How all the planning in your life can’t prepare you for the surprises your main character has in store for you…
It goes a little like this…
You never really know what surprises are in store when you write a novel (or a series – like I am). You can plan. You can outline to your heart’s content, but it never really sticks to the mold you’ve set when you have rich characters who organically want to say something in the moment.
I had one such moment a few days ago with one of my main characters (Marco Sforza) that came to me as an utter shock and knocked me for a loop (so much so that I had to step back for a few days just to absorb what it meant).
It wasn’t like it completely derailed what I wanted to do with my outline that I’d worked really hard on, but rather it was a small diversion that colored who he was and how he came to being the man he was becoming. It was significant enough that I couldn’t simply ignore it (for there are some writings that never make it into the book – I have to write them so I can be clear in my mind where things go – it’s not enough to just imagine them, they have to be down on digital paper so I can fully render them out).
Marco is proving to be a rather complicated young man. Far more than I’d realized when I started the series. Complicated is good; it drives the drama forward – of that I have no doubt. And it appears that I am often just along for the ride – a vessel for him to channel and breathe life into him. There are many times where I feel he is communing with me and not the other way around. It’s how it goes most of the time. I know their world, I know what’s going to happen down the road. What I don’t plan are the little diversions that they bring to me along the way.
Elliot (Donahey) had such a moment for me in Volume 1 of the series when Danny entered the picture. I had no plans for Danny Jericho. Not really. I mean, I knew that Elliot would find someone who was gay (other than Marco) who he could become close to. Greg (Elliot’s on and off sidekick) is great and all, but there are just some places he won’t go. And Greg loves Elliot too, just not in the whole I’ll go gaily down rainbow road with you sort of way. There are limits a cool, secure in his shit kinda straight boy that he has for Elliot.
I mean, Greg is the Cyrano to Marco’s Christian. So Greg’s had more than his fair share of involvement in getting my two boys together. For a straight guy, Greg is über cool. Clark Kent/Superman cool. And by the way, sidebar: Greg Lettau and his brother Kevin are really real people in my life. Greg was an über cool geek kid who was smarter than fuck. I miss him and wonder what he ever got to. So yeah, Greg is one of three characters who relate to real people in the real world.
But Danny’s different. Elliot needs a GBFF in a BIG ol’ way. Danny does that for him. In ways Marco can’t be because he’s too close. Danny is the balance in the passion that drives them. He’s their remote eye to all things Marco/Elliot. Plus I have the added discovery that while I love my main characters it is a couple of side characters that have really stolen my heart (I actually get a bit giddy when I get to write about them): Angus Carr and Nick Donahey.
Angus sort of just sprang up organically (in the moment – I wanted a BFF for Marco’s second phase of his life when he goes to college. Angus will take that role front and center in Marco’s life). Nick, on the other hand, is my true passion in this story. Elliot’s perceptions of his father couldn’t be further from the truth. His father’s love for him goes far deeper than Elliot is comfortable admitting.
It’s something that is proving to challenge me as I write volume 2 of my Angels of Mercy series. Marco Sforza is a character worth the challenge. He is a jock who never waivers in his devotion to the guy he loves – society be damned. He is fully committed – the whole enchilada. But it was in discovering what he had to say to me as I write him that became a journey in and of itself.
And there’s the fleshing out of Marco’s relationship with his twin brother – Pietro. Pietro is far more complex than any of the boys and in some ways far more simplistic. Pietro does see black and white where the rest only see grey. He has to. He has his brother’s happiness to consider. And Pietro has been quite the busy bee in Marco’s life. Even when Marco doesn’t fully realize it.
My boys are right pieces of work. But I love them. My beta readers have often commented on how real they seem to them. One of them is now beginning his search for his own Elliot to love and call his own. So in a real way Elliot has achieved benchmark status. I’m cool with that. Elliot is far from perfect.
But aren’t we all? And isn’t that why we read things like Angels of Mercy? To glean some understanding that we’re not alone in the world. That we have quite a bit more in common with one another than we realize or want to admit. This common thread of our humanity and the way we either cope with what life throws at us – or watch like an enormous train wreck when it all comes crashing around you.
Drama – it’s the stuff of life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.