Thursday, January 19, 2012
I just wrapped up a major editorial wrestling match with my latest manuscript. The story’s now 1000 words longer, with a couple scenes added to flesh out relationships and another sex scene just ‘cause. I hope I’ve plugged up all the plot holes now. I’m betting it’ll have to go through another pass before it’s ready for the readers’ eyes. That little extra polish never hurt.
A lot of the plot problems came about because this was an unexpected sequel. That’s both the excitement and the drawback to being a pantser. Nothing’s planned. I created a book that demanded I write it, then had to make sure everything jived with the previous book. It’s called continuity, and it’s a bear to deal with if you’re writing comic books or episodic television. Or, as I just found out, unexpected sequels.
One of the questions I wanted to answer when I wrote Belonging was, “If vampires are technically dead, how can they have sex?” Partway through writing that one, another question arose: “Can the undead reproduce?” I know vampire Darla managed it on Angel, but I was never a regular viewer of Angel so I don’t know how she pulled it off. I’d have to come up with my own explanation.
Let’s assume you need a living womb to produce a child. That means human mother, vampire father. I’d already established how the undead can have sex. But are the undead fertile? Can they even procreate with humans if they’re another species? Is there any way I can explain all this without contradicting the first book?
Yes, I could. In Belonging I’d established that a diet of vampire blood made a vampire different from the norm: warmer body temperature, able to eat real food, capable of having sex without a blood infusion. Supposedly it could restore fertility as well. As for the compatibility question, maybe vampire blood fed to the human mom would fix that problem too. We are what we eat, after all.
Now stir in an evil vampire who’s figured all this out, and wants to create a race of vampire/human hybrid slaves, and voila, you’ve got a sequel.
How to get my heroes involved? Back to the first book. Toward the end of Belonging Wallace the vampire rescues a little girl from a flock attack. His friends the Stantons adopt her. The kid’s gotta go to school somewhere. By putting her in a local preschool she became a perfect plot device, allowing Wallace’s boyfriend Jeremy and preschool teacher Colleen to meet and get the story rolling. I love it when an unplanned plan comes together.
But wait, there’s more. How about giving the boys an even more personal stake in the story than simply protecting the heroine? In the previous episode, we revealed Wallace became a slayer when vampires kidnapped his girlfriend and murdered their infant son. Suppose there was more to it than that? What if Wallace’s woman was taken on the evil vampire’s orders, to serve as a broodmare for his hybrid army? Wallace doesn’t find this out until they begin investigating kidnap attempts on the heroine. His whole life was changed by this incident. Now it’s come back to bite him again. Think he’s pissed? You betcha. This is why on TV shows old friends of the cop/detective hero are always getting iced. I didn’t even have to create a new character. It was all there in the first book. Damn, I’m good.
Same for the subplot involving the slayer. Years ago the Preacher killed Jeremy’s vampire family, in a cameo appearance in the first book. Wallace would want him to suffer for that, even if Jeremy doesn’t. Guess which slayer holds vital information regarding their case? What will Wallace do when he finds out?
This is how you write a sequel where no sequel was planned. You work with what you’ve got. You go through the first story looking for seeds that can be cultivated into plots and characters. Everything grows out of what’s already there. Whether it’s planned out before the first word hits paper or thrown on after the fact, it’s the end result that matters. Do it right and the reader will never know the difference.
And yes, eventually there will be a third book. Again, an idea in the second book begat another plot. Now I’ll have to go through two previous books to make sure everything matches up. There has to be an easier way to make a living.