Saturday, June 13, 2009

Up Close and Personal

I wrote, yesterday, of going to town to buy another Japanese iris. And I did, but I also did a number of errands including handing over the manuscript of The Day of Small Things to FedEx for delivery to Herself in NYC on Monday.

So it's bye, bye, Birdie and hello Elizabeth as I get those opening chapters of Under the Skin in shape to send for a teaser.

One of the problems with writing a series, I'm coming to realize, is confronting the delicate balance of making the same material seem new and fresh without abandoning the elements that readers look for in a familiar series.

Writers of long-running series approach this in a variety of ways -- change of scenery; addition of new important characters; death or loss of a character important to the protagonist -- or some other life-altering event.

After only four Elizabeth books, I don't yet feel the need of anything so drastic. But I do want to play with point of view a bit.

In my first two books, the present day plot was told entirely in what is called 'limited third person' -- everything was from Elizabeth's point of view and if something was happening, she pretty much had to be there to see it -- or someone had to tell her about it.

This was growing annoying to me as a writer and it was a revelation when, in the subplot for Art's Blood, I had Lily Gordon describe her meeting with Elizabeth.

Wow! It was liberating to see Elizabeth through another's eyes -- and it gave a fuller picture of our girl than had been possible before. So in Old Wounds, some of the chapters were from Phillip's point of view and some from Rosemary's. And in Dark Season, there were more for Phillip -- so we could really get to know him (Or did we? Stay tuned.)

So the big change in Under the Skin will be that Elizabeth's chapters -- the majority of the book -- will be in first person. Like this:

"Gloria's. . . well, she's a complicated person," I said, putting down the phone and glowering at it as if it were responsible for this new and unwelcome turn in my life.

It's not FAIR! I wanted to shout, a whining echo from my childhood. She always messes everything up! I wanted to throw something, stamp my foot, fling myself on the floor and have a screaming, kicking tantrum.

Instead I made a strenuous effort to sound composed and adult as I began to explain things to Phillip.

I didn't feel comfortable doing this till now -- Elizabeth was too much like me. But now that she's taken on a life of her own and will be dealing with her sister (I, by the way, have only a brother), I think it's time to learn more about her. What do you all think?
Posted by Picasa


Carol Murdock said...

Oh...I'm loving this first person
Vicki ! :)

Tammy said...

I think I will like it. It seems more spontaneous for the character, instead of all the he said, she said. Also like the other characters 'talking' too, as it does give a fresh perspective of who Elizabeth is. Of course, I'm thinking that Elizabeth should still be the 'main' speaker, but it's refreshing to have the others chime in too. I can see where it would be hard to 'keep it fresh' and see other authors struggling with it, esp. if the story is a mystery that always has a 'fresh' murder. Some characters come off like Typhoid Mary after a bit. (Everyone around them dies off) I don't see this in Elizabeth, but I can see where you would have to really work at it to keep it believable. (I always laugh when I watch the old Bonanza re-runs---if one of the 'boys' fell in love, you just wanted to tell the gal to run! run! you are going to die, as they were invariably killed off). Anyway, didn't mean to ramble, but it is so interesting reading about all the steps involved, not only to a book, but to keep a series alive and fresh as well. I also like the hood ornament on the car....;-)

Vicki Lane said...

Glad it seems good to you,Carol. I think it'll be an interesting change.

Not to worry, Tammy, Elizabeth will still be the main speaker -- Not sure if I want to give some chapters to Phillip or to Gloria or some for each.

The amateur sleuth problem (aka the Jessica Fletcher syndrome) is always troubling to me and I struggle to keep Elizabeth's encounters with death and/or mayhem more or less believable. But I think that folks who read amateur sleuth mysteries must be willing to do the suspension of disbelief thing. 'Yes, it's another body. But there wouldn't be a story with out it.'

The hood ornament is charming, isn't it? Ali Ali (his full name is Samuel L. Prince Ali Ali Royale With Cheese Jackson) is also called Ali Ali Up-on-stuff. Like a cat in his preference for high places.

Susan T. said...

Well of COURSE! I'm excited at the evolution of Elizabeth..........she has really taken over control of her story.

Vicki Lane said...

Hey Susan! What a good way of putting it! I've been pulling the Elizabeth strings heretofore and now she's going on her own -- now that she has a full life very different from my own (except for the dogs and setting ;-))

Have just realized the the big Bouchercon convention in Oct 2010 will be in St. Louis -- maybe we can plan something for before or after.

Pat in east TN said...

I have to agree with Susan T. about the evolution of Elizabeth ... I'm excited! Letting Phillip and/or Gloria some chapters sounds interesting too.

Vicki Lane said...

I think it'll be good to hear Gloria's take on her sister and the farm . . and probably to listen in of Phillip's thoughts as well.

Merisi said...

I have the utmost respect and admiration for writers who stay with a character over more than one book. For a reader, following the development of a character one has come to love, is very satisfying.

I wish you good luck as you continue with your writing!

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Merisi! The truth is, that once one has created a world and a set of characters, it's easy to stay with them -- I'm always wanting to know how things re going to turn out!