Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Breakthrough!

If you write, you'll probably understand this.

If you don't, your eyes will betray your suspicion that I'm a bit mad. And then you will back away slowly.

But I had two amazing moments of clarity on Tempt the Devil last weekend.

#1 I realized I had the wrong detective.

It's a bit of agony trying to stretch the investigation of a murder over a novel-length work when QuiTai is the detective because she's so smart that it shouldn't take her that long to put things together. (Which is why even modern takes of Sherlock Holmes tend to still be short stories or novellas and not novels.) So either she had to be struck repeatedly by the stick of amazing stupidity (not going to happen!) or I had to put the investigation into the hands of someone who would need more time to piece things together.  

Last May at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, I asked mystery novelist Ellen Hart a question that at the time was just something that had popped into my head that moment but now seems strangely prescient. I asked her if the detective had to be the main character in a mystery. She said yes, I said okay, and we both went on with our lives. But as soon as I realized I had the wrong detective,  I recalled that question and the answer. QuiTai couldn't be the main character if she wasn't the detective. Frightening, but since Devil Incarnate was told from several points of view, I'd already let some characters take over the narrative. I decided I could do that again only confine it to two POV characters, QuiTai and the detective, but still the detective had to be main character.

Another rule of writing: the first chapter needs to be about the main character. So my great opening chapter wouldn't be the opening anymore. I had to come up with another first line. Which led to...

#2 My new first line(s)

I'm still debating if it's  

She was vapor. Insidious, addicting, forbidden.


She was vapor: insidious, addicting, forbidden.

I shall consult with the punctuation oracles for their wisdom and guidance about the subtle differences.

If you've read Devil's Concubine and Devil Incarnate, you know that vapor is her world's version of opium. So I'm not talking about a liquid in a gaseous state, although I like the evoked image of a maishun spirit type creature projected onto mist or water. He can reach, but never grasp her.

So I'm off and running now although I have to rewrite most of the first third of the book. If you're a writer, you understand why those moments of clarity are so rare and amazing. Who knows where they come from. Hours of pacing in the backyard seems to be the way I stumble on them. Or maybe they're evoked by writing the wrong thing. I do enough of that! But anyway, now I feel I'm on the right track and things are falling into place. That's not how I usually feel about things, so I'm determined to enjoy it.


  1. The colon! The colon! So rare and powerful.

    (In case we're voting.)

    The first one means that she is vapor. And also that she is insidious, addicting, and forbidden. It gives all of those a more or less equal level and weight.

    Whereas with the colon--ah, that's saying she is vapor, and *what that means* is that she's insidious, addicting, and forbidden. The colon adds that level of explanation. To me, it's more subtle and powerful.

    Too much musing for a punctuation mark? Oh, no, especially not for that all-important first sentence.

    And yes yes yes on those moments of clarity. When you have one, you *know*.

  2. Hah! I thought the colon was the way to go.

    I"m so glad I know punctuation mavens.