Tag Archives: Robert B Parker

Kill Your Darlings (maybe I misunderstood)

“Kill your darlings.”

If you’ve been in the writing game for any length of time you’ve heard this quote. Some people attribute it to Allen Ginsberg, others to William Faulkner, some believe Stephen King said it. The earliest known use of the phrase actually came from Arthur Quiller-Couch, who used it in his 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing.”

darlingsRegardless of who said it when…the context of the quote is the need for writers to be relentless in the editing of their work…to eliminate unnecessary fluff…to get rid of every paragraph, sentence and word that doesn’t contribute something essential to the story.

Given the work of King, Faulkner and the others, I’d say it’s advice worth following.

I think I may have taken it a bit too literally while working on a short story this week. The story will be included in my upcoming anthology tentatively titled The Path of a Bullet. The stories in the anthology will focus on my anti-hero, Ike. Most of them will be written by me and there will be a few written by other writers who happen to be fans of Ike.

As I was writing this particular story I decided to kill one of the characters who has appeared in all of my books.

The killing wasn’t necessary.

I could have made the story work without having a good character meet their demise.

It also wasn’t gratuitous.

I think the story is much better because of it.

Either way…it’s still tough to kill one of your darlings.

When I wrote my first novel, Living the Dream, I created what would inadvertently become a cast of characters who worked together to right wrongs perpetrated upon innocent people.

Living the DreamThe unlikely band of Samaritans is led by the aforementioned Ike, an ex-Navy SEAL who has a tendency to bend the rules a bit in order to see that order is preserved. As one reader described him in a review… “Robin Hood on a Harley.”

Ike is the right-hand-man to a wheelchair bound bookie named Ralph Donabedian. Despite the fact that Ralph is, for all intents and purposes, a criminal, he is the unofficial mayor of Flagler Beach. Nothing happens in the small beachside community unless he allows it.

Whenever Ike needs help he calls on his best friend, and resident bad-ass, Brewski. With ties to a local motorcycle gang and a bit of an attitude problem, Brewski tends to lean toward a shoot first, shoot again, have a cigarette, and then ask questions policy. Fortunately, Ike keeps him reined in…most of the time.

Perpetually perched on the back of Brewski’s Harley is Didi—a wise-cracking, chain-smoking, no-nonsense biker-bitch who would like to slap the stupid out of everybody (because everybody is a dumb-ass).

Making fewer appearances than the others, but nonetheless an important member of the group is Bob Butler. Another close friend of Ike’s, Bob Butler (who is always addressed by both his first and last names, never one or the other) is an honest family man who turns a blind eye to some questionable tactics out of respect for Ike’s motives.

So, as I was saying…I recently wrote a short story for my Ike anthology and I decided that it was time to kill one of my darlings.

I’m not going to tell you which one, you’ll have to read the book to find out. For now I’ll just call them “X” (pretty dramatic, huh?).

I will tell you this—it’s not Ike – that would be like Elmore Leonard killing Raylan Givens…Robert B. Parker killing Spenser or JK Rowling killing Harry Potter.

Moving forward I’ll have to figure out what, if anything, I should do to fill the void left by X. Fortunately writing books is not like cooking. If you don’t have a key ingredient required by your recipe you could end up tipping a driver for delivering your meal.

With books, the loss of a character does not have to be the end of the story. In fact it could lead to a new, maybe even better story.

I guess we’ll find out when I write my next book.

Between you and me, I’ve already got an idea of how to move forward and I’m pretty sure it will be a seamless transition.

In the meantime, The Path of a Bullet is scheduled to be released before Christmas. My beta-readers have enjoyed all of the stories so far, so I’m sure you will too.

This is not the cover of Path of a Bullet...it's just a cool picture.

This is not the cover of Path of a Bullet…it’s just a cool picture.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Confession Time: Ike Was an Accident

While preparing for our weekly radio show, Friday Night Writes (Friday night from 8-10 EST on FlaglerBeachRadio.com) Armand and I were throwing around some potential discussion topics when Armand suggested Creating your biggest character and giving it the playful subtitle The Ike Syndrome – as a nod to my biggest character.

I started thinking about the origins of Ike and I quickly realized that I would have no great insight to share as to how my larger-than-life protector-of-Flagler-Beach came into being…because I never had any designs on creating a character of such mythical proportions.

Okay – maybe mythical is a bit much, but you get the point.

Here’s the story behind the story…

…cue flashback effects and eerie music…

When I began writing my first novel, Living the Dream, I never intended it to be released.

Living the Dream

I’ve told the story about how I had a crazy dream which became the jumping-off point for the book, and that much is true…but what I haven’t told too many people is that I was really writing it as a way to pass time.

I had been living in Florida for only 5 or 6 months at the time. My social life was non-existent and there were many hours to kill, so I filled them with writing as opposed to watching TV. I assumed that when I got to the end, the story would spend the rest of time collecting virtual dust as a file on my computer’s hard drive.

Since I had no plans for my hobby/project to ever see the light of day, I decided to have some fun with it by naming characters after my friends and family. It was fun seeing how many I could squeeze in.

When Jimmy, the antagonist, needed a forged passport and credit cards I had to introduce a person with some black-market connections (Ralph – local bookie and mob type). Since Jimmy was not the type to associate with the criminal element I needed a go-between…so I threw in Ralph’s right-hand-man Ike.

Ike was named after one of my closest friends and barely had any significant role in the story (which is why I never bothered giving him a full name).

Eventually I convinced myself that Living the Dream was worthy of being published, so I started the process to make it happen – and in the meantime began working on book number 2 – Water Hazard.

The plot for Water Hazard came about from reading an incredibly insightful and somewhat scary non-fiction book called Water Follies, which dealt with the damage we are doing to the planet by over-pumping ground water.

Water Hazard

I had a good lead-in to the story where the protagonist, Steve, is inadvertently tasked with rescuing a kidnapped teenage boy. A mission that subsequently lands him in hot water with a crooked land developer, putting his life, as well as the life of the boy and his mother, in grave danger (is there another kind?).

My problem was that Steve needed help.

That’s when I remembered the enigmatic Ike character.

I decided that Ike would prove very useful to Steve since he had access (via his boss Ralph) to all sorts of resources…not all of them legal.

This is where the legend of Ike really began to grow.

My next book, Pump It Up also included Ike and his bag-of-tricks, as did No Good Deed and Backseat to Justice.

Suddenly I had written 5 books in 3 years and in so doing created a bit of a legend.

tee shirt front

I have actually had women ask me to introduce them to Ike. (I haven’t figured out a good reply to that one yet!)

So when it comes time to discuss the topic of creating your biggest character on the radio with Armand…I guess I’ll have to come clean about how Ike was not so much a creation as a happy accident, sort of like the wheel or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

For all I know that’s the way it happens.

Maybe Robert B. Parker had no idea what he was setting up when he wrote the first Spenser book. Did Tim Dorsey envision Serge A. Storms as almost being a household name? How about Janet Evanovich? Do you think she knew that Stephanie Plum would take on a life of her own?

Want to read more about Ike? click here

surf 17Tune in Friday night at 8:00 EST to hear our discussion – and if you’re an author…leave some feedback below about your biggest character and how they came about. You can also interact with us live while we are on the air through our facebook page.

As always – thank you for reading

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