A character finds her voice

Dispatches from The Section that Wouldn’t Die:

I thought the troublesome two chapters in Blood Prophecy were behind me—but in obsessive re-reading, I kept coming across one part that felt flat.  My narrator for the section was Lucas Shepard, who was a primary protagonist in The Living Blood.   He had a few token sections in Blood Colony, where his voice as a plain-talking, Georgia-bred researcher newly made immortal added grounding and contrast to my deeper fantasy sections.

I always want to have an Everyperson character for whom the fantasy element is new. (“What, you say?  Healing blood?”)   I want my books grounded in the real world so that the fantasy never feels out of reach to new readers.   I also want to prick my own sense of wonder again and again.

When I write, I have a go-to character.  I may have six points-of-view in the novel, but usually only one per section or chapter, unless I want to remind readers that there is an omniscient voice lurking overhead.

In Blood Prophecy, Lucas’s section wasn’t working, and I couldn’t figure out why.  Then it dawned on me:  He was mostly OBSERVING.  In a room full of characters, he was giving the play-by-play.   He had some meaty informational dialogue, but did he HAVE to be the POV narrator?

So I asked myself the critical question that had brought Fana into the scenes earlier:  Whose voice is most interesting in this scene?  Who undergoes the deepest emotional shifts?

Why not Lucas’s wife, Alex?

Alexis is the sassy big sister of my original female protagonist, Jessica.   In My Soul to Keep, she was the one who always thought there was something fishy about her sister’s 500-year-old husband.  She has appeared in every novel in the series…but I can’t remember writing from her point-of-view.   (If I did, it was only a novelty.)  In Blood Colony, she spent much of the book in a coma.

But suddenly, Alex was center stage:  She was the one who would have the strongest emotions during the scene.  She and her brother-in-law have a tense relationship—let’s just say there’s a little bad blood.  And if Alex and Dawit were going to butt heads, why should Lucas be the narrator?

Some of it was pronoun changes:  “He” became “she.”  Then I went through the section and whittled out everything that was specific to Lucas’s experiences.  Wasn’t much, it turned out.  I changed his meaty dialogue to Alex’s.   Piece of cake.

And… voila!  The emotions in the scene became turbo-charged.  The surface changes inspired psychological insights into Alex that deepened her character and interactions, and she sparked much better with Dawit.

I love multiple point-of-view.  But in a series with a large cast, knowing who should be in the room—and whom the readers should experience the events with—makes a big difference.


I couldn’t write without music!

My Soul to Keep and The Living Blood were African music and reggae.  Joplin’s Ghost, of course, was ragtime.  The Between was salsa.

Here’s my Blood  Prophecy soundtrack so far…

“O Fortuna”  (Carl Orff)

You’ve heard “O Fortuna” whether you know it or not.  It’s the operatic, end-of-the-world theme music that has been played in countless movie trailers and film clips.  That piece got stuck in my head while I was writing the proposal for Blood Prophecy, so of course it had to make my writing soundtrack.

“Dies Irae”  (Giuseppe Verdi’s REQUIEM)

“Demon Seed”  (Nine Inch Nails)

“The Day the World Went Away”  (Nine Inch Nails)

“You Gotta Be”  (Des’ree)

The music is all mostly skewed to my antagonist’s world right now because I’m about to introduce him.  For my protagonists, I’m looking for music reminiscent of a fictitious artist named Phoenix I created in my novel Joplin’s Ghost:  conscious, smart, funky, a bit of rock.  And a message of positivity.

Alicia Keys will definitely be represented on the writing soundtrack.  I’m also hearing suggestions for india.arie, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Meshell Ndgeocello and others.  I’ll have to check out iTunes for the right songs.

I discovered Nine Inch Nails playing Rock Band, and I love the gritty mood and instrumentals.  I found “O Fortuna!” and other classical themes on a CD called MUSIC TO DIE FOR, recorded by the Czecho-Slovak radio symphony.

Back to writing!



Filed under On writing

5 responses to “A character finds her voice

  1. Ade

    whenever i have to really think about what i am doing i also need music….recently found out that i like blues and just didn’t know. found the love of blues since i have been teaching a ex class for elders and some of them like blues…one of my favs is Keb’Mo. have even begun to listen to hip hop…however good music is always a good back drop to staying focused.
    going to look for “between” and l.a. banks book today think it is save for me to go to half price books or borders now…not feeling like a word junkie …today…

  2. Carla

    Hi TD-
    I have love/hate feelings for this site. Love becasue it gives me a peek into the next book and how you breath life into these remarkable stories. Hate because I can’t get my hands on “Blood Prophecy” fast enough, arrrgh, LOL. Thanks so much and keep it coming.

  3. TripleL

    I’d like to recommend that you add some of the following to your writing music: Rachelle Ferrell, Roberta Flack, Laura Izibor, Zim Ngqawana, Teena Marie, Nina Simone, Etta Jones, Etta James Minnie Ripperton, and some more Nina Simone.

    Thanks for the mention of “Music to Die For.” I sampled it and loved it.

  4. Carla

    O Fortuna, sounds like the perfect writing music for your new African Immortal books. I can understand the selction completely. The music took me to that scene in “Blood Colony” towards the end when everything was being revealed. Love it!

  5. There is an artist named Imani Coppola who I think would fit perfectly for your character, Phoenix. She has quite a few solo albums but recently she formed a group with a DJ. The group name is Little Jackie. This is an artist page that facebook created or her; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Imani-Coppola/108512412503078?ref=ts&v=desc. And here’s a link to the Little Jackie page; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Imani-Coppola/108512412503078?ref=ts&v=desc#!/littlejackie?ref=ts

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