Amendment XXXI

The Original Outline for “A Death of Honor”

© Copyright 1984, 2000 by Joe Clifford Faust


JCF: “One question I am frequently asked when I talk about writing is whether or not I outline my novels. Generally speaking, I don’t. When I start a novel, I usually have three things in mind: 1) A basic idea of what is to happen during the course of the book, 2) the opening scene, and 3) the ending scene. As I write, things begin to fall into place and the middle of the book begins to jell. Around manuscript page 200 or so, I start writing things down because the whole plot thing has gotten so big that I’m afraid I’ll forget what’s supposed to happen.

“Nowadays, with the miracle of word processing, I do what I call a running outline. As I think of things, I type them into the appropriate chapter of the book. Then I write over the outline, chapter by chapter, until the outline has been replaced with novel. It’s a great system for me, but it’s bad for anyone who is interested in seeing how an idea evolved… because the outline is never saved. It’s part of the main document and is assimilated into the book as I write. So there’s nothing left to show the project evolved in my head.

“That’s why I decided to dig out and post what follows – my outline and other information for A Death of Honor. Before word processing software, I would often take a writing day and type what was in my head into an outline. Then I’d make notes and changes as I went. After a while the outline would become rather unwieldy, so I’d take another day and reconstruct my notes into a second outline. This usually occurred during the final third of the book.

“Some changes you’ll note from outline to book (for those familiar with Honor): character names changed; originally four letters of transit instead of two (I changed it to two to make it harder for the characters to escape – it was better to be one paper short than have one paper too many); Payne and Trinina’s final attacker at the docks and who saves them; and the biggest change, the fact that the book was originally titled Amendment XXXI – the title did not change until Del Rey bought the book and wanted something that sounded less political.

“The most radical difference you’ll find from these outlines to the book is the fact that, up until the home stretch, Myra lived and was given a hope of escape. In fact, the outline ending where Payne throws her a letter of transit tucked into his shoe was intended to be symbolic – in ancient Hebrew tradition, a man could divorce his wife by giving her his shoe. So Payne was saving her, yet saying that he would never see her again. Unfortunately, Rodrigues unexpectedly committed suicide during his first big scene, leaving a plot hole that I could fix only by killing off Myra. Poor thing. But she died making Honor a better book.

“Also conspicuously absent from the outline is the whole fight to get Payne on the boat with Trinina and Nathan. That happened spontaneously during the writing of the last chapter. After the final, lethal confrontation in the alley, I remember typing and thinking ‘and now Payne and Trinina go and get on the boat.’ I stopped typing. Then I thought, ‘Boy, that isn’t very exciting. I’ll have to make it tougher for them to get on the boat.’ Thus, Payne’s Leap was made up on the spot.

“The lesson to be learned there is that you NEVER make something easy for your protagonist. By beating them up soundly during the course of the book, you make it more exciting for the reader.

“Enjoy.”
 

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