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:~: Monday, August 21, 2006 :~:

Know-It-All

Do you know it all? I will gladly admit that I don't. (Contrary to what my husband says.) In most things, I know squat, although I do know how to look things up. I can research with the best of them, baby. And I tend to remember a lot. But if it's not something I'm interested in at that moment, forget it. I took an online class on PIs earlier this summer and learned a lot of interesting info. Can I remember any of it? Nope. Not one damn thing. I wasn't working on a PI story at the time. In one ear, out the other (or eye, since it was online.) Luckily though, I saved all the lessons, so when I do get to the point where I'm writing a PI story, I'll have all that info to absorb like a sponge.

Where was I going with this? Oh, right. Knowing it all.

I was perusing a pubbed authors website earlier today, and in the Q&A section, one of the questions was, Do you know who your villain is when you start your books? The answer was yes, generally, but there have been times when even this author's been surprised by the outcome of the story.

I thought that was really cool, because I generally don't know who my villain really is. It's neat to hear I'm not the only one out there who doesn't always know how things are going to end up.

Last week I took the prologue of my new book to my local RWA meeting. Since it was a crit meeting, the group got to listen to it, which is told from the villain's POV. After it was finished, a friend asked, "Why does he want to kill her?" And I went blank.

Weeeeellll...that's a damn good question!

The answer isn't so good, however. You see, I have an idea who my villain is, but I'm not one-hundred percent sure. In the last book I wrote, I was completely positive who and why and what my villain was all about. And then at the 3/4 point, I realized there was no WAY the person I'd tagged as the villain could have possibly done all the things I'd thought they could do. Then it hit me - WHAM - who the real villain was. And when I looked back through my previous chapters, sure I was going to have a major rewrite to work the new villain in, I realized I'd instinctively been leaving hints to the real villain all along. I just hadn't known it. (For more on instincts, check out my post at Romance Worth Killing For today.)

For me, sometimes knowing everything there is to know about my villain takes all the fun out of writing. I can always go back in in revisions and add villain POV scenes if needed to up the tension, but in the initial draft, if I know everything, I have no desire to write the book. I like to learn about my characters - protagonists and antagonists - as I go along. Sometimes they surprise me, sometimes they don't. But not knowing everything there is to know is pretty fun now and again.

So tell me the truth - and don't lie. Are you a know-it-all or not?

12Comments:

Blogger Tempest Knight said...

Sometimes I don't even know who the hero is. Trust me, I've been fooled a few times. *lol* What can I say? I allow my characters to surprise me at every turn.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Piper Lee said...

Oh pulleeezz, if I knew anything at all I'd have a finished manuscript by now. I totally know nothing, zip, zero, zilch; but I'm having a lot of fun anyway.

I'd rather be an editor. It's much more fun and a lot less frustrating.

You're stories are terrific! Especially, "Make Me Believe". If I was a publisher, I'd publish that book tomorrow!

Great post btw.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

Not knowing who the villain is? That makes me break out in hives. I completely admire how you can just write and follow your instincts. I would write myself into a black hole with no way to get out - my only option being starting over. Oh wait, that did happen when I tried to be a panster ;-)

12:22 PM  
Blogger Christine Keach said...

I am SOOOOOOOOOOO with you, Elisabeth! I once started a book with knowing everything I could about my characters. I never made it to page fifty before I started something else. (And that manuscript never did see the light of day.) Where is the fun in knowing everything? I'd rather pull my hair out during major revisions (like I am now!) than have it all tied up in a neat little box.

And Tempest, too. I once wrote about 150 pages of a book and found out the villain was actually the hero. My original hero was a great hero, but he was the wrong hero for that book.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Tempest and Christine - I've heard people say that. I remember Allison Brennan said that very thing when she wrote The Prey - that she got about 150 pgs in and realized she had the wrong hero. It happens. (I'm so glad it happens to others, too!)

Lisa - you make me laugh. See, plotting everything from start to finish makes ME break out in hives! Isn't it cool there are a thousand different ways to get to The End?

And Piper - Aw, I love ya. You're good for the ego. Now, quit blogging and go write.

As for me - hey, I had a lightbulb moment in the car this morning. I *think* I know who the villain is in my new book - initial stages as I'm working through the first few chapters. I still need to flesh him out, figure out his rational better, but it's progress. And even if he pulls a 180 on me later and it turns out to be someone else, at least I have a foundation from which to build. (That's what revisions are for!!!!)

Now...will the *real* killer please step forward?

No?

That's okay too. I can work with or without him. ;)

3:35 PM  
Blogger Piper Lee said...

Maybe the real killer is a she. Why does it have to be a "him"? Are females just to sweet and wonderful? No.

Ya never know, it could be a woman. Hmm...

Gosh, you're so bossy! I can't go write, I've got too much reading to do for WRP. I just got a request today from another editor to read for her. Now I'm reading for three different editors! I am going to have to learn to say no, but it's been so much fun working for them and learning that end of this crazy business.

Tonight I finished up the last submission for the contest I was judging. I'm glad that's over. They were all RS. LOL The writing gods were playin' with me.

Maybe next week I'll get back to my WIP. Thanks for your help the other day too. I can hardly wait to go make the changes you suggested and get back into it. Okay, so maybe you're not terribly bossy and I do need for you to crack that whip. Thanks!

11:50 PM  
Blogger TJBrown said...

Sometimes I do, soemtimes I don't depends on the book!
Teri

6:27 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFL, Piper. Now I'm starting to wonder...did you read my last book?

Actually, when I look back at all the books I've written, I actually have about a 50/50 male/female villain split. I'd say that's pretty good.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I like to know where I'm going, but I don't like to know every detail about a story. The first one I wrote with a villian, I didn't know who he was until about half way through the story. And I think that not knowing at first makes the tension stronger, because you aren't anticipating anything and it comes through in your other characters.

JMHO

10:54 AM  
Blogger Piper Lee said...

Yeah smarty pants, I read your last book, I just forgot about the villain part. With as much stuff as I read you can't possibly expect me to remember everything. LOL

I just know that I loved Lisa and Rafe. I didn't fall in love with the bad girl in your book, that's why she didn't stay in my tiny brain. But Lisa and Rafe have stayed in my heart. So there! THWWPPPTTT!

12:36 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Paty - EXACTLY. I think that's part of the reason I'm not upset when I don't know the villain upfront. When I'm writing the scenes I'm thinking like my heroine and hero, trying to figure everything out like they are. It becomes more "real", I think.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Carol B. said...

I am SO not a know-it-all. If I know too much about the book/characters/plot before I write it, I'm too bored to finish it. I think that's why I'm having such a hard time with this re-write.

10:53 PM  

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