Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sequel By Nancy Haddock
Long before my debut book, La Vida Vampire, hit the shelves in April 2008, I brainstormed the sequel with one of my dear friends and critique partners, Lynn Michaels. Once I spoke of the major action I saw happening, Lynne and I talked about the catalyst.
And of the character that would serve as the catalyst.
Yes, I know that inciting incidents are normally thought of as events. However, except for natural disasters, incidents that catalyze a story – in real life or fiction – are intimately entwined with the actions and reactions of individuals and groups. Conflicts are fueled because someone decides to buy a house or take a cruise, rob a bank or assassinate an Archduke. (My life as a U.S. History and Government teacher is showing.)
Since I didn’t see an existing character in the catalyst role, the question of a new character arose. My heroine, Cesca, was already an off-the-beaten-track vampire character. Did I want to introduce a new vamp character that was more “normal” than Cesca?
Maybe it’s my longtime love of romantic – and screwball – comedy, or maybe it’s just the way I am, but I love humor. Therefore, my answer was swift and clear.
“I want wacky,” I told Lynn. “An offbeat, funky character I can really have fun with.”
“Like what?” Lynn asked.
“Like a vampire who has a boring job but wants to be a stand-up comic.”
“Hmmm. Could work,” Lynn said, “but you might have a hard time dropping a vampire into a job too opposite from what he already does. Unless ….”
In the following few minutes, Jo-Jo the Jester was born. At Lynn’s suggestion, Jo-Jo’s original background was that of a full-fledged, if never terribly amusing, court jester. I figured Jo-Jo had to have kept his hand in show biz somehow, so decided he worked as a nights-only Vaudeville performer on stage. Then I gave him a partner, and visualized them as the vampire version of George Burns and Gracie Allen. Okay, again, not Burns and Allen funny, but good enough to survive until Vaudeville declined.
So there I am with a vampire wannabe stand-up comic character, and I think I know what’s going to happen when he enters Stage Right.
Not so much.
Jo-Jo burst into those manuscript pages in ways I hadn’t imagined. The “royal” names he called Cesca and the not-funny funny things he said had me cracking up. He was so much more than I thought he’d be, and it was the other aspects of his character that endeared him to me. And, yep, I had to keep watch so he didn’t take over the book.
Here’s a brief excerpt of Cesca and Saber’s first meeting with Jo-Jo in Last Vampire Standing:
“Jo-Jo,” I said, willing my voice steady, and my body warm, “Saber asked you a question. What do you want?”
He squared his shoulders. “If the royal Princess would but grant my boon, I seek political asylum.”
“Only a country can grant political asylum, so you might as well leave.”
“Wait,” he said, fear on his filthy face. “How about sanctuary? I will be your slave, live only to serve you, my Princess Beneficent.”
“Slavery has been outlawed for a couple of centuries.”
“A servant then?” he pressed, his expression pleading. “I do housework. Even windows, your Vast Wonderfulness.”
I looked down at my size four green cotton shorts and matching scoop neck spaghetti strap top. I am not vast.
“I don’t want a servant,” I said, not bothering to keep huffy out of my tone. “This is the US of A. Land of the free --”
“Home of the tax payer,” Jo-Jo interjected.
Jo-Jo’s sharp chin went up. “It’s a line from my comedy routine.”
Saber shook his head. “With jokes like that, you do need protection.”
Of course, my biggest challenge came when it was time for Jo-Jo to hit the stage for open mike night. He could’ve tossed out one-liners, but he needed an act, not just a series of jokes. There’s a darn good reason why I’m not a professional joke writer, but with the help of critique buddies and a few random remarks by friends, Jo-Jo’s act took shape. And, of course, Jo-Jo’s stage presence and his built-in gimmick of being a real vampire carried the day far more than his act.
What about you? Do you have a favorite author who writes humor? A favorite comedy character? How about a fav comedy movie or TV series? I’d love to compare notes and build up the TBR pile even more! If you’re a published author and leave a comment, please also leave your web URL or title of your last or upcoming book! I like sharing the stage!
Terra, thank you for inviting me to visit! You’ve been a marvelous hostess!
Nancy is giving away a copy of Last Vampire Standing, but you must leave an answer to one of the questions to be entered. For more opportunities to win a book, see the Beach Party page on Nancy’s web site – www.nancyhaddock.com.