Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sometimes, competence is more fun

When I first started writing I Left My Brains in San Francisco, I thought I wanted to pit Neeta against a powerful, take-charge jerk who was screwing things up.  The idea was that she’d lost some of her confidence, and she’d get it back to stop him from killing people.  Storm Mattherson was supposed to be in charge of the Richmond Zombie-Municipal and Tactical operations, and he was more interested in treating it like a military op than a zombie extermination, and Neeta would have to take him down a few pegs.

Unfortunately, when it came time to imagine and write the scene, I couldn’t do it.  Not only did Neeta refuse to organize the living while there were undead to kill, but Storm came off as a bad copy of every incompetent hotheaded commander you’ve ever seen on television.

So I let Neeta stay in the support role.  Some of my critiquers didn’t like that, actually, because she doesn’t get to figure out the big conspiracy.  She can’t because she’s not in a place to have all the information.  In fact, there are a couple of people that figure it out at the same time, and who work together; one of whom turns out to be a rewritten, competent Storm Mattherson.

However, I did enjoy his ego, so I reworked some scenes.  I made him the guest speaker at the convention, where he blathers on about his grand plan to save Richmond from a zombie attack (his doctoral thesis).  I have him hounding reporters to get interviews.  Then, when one of the zombie experts calls him in the middle of the crisis with important information, he almost doesn’t take her call until he remembers that she’s that hot PhD from the conference—and he asks her out while she’s trying to give him vital information.  Nonetheless, his brilliant plan that so annoyed people actually works, and in the end, he’s hailed as a hero.

Storm was more fun when competent and egotistical than incompetent and overbearing—and the book flowed more freely.

Excerpt from I Left My Brains in San Francisco, starring Storm Mattherson!

Kelsey Gardenberger gave a wan smile as the Storm handed her his disk. The silver UVD had “Richmond Invasion Plans: Using Historical Tactics to Counter a Modern Threat” written in permanent marker. Below that, she read “By Doctor Storm Mattherson, Ph.D., Director, Richmond Z-Mat.” She could feel her eyes glazing over, and she hadn’t even opened the file.

“That’s your copy, of course,” Doctor Mattherson said. “so that you can review it before my presentation. Would you like to schedule an interview for directly afterward? If so, I’d like to be prepared to schedule a Q&A for the conference attendees at a later time.”

“We already talked about this before your opening speech.” In fact, he’d sought them out in the parking lot and followed them into the convention center.

Storm waved his hand in a dismissive motion. “We barely scratched the surface. It deserves greater attention. After all, most people only think about personal protection. Very few stop to consider the fascinating complexities of community defense. You said yourself it’s a unique angle.”

She glanced at her partner, but Ron just bit his lip and tried not to laugh. Oh, he was such a help in situations like this. “Actually, we’re pretty busy at this conference…”

“Oh, no worries, Kelsey…may I call you Kelsey? Kelsey, I took the liberty of including a file with some talking points. It’s only about three pages, doesn’t do the thesis justice, but when you’re pressed for time… There’re also some files with more personal information about myself—standard publicity package…”
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Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator :
I Left My Brains in San Francisco:
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