Have you ever watched the bonus DVD to your favorite movie, or perhaps a special Behind the Scenes episode to learn more about the story and characters? Like why did he have the victim running up the stairs when she should been running for the front door? Darian sure has, and thought it would be fun to share her thoughts on her debut novel.
A writer can spend countless hours picking at and tearing apart not just a single scene, but a single paragraph, even a single sentence. Some we love, some we hate - but cutting out an entire scene is extremely painful to any writer. In fact, cutting almost anything is painful to a writer. Would you spend 6+ hours a day working on something knowing that later on you would just undo it all anyway? That's one of the things that makes us writers a little on the loopy side, and why the editing stage is so painful; we're undoing countless hours of work. You might think then why cut anything? It comes down to one simple truth; we want to make the story better, and that means some parts just have to go. So how do we decide what to cut anyway? There are a lot of things that can go into that decision, varying from each scene, each story, and each writer. But as a whole choosing what to cut in many ways comes down to a single question - does this move the story forward, does this add to the story? If the answer is no, then it needs to be cut. After the first draft of Love Unfinished, I was faced with several cuts that needed to be made. While I loved many of the scenes or sentences, if I felt they didn't add anything to the story I cut it completely.
Who the Heck is that:
No matter how attached a writer becomes with a character, after the first draft, sometimes they have already worn out their welcome. Such is the case with sweet Margret and Donald. When beta readers (test readers) tore apart the first draft, the majority of them came back with the same thing - they wanted to see some type of scene where Carols soul was sent on to live again. They wanted a birth scene to help connect the dots. The trouble with that was that I would have to introduce two characters (Emma's parents), only to yank them right out of the story afterward; Because they weren't essential to the story, just the one scene readers called for. Unfortunately, one of the first rules of editing your writing is cutting what is unnecessary, or, anything that doesn't propel the story forward. While I did have a bit of fun creating several scenes where we saw the beginning of Emma's life, poor Margret and Donald would never be seen again. After a lot of toiling over this dilemma, in the end it was best for the story to cut them out of it.
But what about Carol?
Some readers have come back to me and said, "I wish we could see more of Carol's life" or "Why didn't you add more of Carol and Ted's story to the beginning?" What readers don't know is that, you could, and I did. One of the many deletions made to Love Unfinished was Carol and Ted's life together. In the first draft there were many lovely scenes with them, bringing you into their relationship, sharing their history with you before we met Emma. At the start of writing I had thought it was essential to the story that the reader feel they had something invested in Carol before they met Emma. Yet as the story unveiled itself during its creation two very big problems with that came into light; One, including this mini-story (if you will) of Carol and Ted could be a book on its own and make the book as a whole entirely too long. This is not an epic novel, after all. Two, then becomes the issue that the book takes on a much stronger paranormal aspect than I wanted, and Emma's story becomes more of a backdrop to paranormal. I love a good paranormal show or book, but that's not where the story was going.
What's Emma's Deal Anyway:
Poor Emma has caught some grief over time for staying with an abusive husband, and I've been asked before why I wouldn't have her leave right away. Despite some readers issues with that portion of her story, having personal experience with abusive relationships I couldn't possibly justify changing that about her. For me, I like a story with some realism - characters a bit more like an actual person than you might find in your traditional romances. Women caught in long-term abusive relationships have, well, lost their spunk, lost that inner fire they once had that one needs to stand up and say "I'm not taking this anymore." They're women forced into submission by situation or circumstance, and it takes time to build that back up within themselves. Emma, I thought, should contain some of those traits. She is not your typical romance heroine, she's not feisty from the start; she works up to it. She grows. Much the same as you would see with any real woman in that type of relationship. While I'm sure Emma may still get some criticism, I will continue to stand behind that realistic aspect of her marriage.
Yeah, but what about more romance?
I kept my focus not solely tuned into the romance aspect for one simple reason - I'm not a romance writer. Not traditionally speaking, that is. When one thinks of the term romance novel, typically what pops into your head are the novels with a beautiful woman embraced with a studly, shirtless man, in the country, with a horse in the background. That's what I always thought of anyway, as a reader, long before I took up writing. She's gorgeous and feisty, he's handsome and a hero. While yes, I love a good romance read every now and then (who doesn't love intense love?) that's not who I am as a writer. My heroine is wearing yoga pants and a haphazard ponytail and my hero drives a Volvo. The romance is not the story for me; it adds to or compliments the story - that's the difference to me when I'm writing. I love a good romance book, or a makes you want to cry chic flick, but that type of writing takes a certain kind of talent, a certain type of writer who loves and knows romance on that level. Writers should write what they know and love, so I'll leave the true romance books to the masters, and I'll stick to creating stories sprinkled with romance.