Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Clark Kenting Characters

Last night, I finished a revision of Mutants and came to a realization. Sometimes, I give my characters these amazing powers and then I either don't provide them the opportunities to use them or I brush over the scenes when they do.

I write Clark Kent's story rather than Superman's.

In some ways, this might appeal to my audience depending on who they are and how far I go with this. The average YA might find more to like and understand in a character with downplayed "exceptional" characteristics. I mean, that's the appeal of Smallville for the most part, in my opinion. It's first and foremost the story of Clark Kent. On the other hand, Clark Kent is such a fascinating person because he's Superman... isn't he? Or is it because he's both?

I think there is a balance there that sometimes I find and sometimes I don't.

For example, I've mentioned I'll be doing a "revision" of Secrets of Skin and Stone for the film agent at my agency. This is going to probably be something I address. My husband, when he read this book, had two primary comments.

First, he suggested that one of the flying scenes be shifted to be from Piper's POV rather than my gargoyle Gris's. Flying is nothing new to Gris... or Superman, so telling it from his POV will downplay the excitement of it. In the first Superman movie, when Superman takes Lois Lane flying the narration briefly slips into Lois's head while the song "Can You Read My Mind" plays in the background. You hear what Lois is thinking while you're seeing what she is experiencing.

It seems like a natural choice in narration to go with the most exciting voice in play in a scene.

Apparently, it wasn't, and I suspect it's because I'm a girl, I focused on Gris's emotions and his worries that Piper would think he was a freak. Piper is flying for the first time in her life! In her life! And I slipped into Gris's head instead. I chose emotion over excitement.

The second thing my husband suggested was the ending where I had the opportunity for Gris to use his powers as a "gargoyle" and I didn't; I went a different way and went for a more human approach to an endgame. I'm not sure if I want to change that, but it's a possibility in a major revision.

In the book I just finished revising, Mutants, Lucas has super-human powers. He's faster, stronger, can hear better, can see farther... but he doesn't use those powers as often you'd think he would. Why? Because his writer is telling the Clark Kent story. I've added a scene at the end to address that, but I suspect, the more I think on it, I need to punch that scene up and focus on Superman.

With both Gris and Lucas, I had the opportunity to go with Superman, and I focused on Clark Kent. As I said, I think this is honestly because I'm a girl. My first instinct as a writer is to still analyze the emotions.

Another reason I think I sometimes go with the Clark Kent persona is because I write "pantsing.' I think a plotter would know ahead of time where to place the focus in a scene. It's something I can work on in revision of course... or I might do some plotting in the future.

My writing style seems to evolve with practice, and this is just another one of those things I'm learning: the balance between telling the right story and Clark Kenting a character.

This week in writing I'll be taking revision notes from betas and doing a final revision on Curse Me A Story and sending it to Sarah. It'll be strange to have that off my "to do" list.


  1. It's awesome that you've gotten so much done on Mutants! Go you!

    I am a little envious of your productivity, but I'm REALLY excited to get to read your books so, I think it evens out. :)

  2. Miriam, thanks! It's awesome to do a compare document and see how much has changed with a major revision like this. It's pretty nifty.

  3. Oh... and this is, by no means, a new manuscript. I think I wrote Mutants two years ago, so I'm working through my backlist one-by-one and fixing minor and major things. I wish I was working on something new. I want to work on something new. *eyes dystopian and wishes muse listened to reason*