I think I broke something.
I’ve been working on this novel and I’m about 90% done and want to throw it all out. The characters are pretty much cardboard, but that’ll get fixed in re-write. Your first pass thru is a o tike watching a TV pilot: the actors haven’t quite got it, and the characters evolve over time. The bigger problem is I want to put more violence in it and I can’t figure out how. I mean, most violence is just stupid. You could go your entire life without being chased by a van full of heavily-armed gunmen. Most anything I think up reads totally contrived and, well, like B.S., so I just delete days of typing and bang my head against the fridge.
Is it just me or are most fight scenes just totally stupid? Even when I was writing comics, I always felt obligated to get some action in there, but that’s where the story usually started to feel like a comic book. In real life, violence breaks out rarely, sporadically, and usually quite quickly and it’s done. The French Connection car chase is the rarest of oddities, and the large assortment of disposable bad guys leaping out of windows just seems so *done.* Once upon a time, Frank Miller used to be fairly brilliant at this (and maybe he still is): at making violence poetic and believable (my favorite: a locked-jail cell scene with that newspaper reporter from Daredevil). Now, I’m sure he was borrowing heavily from Japanese comics and film, but nowadays, everything from Tom Cruise films to the Bourne films to Kill Bill seems over-the-top and contrived. I can write it, but I don’t believe it. The only fun you ever get from writing a novel (which pays pretty much nothing and takes forever) is you get to scrape along the cellar of your soul, writing something you actually believe in. Much as I want the bullets to fly, I don’t want to pollute the work with this phony crap, such that the reader gets to chapter eight and groans, “Now comes the phony crap.”
In Bourne, there’s these spy-types that are after Matt Damon, and they send one unbelievably super-deadly assassin after another. Of course, Damon has to beat them up, which puts the lie to how deadly they are. My lead character is fairly kick-ass herself (and, hopefully, convincingly so), but any bad guys I send after her have to get whuppped or (a) my gal’s not so tough and (b) it’s a very short story.
Also, you know, from page one, the bad guys are gonna lose. From page one of any story, you know that either the bad guy’s going to lose or the good guy is gonna get killed in the process of, you guessed it, making the bad guy lose. There is virtually no suspense anymore.
It’s possible I’m trying too hard. Every turn in the plot where some cliché I hate presents itself, I kick it over. Which gives the plot some fairly interesting twists, some the reader will see coming that, hopefully, will blow up in their face later on. Trying to outpace reader expectation is probably the worst part about writing, but you’re also trying to write a book you, yourself, would find interesting. Part of what makes reading comics so difficult for me is the action scenes, where the writers put on their “comic book hat” and start doing silly things like dressing terrorists in uniforms in NYC and having them ride on the outside of an elevated subway train. No offense to the writer, but I checked out of the story.
Denny O’Neil once told me that he’d more or less lost his ability to suspend his disbelief and write things that were just utter nonsense. People trying to shake Batman’s hand. In the real world, nobody wants to shake Batman’s hand. People *run* from Batman and Batman prefers to not stand around and have his hand shaken. Of curse, in the real world, there is no Batman. Or, if there were, there’d be dozens upon dozens of clowns who’d dress up like him and get shot in the face trying to *be* him just so they could get their picture in the paper or, perhaps, have adoring crowds shake their hands.
In the real world, Batman would get sued. A lot. And real cops would figure out who he was in about an hour or so.