An old legend tells how Michelangelo was found one day staring at a block of marble. Finally, someone asked him what he was looking at. His reply: “There’s an angel buried in there somewhere. I just have to figure out how to uncover her.”
John and I don’t invent our stories… we uncover them. And it’s a process I highly recommend to other writers. Go somewhere alone—or get into a brainstorming session with a co-writer—focus on the heart of the story situation you’re dealing with (the angel within the block of marble). Maybe you’re the sculpture chipping away the extraneous materials to uncover the angel hidden inside—or superman or wonder woman using x-ray vision to burn away the confusion and find the scene that explains everything… or maybe you’re like Stephen King who thinks of himself as a paleontologist trying to dig out the dinosaur-skeleton of his story.
In our new novel we were feeling very good about our efforts to uncover the background and lineage of our hero Carlos Mann, who finally in the third novel of our trilogy was getting the attention that Alicia (as always) had pretty much stolen for herself. But there was one section of our story that was buried so deep that we just couldn’t figure out how to uncover it.
When Carlos was captured by his nemesis, Tiger Joy, and sent to be tortured to death by an evil witch, whom we called La Bruja, Alicia went to a Curandera (good witch) and asked her to help save Carlos. The good witch refused. “What’s in it for me?” she asked. It turned out that La Bruja was the Curandera’s sister. And the two witch sisters had survived for nearly a thousand years hating each other because, as girls in a great Mayan City-state, they were both in love with the same man.
Why would either of the witches every want to save Carlos? (We asked ourselves). Well, what if Carlos’s grandmother Ixchel was a direct descendant of the two witches? That would make him their descendant too… their blood relative. He could be their great, great, great, great grandson. More importantly (and when we started to see this, the uncovering got so intense that we threw caution to the wind and started chipping away with all our energy) Carlos could be a witch himself.
The witches knew it, and so the good witch suddenly became motivated to save Carlos. While La Bruja (evil personified) decided she wanted to kill him all the more. In the end, Carlos had to use Logic to escape and discover his own magic. Then and only then could he return to San Francisco, face the evil beauty, Tiger Joy, and hope to see that justice was done.
We had uncovered one of the great secrets of our story, and it gave us an opportunity to reveal a very nice scene:
Alicia is still standing frozen in the outer chamber. She has an excited smile on her face as though she’s watching a Broadway musical. But there’s a vacancy to her stare as well. Like the show may be good, but there’s nothing going on in her head.
“Who did this?” FBI Agent Marty Marinara asks when he sees her. “It’s like she’s bewitched.”
I look around at everyone else in attendance: Señor Popcorn, the paid assassins, the Chinese boys who have survived the carnage, and the ghost of Carlyle August who simply dissolves his way out of captivity and lands coolly on the floor beside me. I shake my head.
“I must have done it.”
“What are you, some kind of sorcerer?”
“Do you know how hard it is to bewitch a ghost?” Carlyle asks.
I shrug, sigh, and then head straight for my wife. I take her by the hand. Her fingers are ice cold. She doesn’t move. Then, she blinks.
Her other hand rises and brushes her cheek absentmindedly as she begins tangling her fingers into her hair… almost in slow motion. She turns toward me and smiles like a lovesick teenager.
“Mmmmm,” she sighs. “Carlitos.”
“You do have the power,” Carlyle says as he pats me on the back. “Congratulations.”
“Take me home, Carlitos,” Alicia murmurs dreamily.
We had unearthed the angel within story. There were a few more twists and turns that we had to smooth out as we approached the very end. We think, all in all, it makes for a great tale with an amazing conclusion. See what you think.
Get a copy of our new novel, Alicia Bewitched, and read it for yourself.