Some people have an Internal Editor. I have a Board of Censors, the fearsome chief of whom is a dread character whom I’ve nicknamed Pollyanna Candyass.
She insists that everything be Nice. No conflict, no ugliness, no nasty people doing nasty things. Parents are always affectionate in Pollyanna’s world, siblings love each other, the social order is fundamentally just, the weather is clear skies and puffy white clouds … amongst which pigs fly.
Oh yes, and the readers fall asleep.
In the mad month of November, the only Power capable of giving Pollyanna a run for her money is the Gothick Muse. You’ve met her; she’s the one draped all in black and wearing skull-and-crossbone signet rings and jet necklaces with a few human teeth for contrast.
Where Pollyanna says, “Make it nice,” the Gothick Muse says, “Start off with squicky, and crank it up to full-on creepy and horrific.”
Whatever situation you write, think of the creepiest possible interpretation.
So, in The Necromancer and the Barbarian, we have Elsa’s widowed father, charming, somewhat feckless, guilty (in the original scheme) only of emotionally abandoning his wife during her fatal cancer. Her name was Kathe, which he Anglicized to Cathy. That made Elsa think of Healthcliff, whose looks her father shared, “but not his obsessive faithfulness.” (OK, and I’ll grant Healthcliff was no treat, so to have him come off the good guy by contrast with Our Heroine’s father gave me a hint that all might not be well.)
Enter Henry, the son of one of her father’s school friends… and the first boy Elsa kissed. And then we have her mother’s deathbed injunction to her sister Kirsten, “Make sure that Elsa doesn’t marry Henry.”
You can guess why. Papa Felix got around, and he liked to stay in touch with old flames. Henry and Elsa met on a joint family hike along Hadrian’s Wall. (Young love, family dysfunction, and spectacular landscape–no lovelier combination.)
Oh yes, and belatedly I realize that I stole the idea from George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession. But all’s fair in love and NaNo.