Showing posts with label Diamondback Vogel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diamondback Vogel. Show all posts

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Secret Origin of Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

This may take us a while so if you want to go get yourself a snack and a nice cold beverage before we start, go right on ahead. I'll wait. Matter of fact, think I'll go grab myself a Coke and a sandwich as well. See you back here in ten.

You back? Solid. Get comfy and we'll get started.

The Secret Origin of Diamondback begins with my desire to write what I have since come to describe as an “Urban Western.” Which simply means that everybody drives cars and uses automatic weapons instead of riding nags and firing six-shooters. But with some industrious rewriting, “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” could be told as a straight-up western. Matter of fact, there's a lot of Sergio Leone's “A Fistful of Dollars” in the DNA of my story. But the concept of a mysterious stranger who comes to a town ruled by warring criminal gangs and by pitting the gangs against each other through cunning, ruthless manipulation comes out the winner goes back further than that. There's Akira Kurosawa's “Yojimbo” from 1961 which many believe was inspired by Dashiell Hammett's classic “Red Harvest” written in 1929. “Red Harvest” also generally considered to have inspired Walter Hill's “Last Man Standing” which is basically “Yojimbo” set during Prohibition. “Lucky Number Slevin” and “Sukiyaki Western Django.”

Okay, so you get the basic idea, right? I had this idea to tell a western in modern-day drag. Not a terribly original idea, I agree, but one that I wanted to do and that's all I need to get me going. The only criteria I have for any project I take on is that it excites and intrigues me. I have to live with the characters and invest a lot of time in them and the story I'm telling and life is too short to spend it writing about about characters I don't care about. So, I conceived the story of Diamondback as one spanning three novels that was intended to be a further homage to Sergio Leone's “Dollars” Trilogy:

Diamondback I: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
Diamondback II: And The Devil Will Drag You Under
Diamondback III: Once Upon A Time In Denbrook

Only one novel got published, the first one:

It sold about as well as ice makers in Norway. Which kinda left me bummed out. I dunno why it didn't sell. Maybe because Diamondback Vogel was a completely different protagonist from Dillon, which is the character that most people associated me with. The philosophy of the concept behind the Diamondback character is simple and can be summed up in these lyrics from Billy Preston's “Will It Go Round In Circles?”:

I've got a story ain't got no moral,
Let the bad guy win every once in a while

Which is exactly what Diamondback Vogel is and I make it very clear: he is a bad guy, a right proper villain. In fact, it can be said that everybody in that first novel is a bad guy. I did that on purpose as I wanted to see if I could write a novel where every single character was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and still make the story entertaining and fun. The (very) few people who did read It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time let me know that I did succeed in that as they enjoyed it tremendously. But at that time (we're talking around 2008 or '09) I considered the book to be a failure, put away my ideas for the trilogy and moved on.

So why am I now revisiting Diamondback and rewriting the first book with an eye to completing the trilogy at last? Ten more years of experience and confidence helps, lemme tell you. I recently re-read the book in one sitting and saw where I could improve upon the story, expand some scenes, increase the level of characterization and action. It short, I could write a better book.

And I did write a book where every single character it was a low-down, no-good unrepentant, unapologetic mean-ass bastard or bitch and that one sold a bit better and everybody who's read it has indeed described it as entertaining and fun. I'm talking about my homage (some would say outright theft) to Hammer horror films:

I could also restore some stuff I had originally written but was persuaded to take out. The original version of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time had a lot more violence, some pretty racy sex scenes and harsher, rougher language. But by taking all that out it meant that it wasn't the story it wanted to be. It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time wanted to be raunchy, profane, deliriously violent and madcap in its exploitation sleaze and I had taken all that away from the book and on that level, it deserved to fail. Because it wasn't the story it was supposed to be.

But if we're good and faithful, we sometimes get a second chance and so I'm going to take another crack at Diamondback: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. And you'll be able to accompany me on the rewrite as I intend to present the story in serialized form, just as it was originally presented long ago on the much beloved Frontier original fiction website. Details will be on my Patreon page if you're interested (and I hope you are) but if you're not, that's okay as well. We'll still be friends.

As always, I thank you for your kind attention and your tolerance in putting up with my ramblings and as always I urge you to keep track of what I'm doing both here and over at Usimi Dero which I where I spend much of my Facebook time. You can also friend me at my personal Facebook page. I'm a pretty friendly guy.


Friday, March 22, 2013

How I Create My Characters (For Better or For Worse)

First off, I don't think any writer sits down saying: "Today I am going to create a memorable character." Any more than he can sit down and say "Today I am going to write a memorable novel." Only the kindness of readers and the passage of time can judge the memorability of a writer's work.

When I set out to create characters I do according to whatever type of story it is I'm writing at the time and I tend to build them the same way whether it's my supernatural western gunslinger Sebastian Red or my family man superspy Jackson Rush or the enigmatic urban hitman Diamondback Vogel. I dig out my Character Profile which contains about 30 questions dealing with that character's background, where and when he was born, his parents, where he was schooled, what he likes to eat, his sexual preferences and a whole bunch of other stuff that may not seem important but to me it is.

By the time I'm finished filling out The Character Profile I've got 12 to 15 pages of solid information about the character I'm dealing with. Information that gives me a powerful tool since I don't have to stop and wonder how that character would act in a certain situation. How much of this information actually finds its way into the actual body of the story? Not as much as you might think. But that's not what's important to me. If there's no reason in the story why you should know who Jackson Rush lost his virginity to at age 18 then why should I tell you? But I know and in my mind it gives the character weight. He's not just a vague shadow I'm pushing around at my whim. By the time I've finished The Character Profile hopefully he's taken on his own life and begun talking to me, relating events that have happened to him that I'm just recording. That's when I know that I've created an actual character and not just a blow up figure.

Should you do a Character Profile? I dunno. I'm a big believer in every writer finding his own best way of working. What works for me may not work for you. But I find it almost impossible to start writing a story without knowing my main character inside and out. Once I know that, everything clicks into place with little difficulty. I wrote the Dillon novels with just a few scenes and vague ideas of how I was going to piece them together but since I know Dillon as well (in some cases better than) as members of my own family, I trusted him to fill in the spaces and he did in spectacular fashion. I just relaxed and let him tell me how the story went. 

You may think I'm bullshitting you but it's true: whenever I sit down to write Dillon it seems as if he's just dropped off notes about what he's been doing lately and I'm just transcribing them. But maybe you don't want to or don't need to do all that. It's up to you to find what works your machinery and gets it humming.

How about supporting characters? Do I do a Character Profile for them? Depends. If they're major supporting characters like Dillon's partner Eli Creed or Diamondback's rival Nickleby LaLoosh, yeah. For other characters I do an abbreviated CP of anywhere from five to ten questions and for minor characters I don't even bother.

And even doing all that work on that character won't guarantee that they'll be memorable or even interesting. Take a look at Diamondback Vogel for instance. After I spent about two solid weeks of work on all the main characters I felt especially proud of the work I had done on him and thought he'd be well received. Hah. Turns out that two supporting characters, Toulon and Nickleby LaLoosh were more popular than Diamondback. And during the course of writing the first Diamondback novel, I had to change the ending since Nickleby LaLoosh took over and absolutely refused to nicely die at the end like he was supposed to. You see, by then he had started talking to me about what he wanted to do and like an idiot I listened.

But it's all good. That's part of the fun of writing and why I don't write detailed outlines and get myself locked into solid ideas of what has to happen in Chapter 11 and if it doesn't, I chisel it into shape. It's much more fun when the characters start taking an active part in their own story and arguing with me as to what they'd like to see and the story grows organically as I discover new things about the characters and they surprise and amaze me with what they do.

And if you’re still interested, here’s the questions I use for my Character Profile:

Master Character Profile For:
Country/Place of Birth:
Color Hair/Eyes:
Educational Background:
Martial Status:
Ambition In Life:
Strongest Character Trait:
Weakest Character Trait:
Bad Habits:
General Characteristics:
Mental Characteristics:
Physical Characteristics:
Special Skills:
Current Lifestyle:
What Others Notice About Him/Her First:
Fighting Skills:

Derrick Ferguson Is Trapped In Mike Baron's DOMAIN

Paperback:  342 pages Publisher:  Expanding Realms; 1 edition (July 23, 2017) Language:  English ISBN-10:  1944621164 ISBN-13:  9...