Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)
In the beginning, I wanted to convey some of the real emotions behind BDSM relationships. I got the impresison that the general public just thought that BDSM was all whips and chains and was practiced by people who had a penchant for pain and torture. Society had changed, certainly, but I had the sense that it was now an environment of tolerance rather than one of understanding.
I wanted to change that. Document that submisison and dominance are present in all of us to varying degrees; that it is a core part of the human psyche and that, if we understood it, then we would have a better grip on ourselves.
When I got feedback from readers that they were engaged with the main characters and wanted to know more, then it was obvious that an ARC was going to be needed. I had read about other ARCs where fans wanted to know more, but when the authors had tried to stretch the series out, it had all gone a bit thin and went horribly wrong. Very few authors appeared to have crossed that bridge and survived, so I knew that there was no way that someone as inexperienced as me was going to attempt to run the series for longer than it had a natural flow. The story must end.
However, I wanted to continue bringing real experience in to the frey; open the door further on BDSM life. As I've mentioned before, doing this would never result in a blistering five star read that everybody trumpets about; but that was something I was comfortable living with. So I came up with three further points that I wanted to make to the readers and aimed the books at those points.
As it happened, I had changed the ending of Companion. There was always the foil of the vanilla friend, Kate, and her efforts to understand what was happening to her friend. There was also the trouble and the strong working relationship and respect that the secretary had for Mark. While I was ending with a happy ever after, I didn't want it to end overly sweet so I introduced some tension at the end; I didn't originally envisage using those tension points as a means to go forward to the next book. Also, when Susan leaves Bernadette for the last time after her training, I genuinely wrote Bernadette's sobbing as that of someone who cares for a person who is going to be walking a path without realising just how tough it is going to be. I genuinely, hand on heart, had no idea of what I was going to write in book two. It all just happened to fall in to place.
So, the opening chapter is usually the defining one. I'm not a fan of what is known as buy-in, of absolutely gripping the reader from the outset. This isn't a film, it is a journey. The stats that I read say that most people will read a book to the end just to find out how the story ends. It takes a particularly bad book to force someone to just put it down and never return to it. With Companion being written for film, it was chapter two that was meant to be the buy-in, with re-inforcement in chapter 3 with the bar fight. In theory, all that should have taken place within the first five minutes, with fists flying before the clock had hit ten minutes. However, there was pressure to introduce buy-in in chapter 1, so I padded it out and introduced the heroine dream sequence.
By book two (Leader) which I started in December, I got the feedback that Companion was a bit weak on the sex action so I deliberately introduced more sex scenes and definitely one in the first chapter to raise the heat. However, as it turned out, this worked against me and there was a little feedback was that the book had a different tone from the first. A bit upsetting but I decided to keep it as it was because it wasn't a glaring red light.
It took book 3 (Cradle) for me to get beginning a book to a point where I was personally happy with it; a good, strong, attention grabber which sat well with the subject matter and gave a nice twist, all in the first chapter. I still don't think that a book needs an overly strong buy-in and I'll be a lot more careful about how I approach it in the future. I think that the reader needs a reason to want to turn the page, and it is good to give them a little jolt now and then, but they don't have to be blown out of their seats. It was a shame that I had to learn that lesson the hard way. I'll give more weight to my gut feelings next time.
In the end, it was the little things that I left behind which helped writing the plots. Life isn't all sweetness and light. I've had to fight hard to introduce some unpleasent scenes where characters are at odds with each other and things get a bit nasty and awkward. Happily ever after should end with a sour note in the mix if it is to feel like a satisfying ending, in my humble opinion; otherwise it feels false. I think this is a trend these days, especially with other works which have actually picked up the endings of many of our fairy tales and taken them further, the kind of, what happened after the happy-ever-after.
The overarching theme of where I wanted each book to go, was strong enough to dictate what had to happen. Just a few simple words in some cases, but strong themes. It was powerful enough for me to keep it in my head, and the plot notes were written in to the document itself because there weren't that many of them. I didn't feel like I needed to keep it on a separate piece of paper.
From that point, there were key scenes and interactions that had to happen. The order that they had to happen in, was also obvious. So I wrote those and polished them a little.
Then, it was a matter of joining them together, which wasn't always straightforward. In most cases, I could keep the joins realistic by using the old maxim that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created for Sherlock Holmes; eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. The not-so-obvious one was the security company which I felt was a bit over the top but plausible enough to ask the reader to believe it.
As well as introducing a bit of grit, I also had to introduce a bit of lightness; some humour. That's what life is all about. Ups and downs. The journey.
To conclude, each book had an overarching message that I wanted to convey to the reader. The first chapter set the scene and in order to reach the end point, there were things which would have to happen. Some of those key events were difficult to write, especially the antagonistic scenes. Then, it was a matter of creating the events to join things together, slightly expanding on any natural events of humour and tragedy that came up, to add little humps and dips to the main roller coaster.
Polishing had to be added to the descriptions and dialogue in order for it to flow smoothly and, "scan," realistically. That is where other peoples eyes added a lot to the review work.
Generally, it was like looking at the planet from far up in space, seeing more detail evolve as I got closer to it.
Research did have to be done because there were areas where I had little personal knowledge; especially in book 3, Cradle. It took a lot of internet searches, gathering and collating information, distilling it down and then going to people who knew more about the subjects than I did, in order to distill it even further. Whatever was left, was what I had to work with, whether I liked it or not.
As I sit here now, penning book three, the only thing I know about book four, is the overarching subject I want to tackle, and the provisional title. I have no clue how it will pan out. Excuse me ... I say ... excuse me ... Mr Holmes...