At Writing Friday this past week, I spent the day on my mystery novel, making deeper revisions and considering the suggestions of my early readers. Some of the ideas didn't resonate with me. One reader thought I made too many references to food but when I read all those passages, they seemed okay to me. I hadn't fallen into the amateur's need to describe food in detail and I noticed that most of my food references had to do with smell. "Ellie woke to the sounds of Danny fixing dinner, to the smell of meat and garlic." And I rather like that way of putting readers in touch with the senses.
A second suggestion had to do with using people's names in dialog. In one embarrassingly long interchange, I had my two policemen using each other's names over and over and I could see how stilted it sounded. And I found other places where I had included the name. But even though Story Engineer Larry Brooks, in a recent post, advised against ever using a name in dialog, there were a few places where I decided to leave them. In each case, there was something serious going on and something emphatic. "Listen, Ellie, it's just not going to work." And I realized I would do that naturally in my own speech patterns and so I left them in.
Next, I increased the creepiness factor by inserting my psychopath in two small ways earlier in the book. I'm very pleased with how I resolved this suggestion and think it works well.
That left two more substantial considerations to deal with. First was rewriting the climax so that my tired hero had a bigger place in the rescue of his beloved. No solution immediately came to mind but I have let myself mull it over (I'm a great believer in the work of the unconscious mind to solve problems), and I came up with something that I think is going to work without a complete rearrangement.
Second is rethinking my heroine's relationship with her husband, whom she does not yet love. Can she? Will she? In four or five places in the novel, she has interior dialog about this but for some reason, my readers did not find that enough. Now I need to go back, print out those pages, read them through, and delve deeper into her motivation, her longing, and her reluctance.