As I’ve been going through the manuscript of Romancing the Dead (or, as I call it in my mind Dead on Arousal), I’m particularly struck by the fact that I’ve committed one of the Turkey City Lexicon prose structure faux pas: “signal from Fred.”
Signal from Fred, apparently coined by Damon Knight, is defined as, “a comic form of the ‘Dischism’ in which the author's subconscious, alarmed by the poor quality of the work, makes unwitting critical comments: ‘This doesn't make sense.’ ‘This is really boring.’ ‘This sounds like a bad movie.’” Except in my case, because I didn’t know why my antagonist was after my protagonist, I continually had him avoid answering her direct questions. She’d say, “Why are you following me?” He’d reply with something cryptic that didn’t really advance the plot, like, “Because I’m after something.” Oh, really, Mr. Bad Guy, you’re AFTER something, I never would have guessed! And what could it be? “Uh,” he says, “something. Something IMPORTANT.”
Yeah, like that.
It’s amazing to me that my editor didn’t look at this crap and call me on it. I guess, in a way she did, but she was much more subtle about it than I would have been in her place. She very nicely reminded me that I’m a fine writer and then told me there were problems with the pacing. I realized, of course, while trying to figure out how to get into the plot more quickly that all this artful dodging around the antagonist’s motives was slowing things to a snail’s pace.
Because it’s astounding how much time you can waste not answering questions and getting to the point. And, of course, the protagonist can’t exactly “protag” unless she knows what she’s fighting.
Back to the untangling.