That’s what I’ve been asking myself since last Tuesday, when we wrapped up Buried Deeds. As I neared the end of that story, I tried to visualize Tuesday posts without Meghan. Buried Deeds began on 20 November 2012. Meghan’s first story, still unnamed, began on 4 September 2012. Even before that, she first appeared as my nameless “poetic archaeologist” on 21 February 2012. Looking back, I realized she controlled most of my Tuesday posts for more than a year.
I think she’s found an audience even beyond those of you who leave likes or comments with each installment.She’s a good character, one who could anchor a number of short stories, maybe even novels—if I can persuade her to share more of her adventures.
Although it wasn’t my original intent, I hope these two stories have shown that “pantsing” doesn’t necessarily result in a first draft full of plot holes, logical inconsistencies, and lost subplots. Would I publish the stories as is? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t do that even if they were the result of detailed planning and outlining. No first draft of a story is ready for publication. But even my near-crippling self-doubt has to admit I did a decent job on this first version.
Still, this was a difficult story to write. Based on comments from people who have read my two novel manuscripts over the last few years, I don’t make life difficult enough for my main characters. I understand the obstacles don’t have to be life-altering or threatening. But today, popular novels are supposed to make the story line difficult for the mains at every turn. Unfortunately for me, I have a hard time believing everything that happens to most modern characters. All those obstacles pull me out of the story. I start thinking, “Oh, come on. They can’t have that much bad luck or that many idiots around them.”
But if I’m going to write a story with any chance of a decent-sized audience, I have to find a way to do this. And so I tried it with Meghan. The unexpected skeleton in the cellar wouldn’t be enough. So I gave her a difficult “client” to work with. I added her son and husband pressuring her for a dog. Then I put the house on the market and forced her to search quickly for a new one. I suggested the client’s ancestor was a murderer. And the client talked about canceling Meghan’s dream project. Oh, let’s not forget the reporter. Or Maisy and Chess knocking her over and getting underfoot.
Your comments suggest I succeeded in “ramping up the tension.” But Buried Deeds was only 18,600 words, and it felt like overkill while I was writing. If I wanted to turn the story into a novel, would more scenes about the existing obstacles be enough? Or would I have to add even more to the story?
This relates to my novel writing, too. I think about the manuscript of Death Out of Time and wonder what I have to add to pick up the action in the middle and present new information. Do I need more obstacles? New scenes of the main characters slogging through existing obstacles to obtain new information? This is hard to answer because some readers suggested this was needed, but others didn’t. As the writer, I have to make the final call. But as of now, I don’t know what that call is.
So what will next Tuesday bring? I’m not sure. I do know it’s not a new Meghan Bode mystery. I’m still waiting to hear what that is. Even then, I need a break from writing them live on the blog. I suspect it’s time to talk more about me, the person. And that just might be harder than writing a new story on the blog….