The ideas also dictated the size of the cast. I started out with close to a dozen girls, bumping them off with drownings, sharks, suicide, infection, etc.
Hmmm, maybe too many deaths.
I want the story to have a semblance to reality,
but I want it to be upbeat as well.
More Googling, more research. Combine incidents, offer less lethal outcomes. The infection now becomes an acne-related cyst. Draining that cyst now becomes a gross-but-funny scene.
And how do they sterilize it?
Well, turns out one of the
ties in with that, just how
I won’t reveal here.
This is one way of creating a story, following each idea through to its logical conclusion, then seeing how it connects.
Without the need to kill off as many characters,
my cast was soon whittled down to a core seven:
The novitiate and six students.
Already knew who Sister Agnes — “Aggie the Naggy” — was.
What about her charges?
Well, as stated, troublemakers, problems, losers.
One of them is the outcast Filipino girl.
She needs an antagonist, a petty little bigot, a bully. Southerners of that era, I am sorry to say, were pretty open and upfront with their prejudices. So we have one spoiled Southern belle in the crew.
All bullies have toadies, so give her an easily manipulated younger girl who views her with hero-worshipping eyes.
There’s the big fat girl nobody ever talks to, the one who does nothing but sit in the library and read and study and get straight A’s on her tests.
We need a comic relief. We’re going to get some laughs and smiles from all the others, but we need one who can always be relied on to say or do something to break then tension.
There’s an old British sit-com called Keeping Up Appearances about a social climbing middle class woman named Hyacinth Buckett (“Pronounced ‘Bouquet’!”) who drives everyone around her nuts with indefatigable attitude. Okay, the social climbing is off-putting, but the indefatigable attitude that gets on everyone’s nerves is charming. So we’ll add a Brit to the mix.
Finally, a character who at first seemed to be superfluous but whom I kept around simply because I needed one more player for the other characters to bounce off of.
When Savage Angels was being planned as a graphic novel, I really couldn’t find much use for her, but when it became a prose novel, suddenly she stepped forward as the narrator — and in retrospect, only she could be the narrator.
(I tend to do that a lot,
include characters and
incidents that seemingly
have little if any bearing
on the story only to later
realize they’re the lynch pin.)
Now that I had their types, I needed their personalities, their histories.
 Acne is a severe problem for many Caucasians living in tropical climes.
 And is her stock ever going to rise once the others realize she has knowledge that can keep them alive.
(to be continued)