Lighthouse is, I feel, benefiting from a lack of perspective. I want my heroine to maintain her unique voice throughout the story, which means periphery scenes told from an outside perspective need to be cut. This means that several of the characters I’d meant to introduce early in the story will also not make their actual appearance until much later, if they appear at all.
Take for example the mercenary recruiter and somewhat diminutive French stereotype De L’Ombre. Cool name, right? “Of the shadows” is a nice way to describe someone picking up unsavory talent for a mysterious employer. However, looking back on the scenes I’ve cut, I think the character falls a bit flat. He’s the kind of underling you’d expect from a Bond film, sure: an underhanded backstabbing enthusiast interfacing with the talent so the Big Bad doesn’t have to. That’s ground which has been fairly well trod, I think.
And then there’s Grosse, a big Eastern German dude I introduce just for Morgan to blow up. Seriously, Grosse’s German for ‘large.’ Clearly I was in my creative prime when I dreamed this guy up.
“I am good at what I do,” Grosse replied in a cold, business-like fashion. “As we have sat here I have determined 37 ways to kill you and make my escape from this country before the police even arrived here. And only 14 of them involve the firearms I carry.”
Grosse spoke as if he was discussing options on a bathroom accessory. De L’Ombre stopped in mid-sip. His thin lips curled into a smile around the lip of his cup.
“Marvelous,” the Frenchman told the German. “I believe you are exactly the kind of man my employer is seeking.”
If I were still aiming for the pre-Daniel Craig Bond film demographic, this would be fine. But I’m going in a new direction. One that doesn’t involve dialog so campy the characters are pitching tents.
Moving on from these guys, we have the Mongoose. I do plan on keeping him in the story, but it’ll be without this introduction.
The sounds of the Pit were almost drowned out by the background of the city – all the fighting, cursing, lovemaking, singing and vomiting that constituted so urban an area. De L’Ombre felt simultaneously repulsed by the raunchiness of the environment, and drawn to the vibrancy and diversity of life here, on what some considered the underside of the world. But the Pit was his objective, and he would not be distracted. With a wad of cash pressed into the burly guard’s palm, he made his way down the narrow, rickety staircase into the poured concrete basement that was the Pit.
The Pit had many names, but everyone who knew of it knew it served only one purpose. There was the unmistakable sound of a fist striking flesh and bone, followed by the howl of the crowd. Bodies jostled and shoved for a better view into the gravel-filled hole in the floor, arms waving bills as two men circled each other in the 12-ft. wide space. One was easily over two meters in height, a foreigner to these parts, German perhaps; blond hair cut very short, body spotted with tattoos. The other was a head shorter, either Korean or Vietnamese, about De L’Ombre’s height, with jet-black hair and calm, almost lazy eyes. The German had his hands up in a classic boxing stance, while the other kept his arms at his side, his every move possessed of deadly grace. De L’Ombre suspected this boy to be the Vietnamese fighter he sought, but he had to be sure. So he watched, and waited.
The German took a wide swing at the smaller man, who easily ducked back. Using that momentum, the Oriental fighter leaned to his right and propelled his left arm towards the German, the first two knuckles of his hand striking the side of his opponent’s elbow. There was a resounding snap, the unmistakable sound of bones breaking, followed closely by the roar of approval from the mob. Cursing loudly (and in German, so that at least was confirmed), the larger man flailed with his other arm, trying to bring his meaty fist in contact with the side of the smaller man’s head. But again, the Vietnamese fighter was simply too quick, dropping into a crouch and then, with catlike speed and movements, he spun and kicked out his right leg, catching the German in the back of his shin. Caught off-balance, the huge fighter toppled, and in a heartbeat the boy was on top of him, literally crouched on his chest. There was a moment, where the mob quieted and the young man stared down at the European with unblinking eyes. Then, with a movement like a cobra snapping at a rodent, the victor’s right arm snapped out again, and the German gasped, eyes wide, as the bony knuckles of his opponent’s right hand crushed his windpipe with frightening speed and accuracy.
What I like about the Mongoose (real name Vanh Minh Thao) is that he’s smart. He knows De L’Ombre’s a slime ball, especially when he makes his proposal.
Vanh’s mouth twitched. “I do not normally fight women, let alone kill them.”
“Nevertheless,” the Frechman told him, “this woman needs to die. She is between my employer and his business, and that cannot be. She is to be removed, and my employer is willing to pay that fee for your service.”
“Where is this woman?”
“Why not hire an American to do this thing, then?” the Mongoose asked, seeming annoyed. “Why come all the way to Kowloon making such offers?”
“My employer wishes to continue to enjoy the pleasures of anonymity. Besides, talents like yours deserve to be paid for in such a manner,” De L’Ombre replied with a thin smile.
After the gunplay in the upcoming action scene I plan on writing tonight, a fight between Morgan and the Mongoose is likely to feel both more intimate and more intense. At least, that’s the goal I have in mind. Posting these clips from my old manuscript helps to show me how far my writing has come. Chuck Wendig is right in that by writing more, even if it’s crap, we learn how not to write crap and maybe, just maybe, write something that’ll get read by someone besides Mom.
But I’m definitely leaving De L’Ombre out. And no, it’s not because he’s French.