Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On Writing, On Having Written

Sharon Wildwind

This morning’s writing problem: how am I going to get my uniformed police officer character, Avivah Rosen, out of her make-work public relations assignment and into being the driver for the detective investigating a strange murder?

The detective’s usual driver calls in sick and someone picks her name from the roster. Too easy. It has the element of random chance and it doesn’t cost Avivah anything. If she wants to be part of this investigation, she has to pay a price.

She barges into the Chief’s office and demands to be given real police work. Too melodramatic, and not at all like real life. She’d pay a price all right, probably be ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.

So, no random chance and no hutzpah bordering on insanity. Maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong end. Detective Albern has heard good things about her. What? He asks for her to be assigned to him. Why? He wants something from her. What?

What can I do to make Albern different from Avivah’s previous bosses? One was a self-made, confident military police officer who recognized Avivah’s abilities and let her have her head as long as she turned in good work. The second was a throughly rotten person who almost wrecked her career. The third was a decent human being, but was beset with own problems to the point that he couldn’t help advance her career.

That’s what’s I’ve never done, a boss who will advancing her career. Avivah has been whining about wanting to do real police work, all right let’s make Albern an uber-boss. Tough. Demanding. Fair. Someone who will run Avivah ragged, but she’ll come out of the experience a better cop. How did Detective Albern get that way? Rule one: avoid all the police cliches. None of his relatives were cops killed in the line of duty. He’s not doing payback for getting his partner, or an innocent civilian killed. I’ve already got one character who loves his job to the point of near insanity and one who’s too smart for his own good, so those two motivations are out. He’s not terminally ill and desperate to leave a younger cop to carry on the tradition. He doesn’t have a five-year-old who was crippled by a stray bullet during a police gun battle. He’s not an alcoholic. He’s not looking for fast promotion, so he can enter politics.

It looks like I was wrong. This morning’s writing problem isn’t how to get Avivah on Albern’s team, but why Albern became a detective in the first place. Once I know who he is, he’ll have a reason for requesting Avivah on his team and my problem will be solved.

He really does need a first name . . .Nate is a nice name and I haven’t used “N” for a first name for one of the characters in this book yet. Nate Albern. Nathanial Albern. Detective Nathanial (Nate) Albern. Fifty-four years old. Happily married, with grown kids. Second marriage, I think. First wife died young. . . .What if his first wife was named Avivah? With an “h” at the end, which is the more unusual spelling? Hmm. . .

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