I think one day, when people are asking me about my Process, this is going to be a day I remember.
I had a plan for the novel that I’m writing right now. I have a scene-by-scene outline, and each scene has bullet points of what I need it to contain, and I work linearly – start at Part One, Chapter One, and move on from there. This novel has two distinct plotlines, and each of those plotlines has multiple elements. The element I’m currently trying to address is the hunt for the person responsible for a series of deaths, which the protagonist believes are the beginning of some kind of conspiracy.
According to my outline, after having done some research into the causes of death for the three victims, the protagonist goes to speak with the family of one dead person, and discovers that yes, there is foul play going on. She learns the possible identity of someone responsible, and spends the rest of her thread trying to track this person down. Except that as I was sitting there looking at my outline, I realised that there have been a lot of fairly calm meetings in this section, and that since I’m trying to write a fantasy novel, maybe I want to get a little bit more excitement going. I am personally a fan of political fantasy, and don’t mind scene after scene of machinations, but just because something can be worth reading without being terribly thrilling doesn’t mean it might not be better with a bit more life.
So I decided that instead of interviewing the woman who had died of cancer, my protagonist would investigate the area in which a man had been killed by random acts of violence. I chose to have him be reported killed in a gang conflict, only because I thought that muggings were overused, and so I sent my protagonist to visit a bar where she might be able to talk to someone who knew about the gang situation in the relevant time.
I had intended it to be simple. She speaks to a person, says “I hear the victim was killed in gang conflict”. The person says “ah, no, he was not. You would do better to investigate this suspicious person who was walking around”. She goes off to investigate, and the novel moves on.
Instead, I find my informant saying “There was no gang conflict at the time – but, we all think it’s far more likely that a rival gang knew he was associated with us, and killed him to make a point. Oh, and by the way, suspicious person, if you absolutely have to, but we think it’s highly unlikely.”
All of a sudden, I’m scrambling to come up with names for various gangs, figure out where they’re based, what their styles and motivations are. Instead of wandering off to her home base, my protagonist is now going to have to go and follow this trail, and instead of another series of quiet meetings, I think I’m going to be spending a chunk of this book exploring the dark underbelly that is the local magic gangs. I’ll have to rework everything else, so that this doesn’t overshadow other important plot elements, and so that other parts of this particular plot thread still tie in where they need to. I have a gang leader, now, and I know his face and his history, and I’m going to have to come up with ways for him to be relevant later on because he deserves better than to be a one-shot set piece.
I think it will make a much better story, in the end.
We’ll see how it goes, unless someone would like to put me out of my misery first!
Leigh spun around to see one of the wooden tables fall to the ground in smoldering pieces. The mugs that had been sitting on it lay on the floor, a glittering lake of glass and beer. Most of the men were on their feet, though one was rising and one sprawled awkwardly on the floor, swearing viciously.
“Cheating bastard!” one of the standing men yelled, lean and grey and grizzled. The two factions had moved to separate themselves, glaring at each other across the smoking remains of the red team’s table. “If you didn’t want people to know the truth, you shouldn’t have introduced us to your mother! I -”
He cut off abruptly as a burly man standing among the green supporters, the man who Leigh had seen creating the initial little flame, made a powerful one-handed throwing gesture. Fire bloomed in his fingers, no loner the size of a coin, and crashed with a violent hiss and a plume of smoke into the spilled beer at the other man’s feet.
“Don’t you say a word!” the burly man said, raising his hand again, fingers tensed as though holding onto an invisible ball.
The lean man cursed and jumped back from the attack, and the man who had fallen hurried to get to his feet and out of the way. Far from looking cowed, though, the lean man sneered. He dashed a hand through the air, a casual dismissive slap, and the puddle of beer swelled up, shooting a spray into the burly man’s face.
“You come into this place and think you can make all the rules now, Darron? Little pup thinks he’s a wolf, with his big strong muscles and his fireballs!” He laughed, and the men around him joined him.
Darron lunged. In an instant, the space where the tables had been morphed into a chaotic mess of bodies and flailing limbs. A burst of orange erupted in the middle of the brawl and someone cried out before it died out with a wet hiss. The television crackled and flashed, then the picture cut to black. Energy crackled in the air, and with a shouted oath from someone inside the tangle, every surface within five feet of the group was suddenly coated in a thin layer of ice.