It’s been a while since I posted something here. My life has been kind of crazy, and alas, updating this website comes a few positions behind my sanity and physical health in my list of priorities. Luckily, things seem to have now un-crazened a bit, and I finally got some extra time for strictly non-survival related stuff.
Here comes the big news: I’ve begun writing a new book. This one is going to be quite different from Revived. I don’t want to reveal too much this early, mostly because I might end up changing things on the go and would look like an idiot if I published something that didn’t even resemble the previews. I can, however, tell you this: it’s going to be a much different book from Revived. While in my first novel I explored the “character” of the zombie, in this book I’m going to tackle two classic tropes at once: the Hero and the Dragon. But none of them will be the protagonist, at least not in the classical sense, and the working title I’m currently using is Hero Slayer, so be prepared for something unusual.
Heck, if you’re reading this, you should already be prepared.
If you went as far as reading the blurb, you will know that Violet Sharpe is the protagonist of Revived. But who is she, and how did she come to life – so to speak? In this series of posts, I’ll talk about the genesis of the character and what I like and dislike about her as a person (that’s right: there are things I dislike about the character I created. Those of you who have children may relate).
Note: In these posts I’ll try to avoid mentioning too many specific events from the book, but it’s almost unavoidable for them to contain spoilers. I’d recommend you don’t read them until after you’ve read the novel. On the other hand, if you’re just curios about the origins of a main character among many, please continue reading.
I didn’t chose “Violet Sharpe” at random.
(this saves me from the idiot heap, I guess)
Allow me to confess one tiny little sin: I’ve watched Ultravioleta dozen times. It’s one of my favorite movies, although I’ll freely admit it’s pretty terrible. But I love the aesthetics, and I love the main character. How can you not love someone who wins a fight against multiple opponents, each one as powerful as she is, because they’re “not as pissed of as” she is? Come on.
Right. Back on track. When I had to find a name for the protagonist, “Violet” was the first one that popped into my mind. Violets are ordinary, non-fancy flowers, and Vi is pretty much an ordinary, non-fancy woman. She has a complex personality, but if you tried to call her “special” or “unique” she would probably tell you off (with a lot more swearing than I just used). Unlike her unfaithful partner, Rose, who’s named after a more precious and sought-after flower, Violet is down-to-earth and strongly, perhaps even harshly, straightforward. That doesn’t mean she’s dull: on the contrary, Vi is a witty person who does a creative job (well, several creative jobs. Freelance work is tough). But she’ll tell you if she doesn’t like you, she’s painfully aware of her budget and she doesn’t really know which fights she should avoid picking up. On the other hand, there’s a kindness to her, and she tends to fight for other people instead of against them. She’s average in many ways, but she’s average good.
Violet’s family name, too, describes her to a certain extent. Vi’s main personality trait is sarcasm; in fact, it was quite fun to make her a walking avatar of snark. From a sharp wit comes the name Sharpe, which incidentally is also the name of a Bernard Cornwell character that I love. But as most things sharp, Vi is also fragile: bend her too much, and she can break. She’s not invincible nor above asking for help. In writing her, I tried to do my best to convey the idea that “strong” doesn’t mean “made of stone”. That even strong people can falter, cry, perhaps even fall due to their own weaknesses. And that they may take some time to get back up.
Oh, and while it’s only mentioned once in the entire book, Violet has a middle name as well. It’s Ellen. That’s because I have a huge debt of gratitude towards two amazing ladies, Ellen Abernathy and Ellen Joyce, whose precious critique and support helped me complete the book. I thought gracing my main character with their own name would be a good way to honor them. They deserve it.
It’s easy for writers to forget when to stop. It happens all the time: we begin something and we just keep adding to it, even after the novelette we had planned has already become longer than most full-sized novels. We feel like we have to put that character in, and of course that means we have to write a few scenes for them. Or maybe we love a certain plotline, even though it’s not really that relevant to the main story. Or we’re just verbose.
It’s much rarer for a writer to stop when they should be going, but it happens. Sometimes. It definitely happened to me when I was writing Revived. Back in the day, I was trying to enter the short stories market, and that’s what Revived was supposed to be: a short story, no more than 7.500 words long (I had a market on my mind, and they wouldn’t accept anything longer than that). And of course, being just an apprentice writer, I did what every inexperienced writer in history must have done at least once: I made up a bogus ending and stuck it in the story.
Lucky enough, I was (and still am) in a Google+ critique group that just didn’t let it pass. The critique I received made me realize the theme of the story was too complex to express is in 7.500 words or less, and that the ending was crap. More than that, though, a few people told me they wanted to read more of the story. They wanted me to go deeper, to explore the world I had created and dig out something tasty. So I went on writing.
I wasn’t flying completely blind, of course. While I didn’t have the ending of the story in mind until I got close to it, I already had some scenes. And more came out naturally as the story evolved in my mind. I’m not a great outliner, so I just let the story flow until I realized it had to end somehow, else I would just keep writing forever. So I thought about the most natural way to end Revived, and end it I did. Just when a story that was too short was about to turn into a story that was too long.
However, I found out that the ending of Revived was merely the ending of Violet’s story. There were several other characters I (and the beta readers) wanted to know more about, so there might be sequels 😉 But in the meantime, let me tell you I was happy to be able to give the book the ending it deserved. And I’m grateful I listened to those people in the critique group who told me to keep on writing. Without their help, Revived would have remained a short story with a crappy ending instead of a novel with a hopefully not-so-crappy one.