Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Absolute Power" by David Baldacci

What do you think was Luther's motivation? He could have sent the letter opener anonymously to a news agency, but he doesn't. Instead he is set on a personal vendetta. Why do you think this is so?

For further information about David Baldacci, check out:

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David on The Writing Process: Absolute Power
Each writing project presents its own distinct set of challenges.
With my first novel, ABSOLUTE POWER, I had a dilemma from the very first page. I decided that the first character the reader would meet would be a burglar, Luther Whitney (the Clint Eastwood character, for those of you who saw the movie but didn’t read the book.) For the novel to work, the reader had to like, or at least sympathize with, Whitney. The challenge to overcome was that Luther Whitney was a criminal. The opening scene showed Whitney, not a particularly sympathetic character, breaking into a home to steal valuables. Here’s how I went about overcoming that problem…
First, as superficial and callous as it sounds, Whitney stole only from the rich. Some would say, “They can afford to lose it; they have insurance.” If I relied completely on that justification, however, the story would still have failed.
Second, I made it clear that Whitney had never harmed anyone during his burglaries and never even carried a weapon. He relied on his skills and his wits. That made him more palatable.
Third, and perhaps most important, I positioned Whitney’s act of burglary next to an act of far greater criminality: a man beating and nearly killing a woman.
Last, I put Luther Whitney in a locked closet, with a one-way mirror, and forced him to watch this heinous crime. By doing so I also locked the reader in the closet with Whitney. Readers were looking over his shoulder and watching too. (There’s a bit of voyeur in everyone.) Whitney was repulsed by what he saw and wanted to help the woman, but he would have sacrificed his own freedom (and perhaps his life) by doing so. A tough decision for anyone. He ended up doing nothing and hated himself for it. And you, the reader, felt all of those same emotions and thereby bonded with Whitney. Readers came out of that room when he did, perhaps not loving Whitney, but certainly better understanding who and what he was – forgetting about Luther Whitney, the burglar, and focusing on Luther Whitney, the man. At that point, with my initial dilemma overcome, I could get on with the story.