Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Passion for the Passionless or Regan becomes Bella Swan

I got an interesting email last week while working on the latest update for Mind the Thorns.  To paraprhase my Beta reader who sent the email:

"Is this girl ever going to grow a Superbowling* back bone?  Seriously!"

And that's when I realized that when I set out to write a "Better Twilight" but also with the twist of it being a Reader-Directed novel, I ran the real risk of it turning into "just another Twilight".  Only rather than Meyer-pires, it is populated with Oster-pires, and rather than being about a teenage angst ridden girl, it's a middle-aged, still somewhat angst ridden woman.

Here's a little backstory on the creation:

About the time I was gearing up for my summer writing experiment I was also musing on a Vampire RPG story line.  I had the ideas for a series of adventures and events that a group of newly formed vampires would find themselves guided along.  The challenge of any good RPG, of course, is that the players need to feel like they control their own characters (much as the reader wants to feel they have a say in the outcome in  a reader directed story) but they also need a certain direction so that the game's organizer (or "Dungeon Master" in DnD parlance) can plan to keep the game going at a fair pace.

At the same time I had often fussed that Twilight just isn't a very good story nor does it offer the kind of heroine who should be celebrated.  The romantic male lead is a bully, is abusive, and really not the kind of guy I'd want my daughter dating.  So one of my goals was to create a story that was more engaging, more "realistic" and put Regan in a better place than Bella ended up.  I wanted Regan to be a strong woman, more like Zoe or Willow**.

So as I laid out my first set of chapters, I had a rough plotline in my head.  Regan would have to gather up some McGuffins (generic "things" that a character is sent out to recover or carry or deliver***) , and over the course of that would also be presented with a chance to reconcile with her ex-fiance (who she gilted at the altar), and if possible find her own peace in being single.  I had not yet decided who her own love interest would be, yet, and one of my initial goals for her was to possibly end the novel as a proud single woman.  Since it's still a work in progress I won't comment on my current end game plans.

But I have been upfront about how I knew the story would end, at least for Book 1 of the stories of Regan Fairchild, Accountant, Bachelorette and Vampire.  I had three set story arcs, the artifact gathering, the making peace with Harrison, and the finding peace with herself, the end of any of which would serve as the end of the novel.

What happened as the story progressed surprised me.

First, Regan was consistently making "soft" choices.   She would frequently choose to let things happen, to go alone from point A to B or to simply let things happen and from that continue.  She frequently deferred to the situation she was in.  Or so it felt.

Going through the polls now, however, I'm seeing a good deal of hidden strength in the choices that have been prominent.  She opted in chapter 6 to grab a gun and have a shoot out rather than simply curling up in a ball and hoping for the best.  She stood up to the Earl enough to insist he come to meet her in public rather than going to his house.  She could have, at the end of chapter 11, opted to go home and resume a quiet normal live, but instead it was a night (and a life) of partying and frolicking that she chose.

I recently offered up Mind the Thorns for review and admitted that I felt Regan was getting harder to write because she was not quite as different than Bella as I had wanted.  But I think, now that I take a good hard look at her experiences, that she is proving to still be a strong woman, just a different kind of strong woman. She still has taken charge from time to time, but she tempers it carefully.  She is far more Willow than Buffy, more Inara than Zoe.

And she still has a story to tell.

*I have decided that I will swear, henceforth, by using the term Superbowl as my profanity of choice.  So from now on it will be things like "Shut the Superbowl up" and "What the Superbowl."  Thank you Hungry Howies.

**Jos Whedon was once asked about his propensity for writing strong female characters.  His answer:  "Because you're still asking me that question."

*** The use of McGuffins is a very standard trope in adventure stories.  In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo is expected to take a ring to a volcano, or to deliver the McGuffin from point A to point B.  In SciFi a crew may be sent on an away mission to find a specific rare alloy that will save a planet.  The alloy itself is unimportant and just about any name can be given to it.  What matters is that the alloy be recovered and while recovering it, "Interesting Things" happen to the crew.

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