ruby Caves, a lot. The story has not come out like I wanted it too at all. I haven’t been telling any of you about it recently because I stopped writing it before it became unfixable. I couldn’t finish it until I knew where I was going and now I do. The road to Ruby Caves has been bumpy but I’ll get to the end, I swear.
I hated the fun-fest of a second chapter. A werewolf isn’t supposed to be a walking goober. They are a calculating animal with the brains of a human inside. Predators don’t like anyone getting close to their food. Jack the werewolf sure as hell isn’t going to let a couple of humans and their pesky dog walk that close. I haven’t read it yet, but I heard Michael Crichton had brilliant first encounter scenes in Jurassic Park. He knew how to reveal just the right amount of tension before having a full reveal.
I am an author. I am a fan of horror, thrillers, and comedy.