Writer’s Craft # 125 – A whole new villain

Anne E Johnson

Anne E. Johnson celebrates the release of Blue Diamond Delivery, sequel to her humorous, noir-inspired science fiction novel Green Light Delivery from Candlemark & Gleam Publishing. She writes speculative and historical fiction for adults and children, and has had over thirty short stories published in The Future Fire, Shelter of Daylight, Drunk Monkeys, and elsewhere.

When I first wrote Blue Diamond Delivery, one of my beta readers complained about some aspects of the plot. However, he couldn’t articulate what was causing the problem beyond that he didn’t quite buy my main character’s motivation. I puzzled over it, and made some small changes, but I knew I still hadn’t hit the meat of the problem.

A writer with a fantastic editor is a blessed writer, indeed. I sent the novel to Kate Sullivan at Candlemark & Gleam. Among her thousand editorial comments was the observation that all the plot threads were loose. They needed something to hold them together so they all led toward one place.

Seeing it in those terms, I realized just what was missing: I needed a proper villain! And so, in the deepest gut-renovation of a novel I’ve ever attempted, I wrote in an additional major character. The scariest part was making sure this character was connected at every point in the pre-existing plot and sub-plots. But on the whole it was a fascinating thing to try and rewarding to achieve.

What is the biggest, deepest change you’ve ever made to a manuscript that you thought was basically finished?


7 thoughts on “Writer’s Craft # 125 – A whole new villain

  1. I had two characters meet in a near-to-last chapter. It was just a way of transferring information between plot threads. But when they met, sparks flew! I had to go back and rewrite the one of them who I hadn’t even known was gay… and their love affair became the core of the next novel in the series.

  2. After receiving the same critique from many beta readers, I chose to start the story about a third of the way through. All the front end detail had to be re-worked and inserted as back story. Back story is always tricky. You can’t dump too much too soon, but you need enough for the story to make sense. It was a lot of work, but a terrific learning experience.

  3. Thanks, Anne. Just reading your comments made me think about what was missing in my novel in progress. While not a villain, I have had to re-think the whole progression of characters, motivation, who is the good and who is bad, and who is both. More work (aargh), but that is just fine.

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