I finally finished the contemporary psychological drama I’ve been calling Billy’s Bones (awful, awful title!) and several friends are reading it to tell me if it’s any good. I’m really not sure. I like the first half, but it gets very grim in the second half. Ever read the beginning of Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones? That’s about the level of grim I’m talking about. To a lesser extent it resembles the revelation of Tom’s repressed memories of “Callanwolde” in The Prince of Tides (considerably toned down in the film version). Not exactly what most people expect in a romance novel.
I should have seen it coming, of course. I came up with this plot centered around repressed memories of sexual abuse and murder, and then when I came to the part where the repressed memories begin to surface, I thought, “I could have the character tell the story to his therapist or his lover (who is actually the viewpoint character), but it would be far more dramatic to show it in a flashback!”
Yeah, great idea.
Except that I soon realized that what I was writing was too horrific to describe in any kind of detail. There’s a reason that I tend to use crimes against children to represent evil in my novels: I find them absolutely horrifying. I don’t think I’m alone in this. So there’s a fine line between being boring by not dramatizing it and showing too much by dramatizing it. It wasn’t my intention to write a horror novel.
So I wrote the scene out, but didn’t go into graphic detail. We’ll see what my friends say, when they read it.
The other potential problem is that my viewpoint character (Tom) almost disappeared in the last quarter of the novel, as Kevin works with the police to piece things together. I had to go back and make sure he said something now and then to remind readers that he was still there. I don’t know if that worked. We’ll see.
What all of this demonstrates is that I can’t write in a vacuum — at least, not all of the time. While I’m working on the first draft, I don’t let anyone look at it. I generally have a sense of whether it’s good or not and I like to think I’m a fairly good storyteller. At that stage, I don’t want people injecting their opinions. But as soon as that first draft is done, I lose the confidence I had while writing. Sometimes my ego is too fragile for criticism for a week or so, as my husband has learned, but fairly soon after the first draft is done, I need feedback to tell me if the story came out any good or if it should be scrapped.