The Making of a Murderer
One question that I get often enough is where did Dinah come from. To answer that, I have decided to include a journal entry that I was originally going to leave at the end of The Life and Times of Dinah Marton, as a sort of inside look--a thing that I've seen other writers do.
It is February 16th, 2013 as I am writing this. This is probably a week before I will be submitting the manuscript for publication which will hopefully be a starting point for my writing career. I’m looking forward to it.
There may be a time, perhaps not in the immediate future, but sometime down the road when someone will stop me and ask, “Why did you write this book?” and the simple answer is because Dinah wanted to be heard. She’s existed in my mind for nearly twenty years; long before I decided to sit down and write the story. Was she always so vicious? No. She started off vastly different, and in truth...this incarnation is only one of her many sides.
The Lady D, as the book was originally titled, came about during a college writing assignment for a character and story development class. At the time, I was hell-bent on publishing The Guardian Chronicles, the crème de la crème of all the things that I believe I will ever write (currently there are only a few chapters of each edition written. Yes, it is a Sci Fi/Fantasy series). But I was so burnt out about writing that story for years with no follow-through and petrified that someone would steal my idea, that when it came time to do something for school, I wanted to come up with something I didn’t care about losing...at the time...I took a version of Dinah, put on an episode of my favorite Showtime Series, and began writing. What started off as a short, fan-based tale of two serial killers of varying backgrounds coming together, evolved into something entirely different. The story contained elements of the show, along with some romance, some violence, and of course a bit of gore, but it also had pizazz.
Initially, I apologized for writing it; thinking it was too graphic--too inappropriate for college work, and wrote a letter of apology to my professor who, rather enthusiastically, said: “Don’t worry, we’re all adults here, and it might make a good book some day."
So, like any good college student who did his best at making A’s by procrastinating to the last minute, I sat it on the shelf in the back of my mind for the following three years up until I graduated in 2012. During that time I worked on other story ideas all the while, The Lady D was teasing me in the back of my mind, asking when she could come out to play--when it would be her turn. Although I gave her my assurance that she’d appear in other stories, she wanted a place all her own. So in the autumn of 2012, right around the beginning of October, I once again found myself between a rock and hard place with writers block over my saga and a nagging voice echoing from within the crevices of my mind.
Finally, with being thousands of dollars in debt from student loans and working part-time as a busboy with no future in sight, I decided to start writing. I searched through my notes and my hard drive for everything I had previously written on The Lady D, but I was unable to find the original draft. There was no choice: I had to start from scratch. The keys of my board hummed furiously for three heartfelt months of excitement, enthusiasm, and emotions that weren’t mine--yet I felt them truly. Dinah was awake in this new form and she devoured every minute I dedicated to her existence. For the longest time, I wrote the story at work while bussing tables. I hid in my head, away from the world while watching through her eyes and listening to what she had to say. I wrote everything down on scrap pieces of paper as I went about my day, and in my off hours I rewrote everything. I wrote practically a chapter or more a day in that fashion.
There were times that the story seemed to evolve on its own, taking a shape or going a direction that I didn’t...couldn’t have possibly fathomed, had I not let it flow all by its lonesome--letting her be my guide. The sheer power of some scenes required several days to digest to see if I truly wanted them to go the route they were. For instance--and SPOILERS--Dinah had always killed Billy, even in the original story, but I never conceived she would fall for him first, that her hatred would twist and implode on itself the way it did. It shocked me when it happened, and I felt it with her. I felt her anger and her anguish. There were times that I forgot who I was after living the day so long through her eyes. I found myself doing left handed things, and not recognizing myself in the mirror.
Perhaps it is psychosis that enables writers to create such great worlds of fantasy. Some might call me crazy or say that the voice of Dinah is simply the product of an overly active imagination, or even a manifestation of some quasi Freudian fantasy. Even so, she has existed since I was twelve--a mix between a boyhood crush on Kate Maberly and whatever else my mind has thrown in. The point is, she, like all of my other characters, lives not just within the pages. And that's what makes them so fun and interesting to write about.
To those of you, who read, thank you for reading. I hope that you’ve found living the story as enjoyable as I did, and still do.
My Thoughts on Dinah
I like the story and in reflection of the previous section, it didn't get published nearly as quickly as I had hoped. Nor was it the launching success that I wanted. But it was the platform--the starting point. It was a monumental accomplishment to put those thoughts and feelings into a form so many others could enjoy.
My favorite draft, though, is not the one that got published. The second draft, the one that scored the most likes from Bookkus Publishing when it was still around was and still is my favorite version of the story because it was so streamlined. It was 85,000 words of non-stop, fast-paced reading. The published version is almost twice as long and just can't be completed sanely in any one sitting. I think the length hurt it. I could excise what's out there and do a re-release, but no. What's out is cannon.
The differences between draft 2 and 3 are...well it's easier to say what's not in the second draft.
- Food fight with Billy.
- Dinah buys her knife and learns fighting moves from a book.
- Awkward parenting and anatomy moments.
- Skate park incident.
- Eduardo and Richie.
- College class time.
- Eric and all his connections.
- Donovan Malone.
- Arron Brody, Jake Sutton, and the Frat-house party.
- Roy Bower...all of it including the trip down memory lane.
- The Seer.
- The Three Wise Men (the job she did last week).
- Andy stitches Dinah.
- Self repairs, girl time, and ice skating.
- Detective Pierceton.
- Dinah's work at Starlight Mental Hospital, including Fatass, Beth, and Jamie story arcs.
- Tom Lamberty.
- Dean's backstory.
- Dean and Andy's encounter on the plane.
As you can see, this is what was added between the second and third drafts. Some things like Dinah's time at college were added in at the suggestion of readers. Other things were added to better explain certain situations or setup for other areas, and naturally, some things in the second draft never made it to the third.
I'm curious, what do you think the story could have done with or without? What parts would have changed the experience for you?