I spent most of last week rethinking everything I’d plotted for the final Monochrome book, based on feedback from the unlikeliest of sources: my mother. I’d not seen the old lady in a year, and she drove up from KY to stay with us for a few days. The visit was nice, and we discussed TLM for a while. Soliciting feedback from Mom (who will no doubt read this—hi Mom) can be tricky, because she’d give everything I’ve written a ten-star review if she could, and it’s hard to be objective about anything when your child is involved.
She enjoyed TLM (I knew she would), but admitted that the first few chapters were slow (fair point—I wanted them to be) which is why she took almost a year to finish the book. She pointed out a couple of things which gave me pause, if only because I’d subconsciously avoided them. I’ll come back to that in a moment.
So what did she point out?
One thing which is fairly obvious: Sparrow needs to go. She didn’t like him at all (and you’re not supposed to), and he needs a fitting end. He’ll get one. Probably not the one you’d expect, but trust me, he’ll get his due.
She doesn’t see Dullington as a villain. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this about him. In fact, many readers tend to agree with his outlook on humanity (I do, too), and that moral ambiguity is why a lot of folks find him so appealing. Dullington serves a greater purpose. Her observation, however, blew a hole right through everything I’d planned for the third book, mainly because Dullington is the focus of that story. His origins, his ambitions, and his end game goals are laid bare in the final book. My mother’s insight, however, changed the nature of those finer details. Maybe he isn’t the villain. Maybe he isn’t the boss of the final level. Maybe there’s more to the Ungod than I’d realized. Obviously this means I need to go back to the drawing board. The good news is, I’m so early in the development process that this change won’t affect anything I’ve written (which, I’m sad to say, isn’t much).
The last comment she made has been the source of much thought and soul-searching over the last week. She didn’t like Donovan’s brother, Michael. Her reasoning: “He looks down his nose at his brother.” Although this isn’t a revelation, I was somewhat perplexed by the comment, mainly because no one’s ever pointed that out before. I mentioned it to Amelia, and even she commented that Donovan has a weird fixation on his brother. They’re both right, but I’d always approached Michael’s judgmental nature from a pragmatic perspective. He’s a driven individual who figures out how to get what he wants, and then he goes and after it. Donovan is the foil character, thinking things through, dwelling on possibility to the point of deluding himself that he’s gaining ground when he is, in fact, losing it. Michael frowns upon his brother because he knows Donovan is capable of so much more, yet chooses to do nothing. These qualities in Donovan’s character begin to change by the end of TLM. Donovan is the one who acts—a point which takes his brother by surprise.
I’ve always intended to follow through with the change in Donovan’s character for the final act of the trilogy. However, until last weekend, I wasn’t really sure how that would look from a thematic perspective. In fact, despite all the planning and plotting, I hadn’t really tackled that aspect of the story. The “theme” or “meaning” of the Monochrome stories always pop up in the middle of the writing process. TLM’s theme of defining oneself, action vs. inaction, etc. all crept up during the final months of the first draft.
Thinking about what my mom said in regards to Michael Candle led me to dig up some demons I’d buried a couple of years ago, an act which put me in a pretty dark place for the remainder of the week. Without getting too personal, I made a bad choice a couple of years ago, and lost a friend as result. That friend happened to be the basis for Michael’s character, and hearing that feedback from Mom and Amelia put some things in perspective for me that I hadn’t considered before.
So . . . after a lot of quiet “me” time, during which I listened to some Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam (an odd combination that makes sense to me for reasons I won’t get into right now), I discovered some parts of the plot for the final book which will make it a lot darker, a lot more somber, and will probably upset some of you. It isn’t going to be an easy book to write—then again, they never are.
In light of all of this, I’m scrapping what I’ve written of the book’s prologue (it isn’t much—maybe three paragraphs) and rethinking the story. The book will be done when it’s done; I’ve come too far to rush it now.
For now I’ll be turning my attention back to UGLY LITTLE THINGS. Amelia’s assured me that her edits will be done in time for the Thanksgiving deadline, which gives me all of December to finalize the manuscript.
I’ll write more when I can.