Revisiting Old Friends

I’ve been editing The Nobodies for print for some time now—more than I figured I’d need, really—and made a great deal of changes and adjustments. So many, in fact, I’m somewhat ashamed I considered it complete when I released it as an ebook last year. While I could see myself thinking that at the time, I see now just how much untapped potential I left behind.

That, and the random feedback I’ve received of late (“I like your first one more.” and the like) has really stuck with me, shadowboxing my mind while I read through the book time and again.

For those who’ve read the book in its electronic form, know that none of these changes, in and of themselves, are overly dramatic in reshaping the narrative in any overtly tangible way. It’s still very much the same story with the same beats, the same climax, the same denouement. Only now, there’re a few more beats, a few more nuances. Maybe a few less answers in some places and a few more in others. Thankfully, all of these changes will push live to you as soon as the new version is released.

That’s not why we’re here today, though. We’ll talk more about that later. We’re here because yesterday, I did make a rather big change. A few of them, in fact. Most notably, though?

I wrote a brand new section.

See, rereading the book for what had to have been the five hundredth time, I came to the slight (in that I may have noticed it before, but never thought much of it) realization that one of the prominent protagonists wasn’t being fully characterized. He was doing his thing, biding his time, moving his plot with stern bravado, but the weight, the gravitas wasn’t there. I’d already fixed that in a number of subtle ways throughout the narrative, but there was something missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Until now.

Two sections in what is by far the character’s most important chapter were fundamentally the same. Their details were vastly different, sure, but their arcs, their conclusions were generally flowing along the same dotted lines. I’d say they were basically Rocky and Rocky II, if you follow. And given how no one ever really remembers that sequel with fondness, I simply couldn’t have that.

So, what to do?

Well, the first step was deciding what I wanted to keep from the current sections, what I figured was of actual, tangible value. Given the two were so similar, this was sort of easy: I opted to merge some details from the first with the overall body of the second. I think this strengthened both overall, while eliminating some content that could’ve easily been deemed “filler.” There were two losses from this, though: commentary on the generally unseen time before the narrative and the meet-cute between two protagonists. Both were left, blazing, on the cutting room floor. I inevitably gave the first up for dead with only a twitch of a look back, and introduced a slim-lined version of the latter in the following section, where its weight was more readily felt.

The second step was, of course, replacing that lost bit. It couldn’t just be slap-spackled with anything, mind. It needed to be something pivotal to the character, important to his relationships and conducive to the story as a whole. I bounced around ideas for awhile—

Side note time. I like writing words like “awhile” and “alright” and “anymore” (in particular instances) as one word, because we say them as one word. There’s no pause, no break, no nothing. Me, I think we’re already headed that way and though Word and many others too stuck in their old school ways to adapt to modern usage don’t like it, too damned bad. English is a constantly evolving language and no matter how much you may drag a foot, it will continue to be that. I mean, you don’t see people still writing “electronic mail” anymore, right? Right.

—based on hinted events I had developed in my notes but hadn’t explored on paper, and even contemplated building on another excerpt partially referenced earlier in the book. But none of those seemed right.

Then, like a bolt of lightning I was happily wearing sneakers for, it hit me. It was already there, already teased and referenced without anything anywhere near a spot of detail offered. And it was absolutely part of this character, part of his infamy, part of the driving force of the narrative. So, no shit Sherlock, why not explore that?

Surprising no one, I decided I would. But then I threw a whammy card into the rink and decided it’d be so much more fun to present the circumstances in an entirely different way than had been alluded to—a twisty turvy timey wimey version. After all, fables and legends, they’re only based on a fraction of truth, no? Passed on until they become something so much more. Why couldn’t the same be said here?

Before I could get started, I needed to do about a good, honest day of research. Not only find a suitable location—that came up pretty quickly, surprisingly, though I thought for a moment I’d have to completely retool my thinking—but also more visual and constructive details about said location and an appropriate timeframe in which this particular section could occur. Those in order, the “plan of attack” as it were proved simple to devise, and the payoff came even easier. Not only does this new section help paint a very different side of this protagonist, it helps shed a completely new light on a key relationship and another character’s mysterious past.

In other words, it’s oh so lovely. And it was a ton of fun to write, to delve back into the mindsets of these characters for an entirely new (at least, in terms of on the page) adventure. I’ve said it before, but it’s hard to let go of characters like this, ones I’ve toyed around with for the better part of two decades. They’re just so… so malleable. A few bit the dust here, sure, but I found myself asking, what does the future hold for the rest of these?

The answer? Absolutely unlimited possibilities.