What I'm reading: Bound by the Heart, by Marsha Canham
What I read while away: My Sister's Keeper, by Jody Picault, Passions for the Dead, & Dying for Justice, by L.J. Sellers
Thanks to Cricket for her Jessica Fletcher Syndrome post yesterday. I know I live in a small town and have never tripped over a dead body the way they seem to turn up in Cabot Cove.
WHEN DANGER CALLS is Book of the Day at eReader News Today. I hope you'll send some traffic that way.
To continue with previous posts on when editorial input becomes editorial intrusion, I submitted my changes to the editor, and said I didn't like her changing "asshole" to "jerk."
As in any writing where we're striving to create conflict and tension, the character needs to have a question or a problem. He needs a goal. As the author, it's our job to stand in the way of that goal.
In essence, there are three outcomes to any of these conflicts we throw at our characters:
3. Yes, but …
With the first, the conflict is basically over right there, and if it was the major conflict for the story, you're finished. However, the author can (and generally should) make sure that the "yes" brings with it unexpected consequences so more conflict or tension is generated
With the second, you're effectively making your character turn down another path.
The third, which is usually the best approach, gives the character what he wants but requires sacrifices and a re-examination of how much he wanted that goal to begin with.
Using my editorial comments as examples, and to refresh your memory (you HAVE read the post in question, of course, right?), this was the passage in question:
"Call me when you've got a dead body." I hung up the phone. I'd finally managed a few hours of shuteye, and wasn't going to function until I had a few more. On the bright side, the asshole who'd murdered two people was now behind bars. Cursing the idiot in Dispatch who'd punched my phone number instead of someone on the Missing Persons Squad, I went back to sleep.
The editor replaced "asshole" with "jerk." I said I preferred my choice. Based on the possible outcomes mentioned above, she could have come back with Yes, in which case we'd be done. Or No, in which case I'd have to decide how deep I'd want to entrench myself for the battle. Or, more along the lines of "yes, but" … her response was "I really don't like that word, but let's see what else we can come up with."
That response, in this case, is fine with me. She's not taking a hard line, and frankly, I wasn't married to the word "asshole." As long as I can divorce myself from what I consider the very lame substitute of "jerk" I'm willing to go along with finding a suitable compromise.
As I said when I posted my first segment on this topic, the question wasn't whether the word was right or wrong, but rather what the job of an editor is, and how much her own personal preferences belong on the page of my story.
So … suggestions for a reasonable substitute? Remember, this is in the internal monologue of an experiences homicide detective.