Anatomy of a novel, part two

Way back in January, I told you about an idea that I had, and how I was going to develop it. If you don’t remember, or you’re new here, this is the link

Anyhow, I’ve been rather busy with the launch of my latest novel and finishing off a half-written one, but I have managed to get a little more done on the project. It will be a Sci-fi thriller, a tale of love, loss and redemption. I don’t really know where it will go, or even if it will make it past the novella stage but the work I’ve done so far is promising.

To recap, we have Dan, a contract killer and Lydia, a petty thief. They’re thrown together by circumstances. Dan is jaded by his life and suspects that he has outlasted his usefulness. Lydia wants no part of his world. They are offered a chance. One job; working together, they have to complete it to stay alive.

The first challenge here is to create a world and the backstory that makes the actions of the characters plausible. Dan, as an ex-soldier is originally attracted to the life of a hit-man because he’s bored without the adrenalin rush of combat. I’ve tried to give him a mysterious past as well, some reason why he behaves as he does. It helps explain why he is willing to engage in criminality, it might just be the thing that comes to his rescue (or proves to be his fatal flaw) later on. Very often, you can justify actions which are not necessarily pleasant or even legal by making your character someone who the reader can emphasise with. If you can get the reader to see their point of view, you can persuade them to understand their motivation.

Secondly, I want the pairing of Dan and Lydia to become a kind of symbiotic thing. A good sidekick is invaluable to the narrative, for reasons which I’ve discussed many times before. Here’s a post about sidekicks.

Chalk and cheese is always a good starting point for a relationship, hence my two characters opposing points of view, which I can exploit as the story progresses. I can set up the action, solve problems and create tension if one of them never knows what the others reaction to a situation will be. Or even if they do. Ultimately, the whole partnership can become a single character. They may even become emotionally entangled, which in itself can lead to tension in the plot.

All that’s before I start on the setting, the nuts and bolts of the environment. By that, I mean the planets, the transport and the way of life of the general population. I enjoy that part almost as much as developing the plot, creating a galactic civilisation is FUN!!! You can base it on what we have now and expand it in so many different ways. A thing that is insignificant in our world can take on importance, or vice versa. As long as it all sounds real and is based on a recognisable fact, there is no limit to what you can create.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on with the development of the project, once I have the basic concept in place, it will get a lot easier to move the narrative along.

A new extract,

To show you what I’m writing, this is the part where our two main characters meet. Dan is about to assassinate a criminal called Kalindra, he’s waiting for her in a hotel room. He has retrieved a gun, hidden for him in the bathroom. Little does he know what will happen next……….


“Wait in there,” he showed me a door. “I’ll call you when she’s ready to see you.”

The room was in darkness, I turned the light on, pulled the package from my waistband. I unwrapped a short-barrelled revolver, it looked like something from a museum. Where was my Restreller? My weapon of choice was a marksman’s pistol, twenty shots in the double magazine and one in the chamber, a hair trigger and super accurate to about fifty yards. In my hands, I could choose which eye to put my shot through. This was a piece of junk, with a range measured in feet. I’d have to get up close, I guess I knew that already but with only six shots, it wouldn’t help me discourage pursuit. There was no silencer, no spare ammunition, not that I could reload it easily anyway. I was cursing my luck, wondering whether Hesta was right and I was being set up to fail, when I heard a noise from behind the couch.

I swung the gun in an automatic gesture and turned the lights off. I had seen enough to find my way around. Keeping to the dark side, away from the thin curtains at the moonlit window I crept along the wall till I was level with the couch. I picked a book from the shelf and threw it across the room. I pounced on the shadow as I saw the shadowy head turn away to see what had made the noise. I grabbed at the black shape. The woollen cap came off and thick wavy hair spilled out. My hand was over the mouth, the lips felt full and soft, no trace of stubble on the top lip. I placed the pistol at the side of her head and whispered, “no noise, nod if you understand.” The head gave a small jerk. I released my grip.

“Who the hells are you?” I asked. Silence. “Answer me, are you one of Kalindra’s mob?”

“Who’s Kalindra?” It sounded genuine to me, there was no pleading, no hesitation. If she had been part of Kalindra’s crew, surely she would be shouting for reinforcements at this point?

“Are you hotel security?” she asked, “I’ve paid off Thorsen, check with him.”

“I’m not security, let me guess, you’re a thief?”

“Yes,” she said, “aren’t you?”

Oh, this was great, I’d found a burglar, just when I was about to assassinate someone, she would have to go as well. It was a shame but this was no time for sentiment. “Sorry,” I said, “but you’re in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”

I was just taking up the slack on the trigger when the door opened. “Stay down, stay quiet,” I said as I hid the gun and headed for the window.

“Maxwell,” called a voice, “hang tight, Kalindra will be a few moments. Why have you got the lights off?”

There was a click, the room was flooded with light. I had managed to get to the window. “I’m looking out at the sky,” I said, “you can see it better with the lights off.”

“You’re crazy, you should fit right in,” he said, shaking his head as he shut the door.

“You can come out now,” I said walking back towards where she had been.

She rose cautiously, she had a hotel uniform on, white blouse, black trousers and monogrammed apron. “You’re not going to shoot me, are you?”

“No,” I lied, I should have done it already, the longer I waited the harder it would be. But that only left me five shots. “Who are you and why are you here?”

“I’m Lydia,” she whispered. “You said it yourself, I’m a burglar, I work this hotel once every couple of months, I pretend to be one of the staff, go into the rooms and see what I can lift. I’m not greedy, just a skim, a couple of notes from a wallet, maybe an earring, nothing worth reporting. It’s worthwhile when you look at the total.”

She looked at the gun in my hand, realisation dawned. “You’re here to kill someone, what was her name? Oh yeah, Kalindra, whoever she is. You’re here to kill her, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and I can’t let you live with that knowledge. Like I said, I’m sorry.”

“Hang on a moment,” there was no fear in her voice, she was cool. “One question, before you shoot me. Just how do you think you’re getting away?”


If I wasn’t so tied up with other things, I’d be blasting out the words. I’ve got so many ideas for this one. I’m keeping notes as they flood in. There is a lot more world-building to do, a chase and a getaway to devise from this scene. That’s all before I get to the single paragraph that started this story off. And who knows where it will go from there? not me!

Stay tuned, if I get chance to work on it, I’ll let you know how I get on, with a few more notes on the process of creation.

Meanwhile, please join me again for another Showcase post on Thursday.


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