Thursday, May 3, 2012

Progress Report #2

I promised a progress report on my new novel in this post, so here it is!

In the middle of March, I had 10,000 words and no title.  As of today, not only do I finally have a working title - Wrongful Death - but I have also completed 56,000 words.  My goal is to get to around 75,000 words, from which I will likely cut between 10,000 and 12,000.  That should give me a decent size novel without going way overboard.

To recap, the novel is about a high school senior named Christian Gettis, and he is killed in a hit and run accident in the book's first chapter.  Immediately thereafter, he gets met by Alexander, his designated spiritual mentor, who tells him he's not quite ready to move into the afterlife due to the unexpected and violent nature of his death.  Christian's spirit must come into balance before he can move on, and Alexander tells him that the only way to do this is to avenge himself on the person responsible for killing him.

I'm trying a couple of different things with this novel, one of which isn't terribly out of the ordinary, and one that might be considered a bit unusual.  The first plot device is that I'm telling it from a first person limited point of view.  I speak as Christian throughout the book, and everything is seen through his eyes.  The second, and a little different, plot device is that since I'm telling the story through Christian's eyes, you get to experience a ghost story from the point of view of the ghost.  One of the hardest things is describing how the main character interacts with the physical world but still keep things a little suspenseful.  How do you make it scary when the ghost is describing what he's doing?  I'll admit that it's a challenge and involves more allusion than description.

Of course, another challenge is balancing the need to keep Christian likeable with the need for him to do some things that might make readers uncomfortable.  He does some pretty evil stuff, and I've got to make the reader understand the motivations behind them.  If I go on too long without revisiting how he died and the ripple effects on everyone in his life, Christian will come across as less sympathetic and more as a bastard.  So I throw in visits to his family, friends, and girlfriend.  His relationship with his father is a key point of the plot, so I had to let the reader understand the normal rifts between a teenager and his dad, while at the same time bringing to the surface a growing regret over not making amends.  Christian watches his dad try to hold his family together in the midst of the grief, and if I've done my job right, it should be the most emotionally powerful part of the story.

Where I've left off is the key part of the whole thing, and the main character is now being forced to confront possibilities that will change his perception and make things much more complicated.  He wishes things could remain as simple as they appeared when he first arrived at his haunting spot, when all he had to do was worry whether or not the person who supposedly killed him could perceive his forays into her life.  However, he has gotten new information that makes him wonder if his own perceptions are skewed and what he should do if he discovers the truth.

I'm hoping to begin the first round of edits by mid June because I would like it ready to go by the Hawaii Writers Conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Labor Day.  I promise to reveal more later, but first I have to figure out the resolution of the plot myself!

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