I don't own any of the characters, and I'm not making any money out of this. This is just an idea that came to me wandering around a steam engine fair this morning. No, there's no connection between the idea and the steam engines.
I keep a notebook for scribbling ideas in for stories. I'm sure Dr. Temperance Brennan does the same with her writing. Here is an excerpt from her notes for her latest novel.
This is probably a one-shot, complete, although I might find other excerpts from her notebook at a later date.
Title: As yet undecided. I'm not concerned about that yet. The title of the last book wasn't settled until the last minute. I'm sure that as I get through the story a title will become obvious. Until then, I refuse to worry about it.
Plot: I've decided to go with the serial killer plot. While the solving of an old murder would be more satisfying from a forensic anthropologist's professional point of view, the plot will be tighter if there is a modern threat from the start. That way the suspense can be built up as I go along, instead of just right at the end.
Regular Characters: All the regulars make an appearance. Kathy Reichs is the main character. Andy Lister is her FBI partner. There will be the usual lab staff, although I must be very careful to develop these characters upon the lines already mapped out for the previous books. My characters are different from the real people I work with, but those people don't seem to believe me. I need to make sure the differences are more obvious.
Setting: as yet undecided. The main part of the novel will be set in Washington DC. All the lab work will be set there. As to the rest, I need to decide whether to keep it local or have major scenes set elsewhere. Writing about somewhere else would probably entail a research visit, to ensure it sounds authentic, but would also make the story more interesting, for me as well as for the reader. I need to decide which place I know of would fit the novel best.
Character development: I need to make a firm decision as to the romantic lead in this book. At the end of book two I introduced a romantic interest for Kathy, but somehow it just didn't fit right. She was supposed to turn to him for emotional support, but it always seemed more logical for her to turn to Lister instead. I need to make a decision as to whether to force her relationship with Max or let her continue with Lister. If she continues with Lister, I don't see any future for Max in the books.
The problem is, I feel she needs some kind of romantic link, but I feel very uncomfortable linking her with Lister. It could change their working dynamic completely. Could they sustain a relationship while still working together? Could they sustain a relationship at all? They're such different characters. I don't want to change their personalities, they work too well together. Kathy is very independent, which makes it difficult to make her deeply involved in any sort of relationship. That's why Max seemed to fit well at first. I wouldn't want to change her, but it does make life difficult at times, when trying to organize some sort of social life for her.
Kathy originally started working with Lister purely for professional reasons. Is it pushing the characters too far, to link them romantically? Could they continue working together under such circumstances? What unforeseen consequences could there be?
What if I were to try them in a relationship, to see if it could work? Either things will go smoothly, in which case all my problems are solved, or it will rapidly become apparent that they will not be able to make it work, in which case I need to change things back to how they were. That should be within my power, of course. I just wish real life were as easy to organize as my novel.
So, what are the options? I could force the relationship with Max, which doesn't feel right to me as written so far. If I do keep Max, I need to figure out a real role for him to play in Kathy's life. There's also the interplay between Max and Lister, which I enjoyed at the end of the last book. Lister got quite protective, and there was a real battle of wills between the two men. Then again, Max was too detached from the main plot to really make a difference other than as an amusing distraction. Alternatively, I could forget Max and introduce a different character. Max is a lawyer, which I thought might tie in with court cases, but it really didn't work out that way. Another character could tie in better with her work, but would change the dynamics of the relationship between Kathy and Lister anyway, which I'm not keen to do. It seems pointless to make unnecessary changes to something which is working perfectly well to start with.
Or I could go with what seems to be happening naturally, and allow Kathy to try out a relationship with Lister. That feels fitting, somehow, but also fraught with difficulties. What if they get too involved and the case suffers? What if they have a fight and the case suffers? Can I make it a believable working relationship? Will they be able to get on together, or will they continue bickering? The bickering is one of the most enjoyable parts of their relationship, and I can't see that changing, but I also can't see how it would fit in with a romantic relationship.
On the other hand, I could forget about any kind of romance and just continue along the similar lines to the first two novels, where the characters are attracted to each other but refuse to take any action on it. That does have its appeal, but is starting to wear thin just a little. I feel Kathy needs her personal relationship to move forward, not remain static.
I still haven't come to any decision. I need to decide which way the story is going before I go much further. The interpersonal relationships are very important if my novel isn't to be just another case of one crime solved after another. To make it really meaningful, it has to involve the living as well as the dead.
So, as of right now – character development: as yet undecided.
I've always said that the book I'd most like to read is Bred in the Bone, by Dr. Temperance Brennan. Maybe someday someone will get around to producing it for me. In the meantime, I'll just have to amuse myself with snippets like this. I love subtext, when you know that what characters are actually saying and what they are thinking are about two different subjects. This is my first attempt at deliberately writing it, though.
Please let me know if you liked it!