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Howard Hopkins

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Anatomy of a Novel: Part 2
11/8/2004 10:52:10 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

Novel building, a peek behind the scenes.

At the initial stage I have basically only a couple things in mind for this Black Horse Western. No real work has been done on it other than to jot an idea or two on a lined pad, along with the title, RIPPER PASS. This is the freest stage, where ideas for scenes of snatches of dialog might spring out of nowhere. Nothing organized, nothing set in stone.

So what do I know about this tale? First, it's a western, of course. An action-packed, yet still populated with full-bodied characters and their motivations--and not a lot of room lengthwise to pull it off. But more on that in a later installment.

Adding to the fact it's a fast-paced western, it's also got a continuing romance--a budding and volatile one--and a bit of mystery. It's to be part of a series, so I know at least the two main characters right away and know that I will be building on their relationship and attributes. For me this is actually a little harder than constructing a brand new character out of whole cloth, especially since many things relating to their back stories occur after writing has begun. And those back stories have to build from clues laid down in the first two books

Two, since it's called RIPPER PASS, it obviously involves some sort of killer who uses a knife. But since it's set in the mythical western town of Miller's Pass (astute Ripperologists will notice the name plays on MIller's Court in Whitechapel, where one of the famous Ripper's victims met her doom. The name was one of the first things that came to me right after the title and ended up jotted on the tablet), what type of killer is he/she and what type of knife comes into play? Well, after some thought, I decided this Ripper would relate directly to the infamous stalker of Victorian England. Since no particular knife style was ever settled on by investigators in the murders, I am free to take some artistic license and use whatever type knife was readily available in the Old West. In this case a Bowie or maybe an "Arkansas Toothpick", a wicked dagger style weapon second in popularity only to the aforementioned Bowie. And since I decided to relate my culprit to the real killer, I needed to answer some of the questions that rose. I had to decide whether the time period would be placed before or after the murders of 1888. My series carries an ambiguous time frame, so I was free to chose either. But were there continuity obstacles involved with the handful of suspects in the original killings? The answer is yes, of course, and this meant having to narrow down the person I chose as most likely to be the killer--at least according to what little factual evidence is available (and maybe even a bit from the myth surrounding the murders. As this is a fictional account, loosely based on the crimes, liberties can be taken). I settled on the person, and placed the novel before the Whitechapel horrors, but only after the phase that came next: research.

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More Blogs by Howard Hopkins
• Anatomy of a Novel: Endgame - Monday, February 07, 2005
• Anatomy of a Novel part 4: - Wednesday, December 08, 2004
• Anatomy of a Novel Part 3 - Monday, November 29, 2004
•  Anatomy of a Novel: Part 2 - Monday, November 08, 2004  
• Anatomy of a Novel - Monday, November 01, 2004
• Blog Updates - Tuesday, July 06, 2004
• Johnny Dead & news - Wednesday, May 26, 2004
• Ladigan - Saturday, February 28, 2004
• New Blog Entries Oct-Dec, 03 - Sunday, January 11, 2004
• Large print sale - Monday, August 25, 2003
• Captain's log, Stardate whatever! - Monday, August 18, 2003
• The New West? - Monday, August 11, 2003
• Rain Rain Please Go Away... - Monday, August 04, 2003
• Author's Log--Stardate: 7312003 - Thursday, July 31, 2003
• Hitting the E-Road... - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

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