Reflecting on June (2017)… The Tangled Web of ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optBack at the laptop writing feels good! Jumping into a work in progress was a helpful way to get a feel for writing again, but it’s also been a testing experience. It’s been over a year since I last worked on ‘The Disaster Man’ for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ and what I want to do with this tale has changed since. It’s actually the second ever Darkwood mystery I wrote after ‘The Thief of Faces’, and was a complete and finished tale. I wrote it as a submission for the Horror Addicts podcast’s anthology book ‘Horrible Disasters’, which was rejected over my other story submission, ‘London Peculiar: The Secret of the Fog’, so it was very short and streamlined. I always felt it to be a little rushed, and having it for myself gives me the luxury of letting the events within it breathe and to expand on the story.

Being a tale about a man cursed with disaster which puts London–his latest destination–at risk, the scale of the danger is pretty epic for ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’, and deserves to be a longer story than it once was. It also lends itself nicely to being a finale for the next run of stories. I’ve planted some seeds in the next set of tales which will develop the characters of Darkwood and Hobbs and their world. I’m conscious that while I love having a couple of heroes to play with, I want a sense of realism thrown in there too.

Darkwood is clever, and Hobbs both tend to sweep in and solve the mystery and move on, with similar beats throughout–Darkwood is clever and usually one step ahead, Hobbs is loyal and a little submissive, Darkwood studying to be a doctor, having support and backup in her investigations through Scotland Yard, Darkwood is rich and has her station which gives her some sway, always with Darkwood leading and Hobbs following. I didn’t want this series to become predictable and stale, so while the tales will always be about fighting supernatural and criminal evils, and generally being victorious, I really wanted there to be consequences to this life. I introduced an element of that with  ‘The Darkwood Mysteries (8): The Spindly-Snatcher’, with some details of the future of Darkwood and Hobbs very much a short cut to that end, but with my new stories I wanted a few tales where they get a wake-up call around what they are doing.

Darkwood and Hobbs put their lives, and the lives of others at risk in what they do, and to a certain extent they make decisions on what is just, and what makes things right. Darkwood has essentially taken a boy from the street and plunged him into this life, and after so many close calls she has to start to wonder if Hobbs would have had a safer life back on the streets where she found him, and Hobbs, as loyal as he is he is going to want to start making some decisions for himself and their sense of justice and ‘right’ have to differ at times, and that same loyalty has the potential to lead him to some dark places. There also has to be times when Darkwood doesn’t have the answers, or a cunning plan, or the dilemma is a no win situation for her personally, and that noble pride of hers could also be weakness. I’ve sown this into my plans for the next 9 stories, and ‘The Disaster Man’ will be a culmination of this. It’s been quite a challenging tale to return to in trying to bring it all together. Made a little trickier in the tales not being written or released in chronological order. Thanfully I have my Darkwood time-line to keep track of what the characters have experienced by the time of the story I’m working on.

Darkwood and Hobbs’ dilemma in this story is whether to kill the disaster man to prevent London’s fall. I’ve added an element of doubt, and making it part of a conspiracy, so I’ve made things a little complicated for myself. Writing has involved a lot of thinking time to make sure I haven’t created any plot holes. I nearly had one Darkwood and Hobbs and the whole cast could have ridden a carriage through, so I’m glad I collapsed that one! As a tale that very much has Darkwood and Hobbs on the hop reacting, rather than acting, I decided that Darkwood should figure out the hook mystery quite early on to at least give her a moment of cleverness. Especially useful as I sell the series as standalone tales and I thought that she needed that to show her off to a new reader. In doing so, though, I realised I needed to cut some scenes that followed, and rewriting some others which involved the hook mystery unfolding. Unfortunately a new reoccurring character had been seeded in those and cutting them gave him less presence, so I then had to make the most of where he appeared. Also, being a finale, I want to make some revelations in the on-going mystery which I can feed to Darkwood and the reader, so I now need to account for the impact of these on the characters and the dialogue as the information dropped in changes the tones of the scene. Darkwood now learning some information about her father doesn’t sit well with Hobbs then cracking a funny. While amusing to read, it probably needs to be restructured… Or just make Hobbs an insensitive prick from that point on. One of the two…

For the first time in this series I have found myself with a scene and an element of the continuing series which I’m uncertain of and am toying with dropping completely. It sets up another layer of mythos beyond Darkwood’s search for the truth about her parents, and the Hellfire Club’s plans, and connects with Darkwood’s stone, but I’m not sure of its place and impact in the series at the moment. I want it in there for later, and I had always planned to layer up the mystery and it’s all part of the build up for the eventual big finale for the whole series which I have planned out in my head, so it’s certainly important–especially in the future of one or two characters. Also, I need to start playing my cards so it all builds gradually. However, the organisation I’m introducing are essentially a higher power called The Wardens of the Way, comparable with the Time Lords in ‘Doctor Who’ or the Powers that Be in ‘Angel’, and I need to be careful and considerate of their rules of engagement. Create a powerful group of beings I question why they don’t just step in and sort everything out and the series gets reduced to one story titled ‘The Darkwood Mysteries: Solved in a Reasonable Conversation with the Wardens of the Way’. Also, I’m then committing to more mythos stories over the cosier experiences of writing stand alone mysteries, which I think I’m a little frightened of tackling. But, hey, ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ was always about experimenting for me, so trying out writing large character and story arcs is something I shouldn’t shy away from. Regardless of the knotty plot threads I’ve given myself to untangle, I’m enjoying being back in the writing seat.


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