Friday, October 27, 2006

Early Thoughts for NaNoWriMo 2006 (Character Sketches)

I saw this art installation at the Boston Public Library back in 2003 when it was there. The thing with installation art is, everytime it moves location, the art itself changes. Hopefully, for the better. By far, the BPL installation was the best ever for this piece, aptly titled Writer's Block. At least from what I can tell looking at pictures of the installation at other locations.

Okay, enough side-tripping. Down to the business of NaNoWriMo 2006. I've never done this "write a novel in a month" challenge, though I have written a first-draft novel in less than a month (on two occasions--Book 2 of my Phoenician Series was the first in 1988 and an untitled milSF work in 1990 was the second). The work I intend to try to crank out this November is also untitled at the moment. It hasn't even got a complete story arc yet--unusual for me. I haven't ever tried to sit down and write a book before the arc, at least, has fully-formed in my mind.

The idea I'll be developing was borne this summer when I was working on editing OST (and hating every minute of the UNCREATIVE activity of editing, rather than creating something new). The story has these two "assassins for hire" and they started talking in my head--incessantly. I love these two people. Don't get me wrong. They are funny and edgy at the same time, they're fun to watch together but I haven't quite figured out what their story is or should be. Heck, I don't even know what genre this is going to end up falling into when it gets to THE END.

Possibly, it could be a Romance, more likely it's a sort of spy thriller story. It's less heavy on the Romance and more heavy on suspense than anything else. Even the sex is .... out there. The two main characters are a sniper (female) and explosives expert (male). Given those characters, there has to be lots of killing and blowing things up and there has to be tension, suspense or their "jobs" aren't relevant to a plot. But they definitely engage in some kinky sex. Maybe it's erotica? I dunno. I haven't ever read anything called "erotica" as in the genre. I know it could easily fall onto the mainstream markets like Ballantine puts out for Romances with the military/suspense/thriller/mystery SUBgenres in them (and explicit language and graphic sex) but I have no clue what market this is. I'd hate to "peg" it simply because it contains graphic sex. It's got to have sex scenes and they are graphic, though I suppose I'll have to decide which "style" to use for them (Romance genre has this whole cadence thing to the expositive passages of sex scenes and straight fiction just has more of the head-hopping "secrets" in sex scenes, depending on what serves the plot best).

The kinkiness of it all was a surprise to me and I "blame" John Ringo's GHOST/Kildar series for it. I might actually totally tone down all of the sex--but I don't want to hurt the plot or the characters. Thing is, I never (personally, in reality) get into the kind of kinky sex these two characters seem to thrive on...or erm, well I never have in my life so far anyway. I dunno.

Can't really write about something one hasn't ever done when the something is as personal and emotional as sex. It's not as though we're talking about skydiving where you can imagine it or read about it and get the gist. It's an emotional activity and I need to be inside their heads at the moment, figure out where they are going to be mentally and emotionally before, during and after.

Still, they're making me blush and feel very uncomfortable and that really takes some doing. At the same time, I just can't stop watching them. They're fascinating in their interactions--a bundle of conflicts and contradictions, personally, professionally, sexually, just in every breath they take. It's going to be a waffle call on the sex, I think. If it's there at all, it'll be there in its full glory, all graphic and bleeding all over the page. Yeah, there was one bloody scene and I don't mean "bloody hell" kind of bloody and I don't mean bloody as in menstrual blood. It was unnerving enough, I didn't get to sleep until 0400 the next morning. *shiver* NOT going to write that one. Never want to see it again. I think it might have been somehting I ate *smirk*

The plot and characters have to cause/effect each other (for me, for my style of writing). The "story" has to be a combination of cause/effect between their jobs and their relationship to each other. The setting would be contemporary Earth with no special effects or changes to reality...I think. I dunno.

Not changing reality sounds easier, though I haven't written a global setting in a long, long time (years) and they definitely hop all around the globe, mostly in Europe, a little in the Sudan, a little in Australia and the crescendo of the story, I think, would be "centered" in Greece. I haven't travelled in so long, I'm a little worried about trying to stick to reality and might decide to just make it up to suit
the story. I know, I know, AuthorConvenient *boo, hiss* ;)

Hey, I've been everywhere I'm envisioning EXCEPT the Sudan and I have no interest in going to the Sudan, thanks, nice Jewish white girl that I am. I'd rather live and keep all my piece parts as issued ;)

The Characters
He is Charles Rainford, "Rainey" to the female lead, "Charlie" to everyone else and he's English or maybe Irish...flirting with an IRA tie-in but just barely. He's a demo man who always works in a team which he hires, personally. He never ever takes on a job as part of someone else's team because he's an utter control freak and has to be in charge or not take the job.

He's a little older than my usual male protagonist, around 40 or 42, I think, and he's a lot shorter than I'm used to, standing only around 5'10" (177cm). I have to decide if I'm writing this one in metric (as I usually do) or English units. I might try the feet-inches/English system for this book. Rainey has straight black hair and dark eyes. He has a solid well-muscled body, more like a 22 year old than a 42 year old, but he works at it. Puts in several hours a day, starting before dawn with his PT. He and Lacey run together at sunrise whenever they are sharing a bed. Othewise, he never ever works out with company. His morning workout is his "alone time" and he protects that solitude with a vengeance.

Despite the good build, he looks like a mess, constantly rumpled, almost giving the appearance he's probably slept in his clothes the last two days (which he might have if he's on a job, but not as a rule). His normal wardrobe is far from that of a bum sleeping on the bench at the Metro--he just plays a bum on TV (Just Kidding).

He likes to visit the runway shows in Paris and Milan then commissions suits at $10000 ($8000 Euro) [I think this monetary value is too low - haven't priced men's suits in Milan for a long, long time - research time!!] a pop but "redesigns" them so his is different and unique from anything else the designer might make. This kind of extravagant eccentricity, coupled with his apparent lack of care of the dang thing after he buys it, is Rainey to a tee.

If I decide to give him an IRA tie-in in his history, then I'll also think about some kind of military before that; maybe that explains why he's 40ish years old...been around, done a few things.

If I go in a different direction and don't give him any IRA connection, I either have to base his skills at demo work in a military tour that soured him and turned him into a mercenary who happens see terrorists as "just another customer" (he has no sense of propriety when it comes to dirty money, shame on you, Rainey) or come up with some other way for him to have learned so much about explosives and learned it so well.

He is known "on the job" for being a perfectionist, for being precise and for being a cold-hearted sonofabitch who'll as soon as kill you where you stand than suffer incompetence. He has one rule when you work for him: don't fuck up. No one, but no one screws up one of Rainey's jobs and lives to tell of it.

When the job is completed, the target(s) out, and Rainey pinpoints who made what mistake, he puts a bullet through their head himself--after they admit to it. Not admitting it was your fault won't work either. He'll kill you for lying to him and screwing up his job. His job, note. It's always his job no matter who's contracted the work.

On the personal side, however, Rainey is very, very soft. As tender and gentle and caring about people as he is controlling and demanding of his work. There's a running joke going on about the collection of whores he's keeping on his payroll in Amsterdam, not so much to provide him with any services, as to spend his money on what he calls a "worthwhile charity service." They have to get through the cold winters somehow, don't they? :) They're also, he rationalizes, a great source of intel.

I have this one scene with Tommy (a minor character who later dies) where Rainey gets in a little over his head with the whores' dependence on him for financial support. It's almost--not quite, but almost--to the point he finds himself the proud pimp of some of the best whores in town. In the middle of setting up a job. Not what he needs. Oh, and it occurs at a point in the story when he has not a clue where Lacey has disappeared to but is desperate to find her before the contract on her finally gets to someone who can actually succeed at taking her out. Oops, that's plot info, isn't it? Okay, pretend I didn't tell you that. For my eyes only ;)

Rainey's been in love with Lacey for five years, not that she's ever registered this little fact, despite his telling her for the last two or three years in no uncertain terms. It irks Rainey no end that Lacey doesn't get it. I have no idea why he's devoted to her. But he is :) Guess I'll find out when you do as I write the book, huh? :-)

She is Lesienne "Lacey" Townsend, half French, half English. She's much younger than Rainey, maybe 30, maybe 28, and has been "in the business" a while, since she was 15, recruited by the CIA due to her expert shooting skills. She was CIA-gonna have to change this. It really makes NO sense whatsoever for the USA to hire a CHILD of 15 from either England or France--either she's recruited by the French or she gets her training some other way--trained to be a sniper and was a contract agent for them for a while, but has now gone out on her own, freelancing. She has even twice worked for Rainey when he's needed a shooter on a job.

I'm pretty much lifting this entire scenario directly from a Linda Howard Romance I read last spring (Lily from the book Kiss Me While I Sleep). As John has said, "Good writers create. Great writers steal." While my Lacey shares a lot of Howard's Lily character's history professionally, she is nothing like Lily on a personal level. Her only other (lifted) similarity is her physical appearance and ease of camoflaging it (knack for disguises). (Update: even if I change Lacey's source of training, she's gonna seem awfully familiar to anyone who's read Howard's story. I don't care. Great people like Lily and Lacey live many, many lives.)

Lacey is about 5'9" or 5'10" (can't decide if I should make her and Rainey exactly the same height or not--I'm really not used to dealing with male characters under 6'2" or females over 5'6" so both of these characters have heights I cannot relate to easily). She is lithe and curvacious at the same time. Her legs, in particular, are long and very eye-catching and she courteously loves to wear not only skin-tight dresses but extremely short hemlines. Hey, if you've got it, use it, right? My older brother gave me that advice back when I was pre-pubescent!! Lacey is a natural blonde, has sky blue eyes, almost icy in their ability to catch sunlight, and alas, small breasts. Sorry guys. But they fit perfectly into the palm of Rainey's hand and that's what really matters, right? :)

When Lacey first broke out of CIAland on her own, she hooked up with a mentor, to learn the ropes of the business outside "guv'ment work." She signs on as his spotter and learns he has lied to her about the job. The incident on this first job ultimately shuts her down inside. She had only one rule: no children.

This job is to shoot a little girl's father in front of the child. She acts impulsively, stupidly (she reflects later) and kills her "mentor" (I really need to settle on a name for him--I have a few choices but still mulling I have my first Redshirt: Dean Gestner has requested he be off'ed in this story and has valiantly proffered his name for the "mentor" guy, so Gestner it is). Then, of course, the police rush to the scene and she again makes a snap decision to just kill the child (the witness, to ensure that the police will have no one to question).

The street where the hit was carried out was abandoned. The police rush to see what's happened because the "mentor" Gestner took the father out while he was driving a car, which naturally crashes into the stone wall (separating street from houses...somewhere in France, I think, haven't quite "recognized" the location but can see the street and scene very, very clearly).

The whole scene, told in flashback and which I've seen play out a few times since July when I first saw it, leaves a deep mark on Lacey. She holes up for a few months before getting back "into the game" and it's at that point she starts favoring contracts from someone named Roger Townsend (NOTE: At this point, I am making no admission of any familial connection between Lacey Townsend and Roger Townsend, though the sameLastName is definitely an eye-catcher for any Reader of any least, one who's paying attention with half an eye). Lacey doesn't admit to any loyalty to Roger, exactly, but does decidedly favor jobs that come through him. Roger is American. I haven't finished fleshing out his bio so let's move on with Lacey.

Other than Rainey, she has never let anyone get close to her since this hit gone bad. That was six years ago (about a year before she met Rainey). She doesn't realize she has developed feelings for Rainey, nearly a dependency on him, but she has. When she gets hit with this emotion (early on in the story) it scares her half out of her wits. She runs, naturally. Can't have anyone get too close and she can't bring herself to kill Rainey just to get rid of him so...

Lacey has occassionally hired out to join other teams, as noted even working for Rainey twice, but she has shifted more and more to the sniper mentality, save for the team aspect. She never uses the same spotter twice. She absolutely refuses to build a working relationship with another individual after the "mentor" Gestner incident.

A sniper cannot work alone (contrary to popular belief) so she takes on a sort of "nomadic" mentality--extending it to both her professional and personal existence. The one and only constant in her life is Rainey.

She has flats all over the place and often sleeps in hotels instead, not so much from paranoia (though maybe a little...she's definitely unstable, mentally, in that way) as from lack of interest in her flats or personal effects. There is nothing "personal" in her mind about "things." She wouldn't bat an eyelash if all of her material possessions disappeared tomorrow. She has substantial funds socked away in numbered accounts, though Rainey has more and, he owns an island (heh heh)

In fact, they both keep flats in several locations throughout Europe, hence, why or how the story can hop around Eruope so easily. Rainey bought a little getaway in the Greek Isles (later to be the central location in Greece, around midpoint or 2/3 into the book, where the plot the crescendos).

I have to figure out where to "start" the story. To do that, I need to see the story arc, usually it's just "obvious" where to start once I have the arc. Alas, no arc is surfacing here. Lots and lots of scenes, no thread, unless it's that Rainey is going to take out Roger and then take over the world? *grin* I still need a "here" from whence to get "there" even if that becomes the shabby plot on which I hang these character studies.

I can't believe I have this much detail about the two main characters (and about 20 or 25 "supporting cast" members). Hoping that by next week, I have some kind of arc forming. Otherwise, I'll start NaNoWriMo by just composing the half a dozen or so scenes I have completed in my head and draft up the rough outline of the 2/3 or so of the story I can "see" and hope putting all that down in print helps me "see" where this was supposed to go.


Anonymous Mark Townsend said...


Y'know Sarah, I did consider volunteering for a Tuckerization or a Redshirting, however it sounds like you've already got my sister (Katie, rather than Lacey, Townsend) and my uncle (Roger) well written in. I wouldn't want to make the whole thing too familial.

Just out of curiosity, have you ever watched the film, 'The Boondock Saints'? The Buddy element of your story, as well as the Irish heritage and gun fondness of certain characters - and their moral ambiguity - remind me of that movie. You might like to watch it while you're writing. Maybe it'll tickle something the right way.

Good luck!

Mark T
(The 'Three schools of magic' guy)

Sun Oct 29, 01:11:00 PM CST  
Blogger -sry said...

Since Roger Townsend already has an "uncle" sort of connection to Lacey Townsend, it is simply unfair of you, Mark Townsend, to decline Tuckerization in this story ;-) You are a coward. I promise I won't kill you. I could even make you into a Good Guy on the Bad Guy team.

You could be Lacey's cousin for all I know or care, but passing up a chance at Tuckerization where your family name is already run through the ringer is just silly. You know your fictional self would have to be more than a 2D cardboard walk-on.

Don't be afraid, little boy, I'll be gentle *evil grin* Just say the word and the Tuckerizing shall commence.


Mon Oct 30, 10:16:00 AM CST  

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