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How I Constructed Some Kind Of Angel

Jun 5, 2008
Authors are frequently asked how they conceive and create a story. There may be almost as many ways as there are authors: outline; write ending and work up to it; precise factual experience or observation ("creative non-fiction;") whatever comes into your head; emotional idea; paper or audio notes; etc., etc. I can only speak for myself.

IDENTIFY ONE OR TWO EXCITING EXPERIENCES

For Some Kind of Angel, I drew on my long years as a disability evaluation doctor, mostly assessing injured workers within the framework of California workers compensation law. I was especially impressed with death cases and the special way the law dealt with them.

About the time I was ready to write we entered the post 9/11 period. War on terror was declared and the search for what turned out to be invisible or non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So, a two themes and a couple of plots were born.

CREATE GOOD CHARACTERS, HEROES AND VILLAINS

I needed engaging characters, people with outstanding values, to be drawn into the story and turned upside down in the chase. I needed a villain motivated by controversial, but nevertheless real moral issues. I needed characters so well defined that they wrote most of the story. And I had to know them better than I knew my siblings. So, I generated several character back story pages. For each character I wrote and rewrote a very intimate and personal biography. Each had, in addition to interesting physical attributes, such an emotional value-driven personality that there was rarely a time they behaved other than predictably, that is, until they made life-altering choices in a virtual dramatic pressure cooker.

All this being done, I sat down and wrote my heart out. What my heart wrote were 120,000 words encompassing two very good but awkwardly overlapping plots and an large number of subplots. The theme of exposing white collar crooks, doctors and lawyers alike, and bringing justice to workers compensation was exciting enough for one novel. Fighting a war on terror, WMD's, genocide, corporate criminality, and deceiving elected leaders, many of moral turpitude, comprised enough for another. I chose the latter.

After deciding which story to develop I eliminated the tedious (well written!) back stories and worked what I needed of that into action scenes, into credible dialogue. Remember "Show, Don't Tell?"

As I again read this clumsy text it became clear to me that I needed to use my brain in the rewrites -- and there were several rewrites. It needed more serious pruning. I had to "kill my babies."

First, I had to find and write "the hook." If this was truly to be a thriller it had to be so from the first sentence. I think the opening prologue accomplished this. It told enough to engage my readers as all the while it withheld enough to keep them curious.

After accomplishing these preliminary tasks it became easier to pull my hooked readers into many blind alleys. This abetted the process of deductive diagnosis without boredom.

After about four years of occasionally revisiting the manuscript, I had successfully converted 120,000 words of garble into 54,000 words of excitement..

Paraphrasing what Mark Twain said, "I would have written a much shorter story if I'd had more time."
About the Author
Melvin M. Harter is a retired physician. He specialized in evaluation of the causes and extent of injury and disability. He has become a freelance writer and author of the novel, Some Kind of Angel. This sci-fi thriller explores the world of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and genocide. For more, visit Some Kind of Angel and view the video trailer.
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