Little Green Notes – Part one

Hi, I’m J. F. Lewis.  The “J” stands for Jeremy and the “F”… well, the “F” stands for something else.  As my bio on the site mentions, I write vampire books: The Void City series for Pocket Books in particular.  But more on that later. Let’s talk about the writing process, the revision process in particular.

Posted to the wall of my office are seven green post-it notes.  I put them there in 2007 while working on the revised draft of Staked (then called Welcome to the Void).  Two of those notes no longer apply: “More Roger” (He’s out of the series now) and… no, never mind the other one became applicable again at the end of Crossed (Void City, Book 3 – which comes out January 25th, 2011 *cough* shameless plug *cough*).  The reason they’re still on the wall is because they all highlight a blind spot in my writing.  Even the Roger one, now that I think about it.  But we’ll get to that later, too.  First though, Little Green Note number one:

1) Let us see Eric “feel” more…

That’s a tough one.  Eric Courtney is the co-tagonist of the Void City books.  He’s fun to write, but writing him has its fair share of challenges.  He’s a remorseless killer, but he also loves his daughter.  He’s a bit of a slut, but that’s only because the woman he loves is still human and in her eighties, so Eric sees any other relationship as doomed to fail.

Anytime a writer is dealing with a protagonist who is as messed up and closed off as Eric is, it’s hard to let real emotions through without the character covering them up or coloring them in a negative light.  In that way, Eric is an unreliable narrator.  That’s established pretty early on when Eric describes himself.  He pictures himself as plain verging on unattractive.  We know he’s actually rather handsome from the way others react to him and the way Tabitha (the other co-tagonist in Staked) describes him in her chapters.

Which leaves me, as the writer, in the role of letting Eric be as self-loathing as he actually is, while simultaneously giving the reader little glimpses into how he actually feels.  Eric even distrusts his own motives for doing good things when he actually does a few, so it’s good fun, but easy to play things too close to the vest and let people miss the (if-not exactly nice then) nicer than he seems guy Eric keeps hidden even from himself.  But that doesn’t just apply to emotions.  If something hurts Eric, instead of having him say it hurts, my little note reminds me to have him describe the pain… Showing instead of telling.  A basic writing rule, but one that can be very easy to forget.

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