Or the pros and cons of having no plan.
It was April 2020. The city had shutdown and quarantine was in full swing.
The Bonesaw Case was an odd story to bring to life. Aside from being the first full story I’d written since the creative writing unit in my high school AP English class, I very much went into the whole endeavor without much of a semblance of a plan. Fantasy trappings aside, what was I going for genre-wise? Thriller? Murder-mystery? Horror? What kind of person is our protagonist? A normal person? A hero? An anti-hero? Something in-between? There is a killer on the loose… but how are we going to resolve this conflict? I had no idea.
I suppose that – in the spirit of the self-reflection that this post is supposed to be – I should outline briefly what I was trying to do with this story. When I originally conceived Reina Tethas and Evelynn Vandree, they were simply called ‘The Eyeball Detective” and “Bonesaw”. With Reina I wanted to write a ‘hero’ that was in possession of a traditional villain’s grotesqueness. In a reluctantly symbiotic relationship with this mysterious Mouth, I wanted to depict a shockingly well-adjusted adult who was overall just trying to live her life doing what she thought she could do best. A sort of ‘everyman hero’ despite her fantastical situation. With Evelynn I wanted to play with the White Mage – the healer – trope a bit: depicting a person who was fully capable of healing and interacting with the world in that way, but was not a fundamentally (and in my opinion, often coincidentally) good person. In other words, a villain that is fully capable of do tremendous good, but almost never chooses to exercise her power like that.
I do not think I actually succeeded at achieving either of these goals for the characters… But I also think that was a good thing. These two characters really did get way out of hand, especially Evelynn. It wasn’t until about 3/4 through writing The Bonesaw Case that I realized that Evelynn was less of a “reoccurring major villain” and more of a “final boss”. Around this same point, I suddenly decided I had no interest in writing Reina as a traditional hero-type protagonist. But the thing that I did not expect was how much of a force Evelynn was going to become narratively speaking. It quickly got to the point where it was impossible for me to think about Reina sans Evelynn. She was such a powerful inciting incident that changed how Reina interacted not only with the Mouth that lives in her head, but ultimately starts her down a path of changing how she interacts with other people – both old and new – in her life.
But I’ll save the “Reina Problem” for a later post.
Mechanically speaking… Woah, I’ve gotten a LOT better. The pacing was also particularly rough in the first few pages until Reina goes full Corinthian and as of yet defined magic system rears its head. Much of the feedback I got on the story praised the concepts contained within. However, many of my more scrutinous beta readers complained about the clunky lack of flow… and from the first paragraph that was plain as day to see. A friend of mine who has done editing work for me in the past on scientific manuscripts admonishes me often for my “abuse of the humble comma”. This flagrant overburdening of the poor comma also immediately jumped out at me as I skimmed over the story before writing this post. I legitimately no longer structure sentences the way I did in The Bonesaw Case.
I’ve really come a long way since then.