Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ipsissima Verba

As a writer one of the main things I am in search for is the ipsissima verba. This literally means "the perfect words."

I spend a lot of time on the first lines as well of the last lines of my novels. I rewrote the first paragraph to my debut novel Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller at least a dozen times. I rewrote the ending twice as many times just to get the feel of prosody it has along with being damn cool imagery. 

My new novel, Bitten: Land of the Rising Dead, was the same. The beginning was a little easier this time around because I was in the swing of things, but the ending was, pardon my French, a royal bitch.

I rewrote the ending so many times I lost count. Then, still not being satisfied, I DELETED it.

I started from scratch, and, still, I wasn't satisfied.

After going through the story I realized that in order to find the perfect ending I either had to write another 60,000 words or else do something different. I chose different, because the next 60,000 words are coming anyway in the third novel, Bitten: Kingdom of the Living Dead.

This time the Epilogue is a mini short story that is broken into four codas. Usually an epilogue is just a closing segment, but since this is book two of an ongoing series, I thought it would be fun to play with the medium and push the creative boundaries a little. So what I came up with was an extended epilogue, and what better to call it than a coda?

Finally, I had found an ending I liked. 

But again, it wasn't quite right. So I rewrote it several times. Then I rewrote it several times more. 

Now I have something I'm satisfied with.

It's strange that the beginning and ending of everything I write is such a challenge. But I think that's because I desperately want to hook the reader and also leave them satisfied. I think this becomes even more important when you're writing a series.

As for the pages between the opening and the close, those come naturally to me. 

As it happens, I love to write dialog, and the pages begin to fill themselves. Basically, after creating a cast of characters and writing out character bios (and backgrounds), at a certain point, the characters begin to write themselves.

Once they come to life, so to speak, I tend to let them dictate the direction of the story. Sometimes as I write them (rather freely) they will say or do something that is even unexpected to me. That's part of the fun of getting caught up in free-verse. When you're writing like that, loose and fast, and the imagination engine is spooled up to full, sometimes the subconscious kicks out things that make one's characters do or say the unexpected.

I like whenever this happens, because whenever it happens, it inevitably is a pleasant surprise. More often than not it also improves my plot. Of course, this forces me to have to go back and revise my outline, because the character did something that wasn't compatible with the way I initially plotted the story, but it always works out for the better. I think it works because it adds an interesting twist to the story, which allows you to explore different avenues of character personalities, motivations, or plot points which help to really flesh out the story. Additionally, it tends to make the character much more realistic feeling. 

You'll be glad to know that I am currently searching for the ipsissima verba for my third book in the Bitten series. How many more zombie books will I write? I don't know. I'll keep writing them as long as I am having fun with the characters and with the world I've created. Also, I have plenty of other projects I am currently working on, including a non-fiction compendium of essays. That's a whole other style of writing, and a whole other discussion.

Until then, may all you writers find the words you are looking for, and to all the rest, happy reading!

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