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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Story Energy

Every book seems to resonate with a different energy. I think I knew this in the back of my mind for a while because I was vaguely aware of how each story affected me, but this morning, I started contemplating the entire picture.

As a reader, I would pick up books to read depending on my mood. Some days I needed a comedy, other days I wanted something dark and intense. I'm an alpha hero gal, but there are times I'd rather see a beta hero and I'd choose an author who'd deliver that. But the energy a reader sees and/or senses is completely different from the energy the author of that work feels. At least that's my impression after all the reader email I've gotten. I have no idea why that is and I have no idea whether it's different for other writers or if it's just me.

Some stories seem to take a lot of energy to write, other books seem to give energy. Take my most recent book as an example. In the Midnight Hour drained me and I'm not talking about the intense drive I was on for three months to finish it in time to make my deadline. This is different.

The story is darker than I usually write. Is that the X Factor? Is it the characters? Or is it something else completely?

Through a Crimson Veil was a story that gave me energy. I was on a short deadline, exhausted most of the time like I have been since 2003, but no matter how physically tired I was, I remember there being a certain energy that buoyed me up. Mika was funny and unpredictable to me and I'd say maybe that was why, except that Deke was a smart ass and I found him entertaining too.

Maybe it's because Midnight Hour was the battle between good and evil. But then all my books have that to some degree or another. In this story, it was Ryne's job to battle evil, but the focus is on her capture of her former mentor. In Crimson Veil, it was the dark demons (also a battle between good and evil, I think). The Power of Two had the trillionaire who'd kidnapped Cai's parents, and to a lesser extent, the pirates of the raft cities and the UCE.

So it doesn't seem to be the characters or necessarily the story. What is it then that changes the energy of a book? And why do readers feel something completely different while reading it than I did while writing it?

Ravyn's Flight was exhausting--I think--but because it was my first book and I didn't have a deadline, I was able to write it at a slow enough pace that I didn't feel that drain strongly. TPOT was another book that left me drained at the end of it, but also so incredibly satisfied. Partially because I made an incredibly tight deadline, but also because I'm damn proud of that story. (Not that I'm not proud of all of them, but TPOT is probably the most complicated book I've ever written with three plotlines woven together. This book was mentally draining because of all the threads I had to keep straight. A reviewer mentioned that EN was complicated with its three plotlines, but EN was actually simple for me to handle compared to TPOT.)

Sorry, I digressed a bit. Anyway, back on topic--Crimson Veil was an energizing book even while the deadline left me exhausted. Eternal Nights, well, that one is hard to decide. I broke my foot while writing it, had surgery and was dealing with pain long after I turned it in. So I was drained, but I'm not sure if that was from the book itself or not.

But Midnight Hour--completely, totally, utterly draining. And I love this book. For two years, I wanted to write it. The premise for the hero's situation and his name came to me in 1992. I wrote down the idea in a notebook and dated it. Out of curiosity I checked. But it wasn't until Ryne showed up that I had a story for Deke.

Ryne appeared about three weeks before I finished TPOT. She was demanding. She never interfered with Cai and Jake, but she insisted on talking to me while I drove, while I was in the shower, and before I fell asleep at night. Basically, whenever I wasn't working on TPOT. :-) She wouldn't tell me her name, but I heard all kinds of information about her people and specifically the troubleshooters. That's her job. I didn't get bits of the story, all I got was facts.

And after I turned in TPOT, she didn't care how exhausted I was. She wouldn't leave me alone until I figured out her name and wrote the first four pages of her story. Maybe this is why the book was exhausting to write--Ryne being so demanding and difficult. Except that she was really neither while I was actually writing the bulk of this book. Maybe it was her intensity that drained me. Now that is a possibility. This woman is extremely focused--to put it mildly.

It'll be interesting to get reader email about this book. ;-)

I'd love to know what other writers think is think is the reason why some books are more tiring than others. Heck, I'd love to know if other writers feel the energy of their stories the way I do with mine.

And on a totally different subject, I overslept this morning. I barely had time to chug down a cup of coffee and jump in the shower. I could use some energy right about now because I can't keep my eyes open.