Mark Noldy


First Killing the Hardest

I have been struggling to find time to write for months and months. Hell, years! I have had many story treatments with beats in Evernote for a long time. But I’ve had this partially written manuscript for even longer. (Yes, I’m talking about Samaritan.) Many times, I have gotten geared up, re-read (and edited) the story from the beginning. I had to do this, because I had forgotten what happened, lost touch with my characters, etc.

Discovering my problem

I finally bit the bullet. I wasn’t doing “butt-in-chair” time. I finally punched Resistance in the face and set a dedicated writing time and place. Actually, I made sure I was sticking with this before I even decided to write this post. Jon Acuff writes about hustling by being selfish at 5 a.m. in his New York Times best-seller Quitter. I’m actually being selfish at 4 a.m., because Carol gets up for work at 5:30 a.m. So Monday through Friday, I wake at 3:59 (just to say I get up before 4 a.m.!). 🙂

While it took some getting used to, I rather enjoy the quiet solitude. I have a pot of coffee waiting, and I am enjoying writing 1000-2000 words at a clip. I have never been so productive. I think it is the silence and zero interruptions that has enabled me to write more. In fact, I am looking forward to continuing the story each morning.

My dilemma

As I began writing (re-writing) my first novel for the umpteenth time, I had to acknowledge how bad it was. I do read a fair amount of fiction, and I knew I had a weak inciting incident – just an undecided injury. The novel begins in medias res with the protagonist pulling the victim from an accident. Then the victim is just in a hospital bed. It was never really enough of an event to cause all the events that are subsequently occurring. I had thought about killing the young adolescent. Eek, that makes it sound even worse!

My solution

I have joined and lurked in many writing groups, and someone in a local writers’ group commented that I should kill the character in the hospital. I said that made no sense. He’s been in the hospital so long… To die now doesn’t fit…

She said no… kill him in the accident, that I needed a better inciting incident. I was mortified. She assured me that my first killing would be the hardest, but assured me it gets easier. All I could think about was Dexter on Showtime. If I write a book with characters who get killed, I thought people I know would think I was psycho or something. (Then again, we all watch The Walking Dead!) But I know people who have lost loved ones, so I am very sensitive. She said we’re authors. We write fiction. People get that. Don’t be such a baby, unless you don’t want anybody to read your story.

Fair warning

This is fair warning to anyone who reads Samaritan when it comes out on kindle later this year. I looked at my other story treatments, and they all had something “bad” happening, but this was my first character death. Though I was not an English major in college, I read enough fiction to know that good stories aren’t about existing, they’re about overcoming an obstacle. Sometimes shit has to happen to advance the plot. And my sunk cost bias prevents me from discarding the entire project. (My updated beats for Forever Young has more casualties now, too.)

Any writers out there who can empathize?

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