Thursday, December 10, 2009

Plotting and House Hunting.

What I'm reading: Montana Sky, by Nora Roberts

By the time this post appears, I'll be on my way to a week in Colorado. We'll see family and have a chance to celebrate a portion of our holiday with two of our kids, their spouses, and our grandson. His second birthday precipitated the trip, and while we're out there, we'll also start some preliminary scouting for our relocation. It's all tentative, since our house hasn't sold yet.

Hubby spent a day taking the scientific approach to house-hunting. He took all the files the Realtor has been sending, looked at each one on Google Earth to see if they met his "away from everything" criteria, printed out the descriptions, and created a spreadsheet so he could see what we had. If he were a writer, he'd definitely be a plotter.

Meanwhile, I'm mulling over the revision process for my mystery. My critique partners have reached the final 3 chapters. One has suggested that a plot thread, giving my protagonist cop a "romantic" interest isn't needed in the book at all.

Since I'm very fond of the 'behind the scenes' lives of the cops and detectives in the mysteries I read, I wasn't thrilled to hear that. But it's still important that one consider feedback, whether one agrees or not. Should I remove the entire "my cop has a life outside his work" thread?

My other partner didn't have any strong feelings. But in doing revisions, one must be able to keep an objective distance from the work. The main scene in question, I decided, does have a few flaws. Angie has had her eye on my cop for some time. He's oblivious, although he's attracted to her as well. She claims she thinks someone might have been in her apartment, and asks Gordon to check it out.

Since there's been a grisly murder, Gordon takes it seriously and does everything by the book, including calling for backup. This creates a full-length scene, involving numerous characters. The findings? A cat slipped in through an open window. The result? Gordon and Angie end up in bed.

The problem? The cat never reappears, the break-in wasn't related to the others, and no clues were discovered. Hence, despite the fact that the scene was well written – brilliant, if you ask me, but nobody will – it didn't really do anything to advance the plot. Thus, it has no reason to be there. Simply letting the characters release a little tension doesn't earn its word count.

Solution? 1) Cut the scene entirely. 2) Have the Angie-Gordon relationship established from the get-go. 3) Relate it to the mystery. As indifferent critique partner suggested, Gordon could find a clue, or something would trigger a thought process that would move the plot forward. Or, he might miss something important because he was with Angie.

I'm prejudiced. I like the scene, and I like that Gordon has a life outside the police station. I also like that it opens up Angie and Gordon's relationship as something that could develop over future books.

Option 1 means going back and ripping out bits and pieces through the entire book, because Angie and Gordon's flirtation begins early on. Option 2 means minor modifications through the entire book. Option 3 means modifications to the chapter in question, with some trickle down changes from that point forward.

Which will it be? Don't know yet. Since I'm writing this post well in advance of its appearance on my blog, by the time you read it, I might have decided. Without creating a spreadsheet.

Tomorrow, I'll have part 4 of Criminal Thinking.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'll be interested in hearing what you decided about your scene and subplot.

I kind of like romantic subplots (and have read plenty in police procedurals), but I do like them toned down and in the background.

Mystery Writing is Murder

GunDiva said...

Hope you're packing some warm clothes for your Colorado visit. By the time you get here we might break freezing, but we've been well below for a week or so. Break out those long unders, 'cause it's booger-freezing cold here.

Like Elizabeth, I can't wait to hear what you're going to do about your scene.

Watery Tart said...

LOVE that cat--what a cutie!

I am voting (absent any critical information, as most voters do) to have the sex/romantic scene cause him to see something DIFFERENLY so he puts together a clue he missed--maybe he learns from her what something means when a WOMAN does it a certain way and he remembers seeing that somewhere or something... that way you can buy your relevance of the scene...

Oh wait... weren't we voting?

Good luck with both book and house sale/hunt!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I also like romantic sub-plots low key in mystery/suspense/thriller. I like to focus on the action and tension related to the main plot.

Hope you brought plenty of warm clothes with you to Colorado -- are you looking all over the Front Range, or just in the Denver area?

Terry Odell said...

Hi all -- a quick minute from Monument, Colorado. Travel was uneventful. Had a wonderful time with the grandson. Househunting tomorrow and Saturday (not really hunting, just scouting). Looking in the Evergreen, Bailey, Conifer, Pine & Como areas for the most part (I have no clue where they are, but Patricia probably does). Thanks for the comments, and please keep coming back.

Started reading a hard copy of the novel on the plane; figure I'll make my final decision about that thread as I see the book in its entirety. I'm pretty sure there will be some kind of interaction between Gordon & Angie -- just have to decide how much page time it's worth.

Wynter Daniels said...

Good luck with the house scouting and the scene decision.
Love DH's scientific approach - true to his character;-)

Jess said...

for the record...i LIKED the cat scene. Give Joey hugs from me.