Hello, readers! Welcome to the second post of The Fourth Descendant’s bonus material. This one goes hand-in-hand with the first one. I called that one the Bones, where I described how the structure of the story came into being. This one is the Meat. It includes the subplots, characterization, and emotion that resonate with readers. The Meat is why readers read a novel.
As with the Bones post, this one contains spoilers! So if you haven’t read the book and plan to, go away and come back after you’re finished reading.
I’ll break this post into categories.
TFD has two subplots: Jonah’s baby, and Damien’s and Michelle’s affair. I didn’t know they would happen until they…well, happened.
How is that frickin possible?
I know. I’m just as surprised as you are. The climax and resolution wouldn’t have come close to the emotional punch they had without the subplots.
What can I say? I’m a pantser.
The subplot of Jonah’s baby is introduced in chapter five. At that point in writing the story, I needed something for Jonah. He was becoming a little flat, and I was feeling the way I imagined he was – I don’t fit in with these people at all. So I had to throw something at him, something that would shake things up for him personally and maybe change his outlook on the whole safe-opening operation.
An unplanned pregnancy was just the thing.
When the idea hit me, it became a universal truth. Like of course Jonah’s girlfriend is pregnant. That’s how the story goes. Duh.
Damien’s attraction to Michelle begins after Dave shot Jonah and kidnapped Sharon. I arrived in Damien’s scene in that chapter and heard crickets chirping in my head when I wondered what was keeping him with the group. I had to go back to what I already knew about him: he’s introverted, intelligent, and…lonely. As we learned when he went to visit his mother. Bingo.
Characterization and Emotion
I’m lumping these together because the characterization allows for the emotion. It allows the reader to sympathize with the people in the story.
I’m a plot girl. I like to get my characters from A to B to C with a minimum of background and tears. Turns out, this makes for “outline like” reading. I had some characterization, but I needed more. This became extra apparent around September when I had the crazy idea of querying agents. I hired an editor to take a look at my first chapter. It was clean overall, but the problem was the book fell below industry standards for a mystery.
Her suggestion: add 10,000 words.
Yikes. Fortunately, the book was still going through my critique group, so I added and posted as we went along.
Every added word is characterization and back story. To prepare for the additions, I wrote what could be beefed up in each chapter using my handy-dandy little notebook that I have with me at all times.
Details that were part of the added words (12,000 more, when all was said and done): Damien’s past relationship, most of the details of Michelle’s marriage, Jonah’s rocky relationship with his dad and his dislike for Alex, and Sharon reflecting on her old life. These were all subtly there before; I just made them take the spotlight occasionally.
The funny thing is many reviews mention the characters – how easy they were to connect with, how real they felt, etc. Plot Girl Me gets a kick out of that.
Time to wrap this up. I’m sure some of you are wondering why I neglected Sharon’s story again. Don’t worry. She just has to wait her turn.
See you in the next bonus features post.