Monday, December 10, 2012

Narcissus in Chains--Chapter 2

One thing that I look for when I edit my books are conversations between two characters and/or internal dialogue where a character says something like "Usually it doesn't work this way" or "Gee, that's really out of character for him." Why do I look for this? Because my brain will notice that something is wrong with the plot in a fundamental way and is trying to fix it via a hand-wave. Sometimes this means I have to come up with a better explination. Sometimes it means I have to add or remove something else. Once in a while it means the whole bleeding mess is beyond salvage.

Why do I bring this up? Because this happens all the time in the Anita Blake books. ALL. THE. TIME.

Ronnie, Anita's friend, is in the apartment when this whole "We've kidnapped your friend" phone call happens. Anita has to explain this, even though a two year old with brain damage could figure out that bad shit just went down. Ronnie then says the following:

“That’s odd. Usually stuff like this builds up, it doesn’t just drop out of the blue.”
But it does. And because we suddenly can't have Blake with either of her two lovers for some reason unknown to man and God, there's no way for this to have built up at all. Six months of nothing, her dodging and avoiding the two biggest people in her life because she couldn't choose. I hate Twilight with a burning passion, but even Bella Swan had more guts than Anita has, romantically. So Anita hasn't been involved with preternatural politics, she hasn't been playing Servant to Jean Claude or Lupa to Richard's Alpha. The bad guys would look around and go "Gee. I guess she's not important to anybody. Oh, well. Moving on." And because we can't find an easy way to build this up...we don't.

Not that I'm opposed to having trouble dropped in your lap. I like that kind of plot. Part of the fun is figuring out how it happened and why. But obviously Hamilton's brain thought there was something wrong with this.

Now, to explain a little more about Blake, she's got a LONG history with the police. She was a vampire hunter before vamps were legal, and she's an executioner now. Whenever anything vampire or un-dead related goes down, the cops call her because she's supposed to be an expert. The procedurals have always been pretty shaky in this book, but I've ignored that most reads because there was always a promise of action and coolness.

Why do I say this? Because it's Ronnie who suggests star-sixty-nining the phone call to find out if they're really at the BDSM club. They are, and it's a pay phone. Blake, of course, didn't bother asking where the club is so she has to think very hard for a very, very long time about who could get her there.

This is why editing is such a wonderful thing. You hang up the phone, end scene, and start the next scene outside of the club with the sentence "I called Character X for directions and backup" But no. The whole point of this sequence is to justify Anita getting back in touch with Jean Claude.

Let me repeat this, just so you get it.

Chapter one established that Anita hasn't been in contact with either of her males for six fucking months, that she has been going out of her way to avoid talking to him, and that he has finally, finally, FINALLY decided to leave her alone (their relationship is a little Edward Cullenesque. Only he doesn't watch Anita sleep. Trust me, it is VERY disturbing to write that Jean Claude and Anita is healthier than Edward and Bella)  and chapter two has her calling him at the very first sign of trouble.

This is the first time the book wastes its pages. It will not be the last.

Now, if I were running a shapeshifter pack and I were not a shapeshifter myself, the first thing I'd do is institute a "Call the police" rule. As in "Call the police if nobody's dead" because the cops, in real life, are the people with the very big guns and in this universe should be the people with guns that could turn shapeshifters into tiny pieces. But having the police would ruin the fun and give Anita somebody to turn to that isn't Jean Claude or Richard. Ronnie, having lost the arguement to bring the cops into this mess, asks Anita who she's going to take with her to the grown-up's pain pen, and then figures out it's gonna be Jean Claude. She asks if maybe this isn't one of Jean Claude's plots (He'd do that) and Anita says that he knows she'd kill him if he tried. Ronnie asks if Anita could kill him, Anita stares her down, and we get the first of many, many, many advertisements for just how bad ass Anita is.

Something very like fear slid behind her eyes. I don’t know if she was afraid for me, or of me. I preferred the first to the last. “You could do it. Jesus, Anita. You’ve known Jean-Claude longer than I’ve known Louie. I could never hurt Louie, no matter what he did.”
One: All your friends should be afraid for you, Anita. Your moral decline began a long time ago but it takes a fucking swan dive after this book.

Two: YO. LAURELL. Your characters are bad-ass when they do bad-ass things on camera. So far we have had Anita bitch about how hard it is to get her Sig-Saur under her mini-skirt and choose not to go to the cops when one of her emotionally stunted charges gets kidnapped. Stop riding on her actions in the previous books and have her do something awesome in THIS one.

Ronnie asks her why she has to be so scary. She goes on a long ramble about how "her" shapeshifters are only safe because everybody else is scared of her (...I don't remember that.) and then out comes over the top line number one:

"They fear my threat. I'm only as good as my threat."
 No. You're only as good as the things you can actually do. Your threat is no good if you couldn't actually pull off what you're threatening to do. The tone of this conversation would make "bluff" a far, far better choice. Ronnie points out again how out of character for any human being Anita's reaction actually is, and Anita just shrugs it off.

Again: This is why you cut to the club immediately after the phone call. We don't have to watch Anita have hysterics, or not have any, in this case. And we don't have to play "Ring around The Plot" the way we are right now.

The last sentence in the chapter is how Anita dials the number for Jean Claude's resting place and then waits for Ronnie to leave the room because "I didn't want her to see me cry."

The two most powerful sentences in any piece of writing are the first one and the last one. The first one is THE most important, as it gets the reader engaged. The last one is secondary, but just as necessary, because it provides the reader with closure.

The problem here. LKH used this entire chapter to convince us that Anita is a tough-as-nails bitch who won't even blink when one of her charges is kidnapped and who would shoot someone she loves in a very deep, very fucked up way. And then she blew it all by having the last image in the chapter be that of Anita getting all sobby.

Oh yeah, and that's the end of the chapter. It's going to take one fuck of a long-ass time for Anita to get to that fucking club.

No comments:

Post a Comment