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Weldon Writes ... Almost a Blog

The Evolution of Flash Conwright

https://www.amazon.com/Plague-Shadows-Written-Remains-Anthology/dp/0998519626/

Smart Rhino Publications, in collaboration with the Written Remains Writers Guild, just published the anthology, A Plague of Shadows. The book includes diverse stories and poems about "haunts and the haunted," written by the WR guild members as well as guest writers. One of my stories, "Vindictive," is in the mix.

 

The chief character of the tale is Francis "Flash" Conwright, a hit man who also happens to be a serial killer. I introduced the character in a tale titled "Welcome to the Food Chain," which centered around the theme of steamed crabs. Yep, crabs. (And Conwright is allergic to shellfish.)

The story was published in several publications before landing in the Smart Rhino anthology, Uncommon Assassins. Conwright was first described in a bit of dialog at the beginning of the story:



"Flash, huh?" The fat man leveled his eyes at the slender man sitting across the table from him. "Why do they call you Flash? Like that comic book guy in the red tights?"

 

"Something like that. I don't like to waste time," Conwright said. "I was a high school track star. Got the nickname back then. That was in another life, a distant time."

 

 

I liked Conwright so much that I resurrected him in "Right Hand Man," which brought more of his somewhat sick humor to the forefront. He proved to be a more fully developed character in this story, and it was a hoot to write. The story appeared in the first Written Remains anthology published by Smart Rhino, Someone Wicked.

 

So, Conwright reappears yet again, this time in A Plague of Shadows. Here he faces a pesky, vindictive ghost that attempts (and succeeds to some degree) in ruining his business. I added more to this story involving Solomon "Solly" Ventura, who is Conwright's liaison for orchestrating contracts with their clients. Solly has contacts in organized crime, but particularly likes assigning Conwright with freelance work. He and Conwright have been friends for years, and I think their dialogue adds humor and a better glimpse at their relationship. At least, that's what I was striving for in the story.

 

Don't be surprised if Conwright shows up in any of my future work. I really like the guy! 

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Of Characters and Cobbler's Elves

If you know any writers, you’ve probably heard something like the following: “I started to write a scene in my novel, pretty much following my outline. But then one of the characters went into a totally different direction. Before long, the characters ending up writing the scene for me, in a way I never expected. And it’s better because of it!”

Non-writers scratch their heads at this. Is this some form of magic? Is there really a muse that usurps the writer’s brain and writes the story? Is this something like the cobbler’s elves?

I was just working on a chapter in my police procedural novel, tentatively titled Harvester of Sorrow. In the chapter, the body of a child is discovered in a remote area of a county park, and the murder may be related to similar murders in a nearby city. This brings up a case of jurisdiction (county vs. city police departments) that I hadn’t considered earlier, and this required that I create a new character, a detective from the county PD. The character was originally only a walk-on, but I quickly realized he was a more significant character, and he changed the chapter as I wrote it. He will appear in subsequent chapters.

Magic??

The January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest includes an interview with Harlan Coben, best-selling author of numerous thrillers such as Tell No One, Just One Look, Long Lost, Hold Tight, and Caught. During the interview, WD asked, “So do your characters ever surprise you—do they become real to you in that way?” He answered, “Oh, they surprise me all the time. … I don’t like it when people make it seem more magical. It’s not. It’s work. It can be wonderful, and it can be thrilling, but it’s not really magical.”


When I first read this, I honed in on Coben’s claim, “It’s work.” I know what he means. Characters may seem to take on lives of their own, but only after the writer has given great thought to those characters, has worked with them in the story, has fully developed them. Maybe, as a writer, you’ve learned something more about the character as a scene progresses, and the character moves into that new area as your broaden that character’s role in the story. Magic? I don’t think so. It comes from hard work, from the writer being intimate with the characters he/she has created.

Maybe, as the characters have matured in your mind, they no longer fit the outline you originally devised, simply because it forces them to act out of character. This may be a surprise, that a character may go through door B instead of door A as you originally envisioned. But, it’s really no surprise at all—you’re subliminal thoughts were headed in that direction as the character was being developed. No magic. Just hard work.

When characters take over a story, it’s almost always a good and desired turn of events. As a writer, go with the flow. Think of it as a reward for the work you’ve already put into your work-in-progress!
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