Last year I made a big change to my lifestyle. For years I had driven in to my various places of employment, spending mornings and evenings getting stressed with other drivers, and having the (mis)fortune of being involved in at least three accidents.
But when the offices my wife worked in relocated from the city (and a building thirty seconds from a train station) to somewhere a little more ‘remote’, we decided it was easier if she had the car, and I became a train commuter.
I was sceptical at first because I wasn’t a big fan of trains (an integral ingredient in being a train commuter). On top of that, weather can be a bitch, timetables are mostly irrelevant, and fellow passengers can be, well, a little weird. Not exactly selling points. But I’ve been doing it for almost a year now, and I have to say, the pros outweigh the cons. I don’t think I could go back to not having the one hour total walking a day that I currently enjoy.
You see, as well as losing weight and feeling healthier, my four fifteen minute walking sessions give me an opportunity to let my imagination come out and play.
A different way to travel
It was on one of these walking sessions recently that I made a rather difficult decision regarding my current WIP. While I’m busy powering through the edit/rewrite of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD, I’m also looking at the adventures that follow. And while I’ve got completed first drafts of books two and three, I know that I need to work out the end game that the series as a whole is heading to.
So, while walking from my offices to the nearby train station at a little after half past five, happily letting the beautiful soundtrack to The Force Awakens inspire me (movie soundtracks are the fuel to my imagination), I finally worked out how I wanted to tie everything together in a nice, concrete way. I had my big, bad finale.
And while this was good news, I started to see other things unravel. And then I worked out that I would have to drop two main villainous characters from book one. Which was kind of a big deal. For that fifteen minute walk, I was like Gollum arguing with himself in that scene from The Two Towers. They were two of my favourite characters, but things weren’t working, and it was becoming clear that it was their fault. Should I, could I cut them out? Was I brave enough to?
Too many villains spoil the broth
THE THIRD MOVIE PROBLEM
My plan for the CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD stories was for a novella length format. But things in book one were getting crowded. Being the first book that people would read, not only in the series, but as a longer piece of work by me, I was cramming a lot of my ideas in to such a small place.
As I trundled home listening to ‘Reys Theme’, ‘Finn’s Confession’, and ‘Kylo Renn Arrives At The Battle’ to name but a few (seriously; it’s an awesome soundtrack), I realised that the first story in the CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD series was starting to resemble the third movie of a superhero franchise.
In hindsight we can all agree that there are several movies that would have been improved had the antagonist focus been on the few, instead of the many. Spider-Man 3 could have done without Venom. Amazing Spider-Man 2 didn’t need Green Goblin showing up, Batman Forever felt crowded with Two-Face, and Batman & Robin was ruined by (Joel Schumacher) having too many heroes and villains.
I don’t hesitate to illustrate the errors these movies make by cramming too much into a story that doesn’t need it, so I had to be grown up and make the tough decision myself when it was clearly affecting my own work.
“Blink and you’ll miss me”
What helped my decision to cut the two villains out of book one wasn’t just an issue I had with overcrowding. It was wondering why I wanted a cool character to show up just because they are cool. Not important to the plot. Not really serving a purpose. Just because the characters were ‘cool’. That’s right Captain Phasma; I’m looking at you.
Gwendoline Christie could have been a stand out character in last years The Force Awakens. She was promoted well, and what the actress, and the film's director had to say about Phasma’s role sounded promising. Then the credits rolled, and Phasma had barely been in the film (apparently it's 91 seconds total!). And what little she was in just made her look like a useless idiot.
She was unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong, the character is truly cool, and has so much potential to become something iconic in that universe, up there with Solo, Fett, or Darth Maul (that Sith made a lasting impression). But The Force Awakens didn’t use her properly. She should have been cut, and perhaps saved for a later film.
Which is what I plan to do with my two villains. Throughout vs THE RISING DEAD they mostly act as a go between, taking orders and then passing them down the line to the lower henchmen. Sure there’s a cool action scene just before the finale, and the prologue will have to be completely rewritten (being that they are two of the three characters in the scene). But they’re not going completely. Instead, they will have a bigger and more important role in book five (that’s right, there’s a book five).
Cutting them now is the sensible thing to do. Just recently Jenna Malone’s character was cut out of the theatrical version of the upcoming Batmanvs Superman. Thankfully it has been confirmed that she will be included in the extended cut coming to BluRay and DVD, so it will be nice to be able to compare the two versions and see if the right decision was made.
A LITTLE NEATER
So book one now has more focus, while the remaining villains (the true villains of the piece) have more room to breathe. Only time will tell if I made the right choice, but I think that, when the excised characters return in book five, that they will be stronger for it.