Thursday, May 03, 2012

My Novel's Journey: Gapman: Getting back on the horse

It seems oddly appropriate that with the Avengers movie coming out, I would finally be starting my own superhero novel, Gapman.  Like Live and Let Fly, Gapman is a spoof set in the DragonEye, PI universe.

Ronnie Engleson, a mild-mannered entertainment reporter, visits the set of a superhero play happening in Faerie, where he falls into a vat of magically created toxic waste, gets bitten by a radioactive pixie, and is struck by lightning while crossing the Interdimensional Gap.  The next day, he wakes up with superpowers.
Superpowers, of course, do not always mean super-effectiveness, and Ronnie wrecks a lot of havoc trying to do good for the city of Los Lagos.  The Chief of Police finally calls in Vern to catch the superpowered pain-in-the-behind, but Grace has a better idea.  Someone has put out a contract on Vern and she thinks a superhero could be the back-up he needs.  She convinces Vern to train him instead.  So Vern is stuck with a superpowered pain-in-the-tail for a padawan.
Things are heating up in Los Lagos between the Mundane Purists and the Faerie.  When the secret leader of the Pure Humans comes to town just as the Faerie Pope makes his first historic visit, Vern and his new padawan discover a conspiracy to tear the city apart--and Faerie-Mundane relations with it.  Can Gapman hero-up in time to stop a raging tide of bigotry from destroying his beloved city?

This is an off-the-cuff summary, as you can tell, and reflects my pantster nature.  The characters have not fully revealed their intentions or the evil plot.  (No supervillain this time; Gapman needs time to train up.)

My first challenge this time is simply getting started again after a long break of not writing fiction.  In February, I finished Old Man and the Void, and then had to stop to prepare for the Catholic Writers Conference online and the Live and Let Fly book tour; then I edited Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco, and polished Old Man for crits.  So it was nearly three months before I started Gapman.  I had about 9000 words from a previous start, plus scenes I'd played with in workshops.

First, I read the scenes and start to familiarize myself with the characters.  Then I got some cards and brainstormed more scenes.  I thought it might push me into knowing the book, but after adding a few, I felt like I was shooting blindly, so I stopped.  I finally reverted back to the old standby: BICHOK.  (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.)  I had to make myself just write and trust the characters to lead me.

So far, that's working.  Ronnie led me to his first super-hero adventure (in which he gives a guy a concussion, messes up evidence, and gets Vern and Grace in trouble) and gave me a new angle on the evil plan.

Here's a snippet from that scene.  Ronnie doesn't have a superhero costume yet, and is using a tarp as a cape. (It was raining.)  Vern and Grace are at the police station getting grilled by Detective Vialpando after the adventure:

I wondered briefly if that's why the guy I saw was hanging around.  There was something weird about that bum, but I couldn't put my claw on it.  As a result, I didn't mention him to Vialpando.  Thorough detective he was, he'd probably go find the guy and rough him up for answers he didn't have.  Vialpando stayed just enough on the side of lawfulness and good that he stayed in Captain Santry's good graces, but he was a bully at heart, and lately, he'd been pushing it.
"And that's what I don't get," he voice, though level rang with accusation.  "You say they kidnap the retarded redcap kid--some kind of gang thing, you said--"
"That's what Jose thought, and the boys are Real Humans," Grace replied with insufferable calm.
Vialpando exploded out of the chair and slammed his hands in front of her.  "Then why the hell are the only injured people some John Doe, the three Real Humans on the floor and another kid up on the balcony?"
Grace didn't even blink at his outburst, although her tone took on just a bit of scolding.  She'd battled demigods and demons--and more to the point, had taught Catholic school.  "Perhaps asking them would produce some answers?"
"Maybe when the kid from the balcony wakes up, I will.  What'd you do to him, Grace?  I've got a specialist that says he was knocked back twenty feet and slammed into a concrete wall."

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