Serial effects

Karalee’s Post #44

I love to write in the mystery thriller genre and many of my story ideas seem to center around serial killers and toying with weird reasons that make them do what they do. It probably helps that I have a medical background and a few psychology courses under my belt.

 A couple of years ago my son had a serious bike accident  and loosened and lost teeth as well as a lot of facial skin. Consequently today I found myself sitting in the dental surgeons office while my son had his four wisdom teeth extracted and scar tissue on his top lip removed. It didn’t feel strange at all when I began to think about how my son got to this point in his young life and how we are dealing with the repercussions of his injuries and how to prevent further difficulties. In other words, what should we do to deal with the serial effects of his structural foundation?

You see, some of my son’s difficulty is due to having an under-bite, which means that his lower jaw is longer than his top jaw. Therefore when he flew forward off his bike his lower jaw hit the tarmac hard, and with no protection from his teeth coming together properly, a bottom tooth was knocked out and two top teeth loosened. It was inevitable that contusions, lacerations, and skin loss occurred as his soft skin scraped along the rough road surface, but his structural flaw means that he’s still prone in the future to jaw joint pain and over-wearing of his teeth.

At the present he is left with soft tissue and dental damage that needs further repair. We could work on these issues, but he would still be left with a structural flaw. So, do we leave it and see what happens, or go into preventative mode and align his teeth and jaws and his jaw joint (the TMJ)?

Our choice is prevention.

Today was the first step, then it’s braces for a year followed by jaw surgery (apparently it’s not as bad as the braces) after which the structural flaw will be corrected and he can live happily ever after.

Again, with my serial thought process in action, I started to think about how I  develop my own characters and the flaws they have and the repercussions of them. It is a daunting task and one that I delve into, but not quite deep enough to prevent me going off on tangents that are often time consuming in my writing process and have unintended side-effects that really don’t work well with my story (like a bike accident eventually leading to jaw surgery).  

Prevention is the key to avoiding long and painful re-writes. An exercise that would be beneficial to me is that when I give a character a flaw, or a mannerism, or a distinctive physical characteristic I should:

  • jot down a few scenarios and see how the character would react and determine if that is what I want. Are the characteristics realistic?
  • see if the character is able to change the way I intend over the course of the story (and into another story if it is a series and I have a few ideas floating about).
  • modify my characters at this foundation level before it is too late and the serial effects of one incident leads down a path of no return that then will require a major intervention to repair.

Of course Donald Maass’s book ‘Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook’ is another option.

breakout novel workbook

Happy writing.

1 thought on “Serial effects

  1. My sympathies. I have two daughters who are grown, and i overstep worrying about them. Maybe it’s different with sons.
    I start with the story I want to tell, and develop characters to help me tell the story. I’m doing a major revision now because I let my damaged character’s flaws get in the way of telling the story. I only could have avoided that by having a more detailed notion of the story than I had, and constantly asking myself if the character details and mood that I was putting into the narrative added or detracted from the telling of the story. I’ll know better the next time.

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