I really like my novel The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Enough that I’m rewriting it for probably the fourth time.
When I wrote the original version back in the 1990s, I was intrigued by the idea of cabal of people possessing metahuman powers, manipulating the rest of us behind the scenes. Then I wondered, given the level of power they wielded, why they’d be behind the scenes. Wouldn’t they be more likely to flaunt their powers? Not necessarily by conquering the world. Some paranormals would be happy using their powers as wizards or wonder-working preachers. Or getting elected mayor or senator as often as they want the job. Or using their healing powers as an EMT. Or believing themselves to be the Second Coming, Thor incarnate, the Antichrist, etc. As the nature of paranormal power baffles science, everyone interprets their abilities differently.
My protagonist, KC, is a comics nerd, so she became Nighthawk, one of the few superheroes in the world. In contrast to most superhero novels, KC doesn’t have all the cool stuff — awesome adversaries, amazing adventures — and settles for bodyguarding abortion doctors, getting battered women to shelters (she’s bulletproof, so if the husband objects she doesn’t have to use lethal force), fighting the occasional paranormal. And wishing she could have foes as cool as in comics. As you can probably guess, KC gets a real A-list supervillain and finds herself in over her head.
Part of her backstory was sex abuse, which wasn’t too overused back in the 1990s. I think I handled it well, and it did figure into the novel thematically (the bad guy’s fatal mistake is assuming abuse defines her — it doesn’t). But since then, abuse has become a cliche (and one I hate), so that aspect of the story has bothered me more and more. I read one chapter for my writing group and they weren’t keen on that aspect either.
I’m also uncomfortable with my handling of the Comanches. They’ve been manipulated by a powerful paranormal with a yen for Westerns into keeping part of Texas as Indian Country, where they ride and raid just like characters in an old movie. Even though it’s been forced on them, it still feels uncomfortably stereotypical.
But I really like the book. I enjoy writing a superhero novel, I like some of what I do with genre tropes, and I like playing with the idea of how paranormal abilities have changed history. Europe between the English Channel and the Russian front is now “Germanic Europa,” ruled by the Third Reich. Silicon Valley seceded. King Arthur returned and now rules England. So I’m working to see if I can fix the problematic parts.
KC’s past is easy enough to fix, but since it does play into her character arc and the villain’s goals I have to rework them. The character arc I think I have a handle on. The villain’s role? I think so, but I’m less sure. The Comanche? Still working on that.
So I’ll use this draft to solve the problems and get it into a workable rough draft. Then once I’m satisfied with the bad guy’s agenda, I’ll rewrite the earlier chapters to take into account the changes. And hopefully I’ll finish it up and make it good.
Of course I’ve rewritten other things, gotten to the end and discovered they didn’t hold up. Hopefully that won’t be the case.
Wish me luck … Like Mr. Miracle, let no trap hold me!
#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.