Welcome to the first entry of On My Creative Process series, a series where I share some of my creative process with you.
I recently wrote and released a novel (technically a novella), you may have heard of it or you may not have, it’s called The Novel Killer. It’s an experimental comedy-drama that I originally wrote just one hundred percent for fun, almost as a joke (the original first draft is a lot more farcical and jokey than the final draft that I released in November). I find this to be true with another completed work of mine (although not released yet, due to saving it for ), a short story titled “A Minor Accident.” I won’t go into detail on that story in this post to spare you the FOMO from not reading an unreleased story. Anyways, let’s get to the subject of this post: Jokes to Drama.
I still consider The Novel Killer a comedy, so why include it in this post? Well because somewhere between the first draft and the final I discovered the heart of the story. In the first draft the character of Meadow was nothing more than a conduit for Mary to share her long and storied career through as The Novel Killer. Meadow had no stake in the story, not until the final “excerpt” from Meadow’s book, Fallen Star. To those reading the first draft it would have been quite a whiplash reveal to see that this rather one-dimensional character of Meadow, who they only know to be a freelance reporter, now has personal stakes in the story. To add to that, while all the other story excerpts had been farces, the excerpt I originally wrote for the Fallen Star section was practically a six-thousand word short story detailing everything about Meadow and Brooke’s life and framed around Brooke’s “Earthcoming Day” (the day of her arrival to Earth as a baby, think Superman) leading up to Brooke’s unexpected death by Mary. I honestly loved that chapter and I might release it as a “deleted scene” sometime in the future. But, as you might know, the final draft is much different. In the final draft, Meadow is taken to space as bait for Brooke by an over the top and goofy supervillain, and well since this is The Novel Killer, things don’t go as the Plot willed.
Why the change from a six-thousand word backstory to a comical excerpt from a superhero story? Well, the answer is restructuring. On top of wanting to keep the excerpt from Fallen Star shorter, closer in length to that of the other excerpts, I wanted to bring that drama and backstory to the main conflict between Meadow and Mary, beginning with the “Last Published Blog Post of Meadow Church” as a prologue. This was a deliberate choice made by feedback from beta readers of my first draft who were confused why Meadow as interviewing a dangerous woman like Mary in the first place. This brings the drama to the foreground and lets the excerpts provide the levity needed between Meadow and Mary’s conflict.
I also cut back on the jokes in the FBS’s endnotes. Originally I had a lot more endnotes with a lot more dry humor from the FBS. I opted to cutting these down due to the changing of tone in the book as I worked on the story between Meadow and Mary.
Of course jokes outside of the excerpts do still remain in the final draft, such as Mary’s dark sense of humor, Sir Doyle (site note: he’s actually a character from an excerpt in the first draft that I cut completely from the final draft. I actually really liked that excerpt titled The Sword of Might, but I had to cut it due to it providing nothing to the story other than a set-up for a joke about Mary offing a parody of Ned Stark in another fantasy tale), and many more. But overall, the landscape of the interview sections changed completely to make room for tension and drama, and overall I think the story improved by that.
If it wasn’t for having beta readers and giving myself plenty of time and space between my first draft of The Novel Killer and the final (I went a whole year between finishing the first draft and rewriting it), this shift probably wouldn’t have been as drastic. The same could be said about the unreleased “A Minor Accident,” the space and outside feedback allowed me to see deeper themes and drama within the story that I couldn’t see while I was pounding out the first draft. So what does this mean? Well it means that for my creative process, my first drafts tend to be fun to write for me and might be a fun read for others, but they lack the depth and stakes needed for a compelling story. A lot of my short stories on my author website are light hearted, albeit sometimes absurd or dark, comedies because those are first drafts. If I were to revisit them, then maybe their depth can be expanded upon.
They say that tragedy + time = comedy. I supposed in my case, comedy + time = tragedy (or drama at least, I don’t want to write tragic stories).