Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hey Grandpa! What’s for supper?

Hey Grandpa! What’s for supper? “Buffalo Chicken Cobbler with country fried mummichog gravy…”

Cobble: Verb 1. put together hastily

Cobble: Noun 1.  a deep-dish fruit pie with a rich biscuit crust, usually only on top. Noun 2: a mummichog.

Mummichog: Noun 1. a silver and black killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus,  found in fresh, brackish, and salt water along the Atlantic coast of the U.S.

Cobbling. The story of my life.
I crawled out of bed, not really hungry, but knowing if I didn’t eat, I’d suffer later.
Protein. Must have protein.
Standing in front of the open refrigerator, I weighed the options. No mummichog gravy. Looked at the clock, saw that I needed to hurry, and weighed the options again.  I saw half a chicken thigh, buffalo wing sauce, and eggs. I cobbled my breakfast together from leftovers. Just because chicken isn’t bacon doesn’t mean I can’t have eggs with it. Or hot sauce. Right?
Then I cobbled myself together for work, slapping on makeup in front of a steamy mirror, throwing my hair back in a clip, and randomly yanking clothes from hangers. Luckily, I own a lot of black.
That’s also what we’re doing with the last several chapters of our novel. Cobbling. Larry wrote some scenes, I wrote others, and when we had our weekly meeting, we piled up the printed scenes, and they were out of order. And when I use the word “order,” it’s kinda loosely, because action is taking place simultaneously in two different locations. So how do you order something like that?
I don’t.
Larry does. He seems to be able to keep it straighter than I can.
            When I cobbled this weekend, I ended up with the same scene two places, then when I realized that, I took it out, but failed to put in the correct scene before I sent it off for his approval.
            It occurs to me that I spend a great deal more thought and time on our story than I do either on meal planning or appearance.
With which I’m perfectly okay, because writing is way more fun than cooking or grooming.
Although I’m not sure what they think of me at work. I don’t suppose it matters as long as I remember to zip my pants.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shakespeare versus Popeye

“A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” Or something like that. I think I got that from Shakespeare… or a Miracle Grow commercial.
Anyway, what it means to me is that a rose is a rose is a rose—there I go sounding like Shakespeare again.What I mean is that a cat is a cat, a tree is a tree, a cloud is a cloud etc. And if you called a cat a tree or a cloud a cat or a tree a cloud it wouldn’t make any difference at all…except the cat probably wouldn’t come to you when you called it.
You see, it doesn’t matter what a thing is called…usually. The story Becky and I are writing needs a title. It started out just being “our story,” but when we talk about it, it could be any story we are writing, but it isn’t. It’s “our story.” So Becky suggested using, Happenstance as our working title, that’s working out fine, and everyone at the critique group knows what we are talking about when we say Happenstance.
But it doesn’t really fit. It was discussed at our critique group, and another title was suggested: The Case of the S*** Plant Shooting. Okay, that’s more descriptive of the actual story, but still not there yet. And there is the chance that the title might repulse some readers before they even start reading.
The Case of the Excrement Facility Shooting doesn’t do it either. The case of the Decatur Sewage Treatment Plant Shooting?
I’m not sure Mr. Shakespeare would approve of any of these titles.
Besides, a picture of a big turd on the dust cover might be a little off-putting, too. The more I’m talking it down, the more I like The Case of the S*** Plant Shooting. The part that I don’t care for is the “The Case of…,” part. That makes it sound like a PI mystery series. It does have detectives in it, and it has been a mystery to us how it will end but “The Case of…” just isn’t right.
Even though a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, we’ve got to get this rose smelling more like a rose. It’s early yet, we have time to come up with the perfect title, but it’ll take some serious thought. It’s not often I have serious thoughts, so the matter of the perfect title will fall to the fair damsel, Becky—and she’s a goofball sometimes.
But that’s the good part about writing with a partner—when I’m stumped by something, I just play dumb (well, I’m not really playing, I guess), and Becky will take over, and come up with something brilliant.
It’s really unfair that we have to put so much thought into the title of our story because it is what it is and that’s all that it is…
So much for Shakespeare. Now I’m starting to sound like Popeye!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Not up to Arguing

Larry and I met to go over the last few scenes we worked on, and Larry read something out loud to me. Then he looked up. He waited a moment, then asked, “Aren’t you going to argue?”

I shrugged noncommittally.

“But you always argue.”

I screwed my face into an ambiguous expression.

“You don’t have the energy to argue?”

And I just really didn’t. I think the last time that happened, Reagan was president.

The entire month of January has been that way. I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to talk to people, I don’t want to brush my teeth.

But I do want to finish our novel.

Even in this kind of an energy funk, my mind still chugs along, thinking about characters and plot and what happens next. I know Larry is waiting on something, and I have to sit down and write, and get it to him.

Pride is my motivator.  Even feeling like total crap, I sat down at the computer this weekend and pounded out eight pages, edited it a couple times, and sent it off.

And he liked it. Mostly.

Now can I go back to bed?

The answer is no. It’s time to get Chapter 30 ready to send to our Critique Group.

Pride marches on.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I'm out of character

I’m sitting here holding a giant dill pickle in one hand and typing with the middle finger of my other hand. I’m not pregnant, and I’m not a woman, but I had a craving for one of those great big pickles you see at the convenience store, and I acted on that craving, which is kinda out of character for me.
Now if I was drinking a Coke, that would be in character since Coke is more of an addiction for me than a craving—I’m rarely seen without a Coke cup in my hand.
The pickle thing? I just had an urge, and hey, sometimes people do things they wouldn’t normally do, depending on the situation.
That’s the way it is with the characters in our story. They have to react to whatever situation we throw at them. But if they do something they wouldn’t normally do, I would hear, “He can’t do that. That’s out of character for him.” And those who called me on it would be right.    
In our story the protagonist, Casey, is a mild mannered guy who my writing group calls a wuss. (Thanks a lot guys, considering that Casey is patterned loosely after me.) At one point Casey is forced to take action to save lives, and he reacts to the situation well, and in character. (Okay, Writing Group, next time a bad guy comes to our meeting with a machine gun, this Casey is hiding under the table until the shooting stops.)
But if our story’s Casey were to get up one morning, strip off his shirt, tie on a Rambo headband and go out with elephant guns under each arm looking for bad guys, it would be so far out of his character that we wouldn’t believe him anymore.
I can occasionally do things out of my character, but my characters can’t or they wouldn’t be believable or relatable.
Such is my goal and challenge—to create a character that readers like and can relate to, one that reacts to situations in his own way and, hopefully, in a way that we might react, ourselves, if we were bold enough, funny enough, or creative enough.
Okay, now my pickle is eaten, and I can two-finger type. I can’t imagine what made me think I’d enjoy that big, green, salty thing—which I did for the first few bites—but overall, I wish I had gotten a Milky Way.
Now that would have been in character for me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 7 Deadly Scenes

Yes, that’s it. That’s how many scenes we have left before we FINISH our novel, and Larry is newly energized by the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

I never really had any doubt. I’m stubborn that way.

Deadly scenes? Somebody in our writer’s group said a few weeks ago about our main character, “I hope Casey doesn’t die.”

I hate it when authors kill main characters. (Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!) Dean Koontz totally ticked me off by killing the completely innocent love interest at the end of Odd Thomas. Was that really necessary? Just because a of the tragey he promised in chapter one? Other things would have been tragic! Now I won’t read his books until my mom screens them for me, and I know the important people live to the end.

Why are the scenes deadly? Well, the book has bad guys with big guns. Somebody has to die eventually.

Are ALL seven scenes deadly? No, but it made for a catchier title. Larry makes you laugh with his scenes while in mine the bullets are flying and so is the blood.

It’s all very exciting. We divided up the scenes that are left, he’s begun writing his,  and I’ve begun writing mine. The end is in sight.

I was talking to a friend of mine about our book, and he asked, “Then you’re finished?” Well, define “finished.” The novel is done. Then we start the rewrite. Then Beta readers. Then the RE-rewrite. So, no we’re not DONE done, only mostly done.

Seven deadly scenes? Okay, actually there are only two deadly scenes, so the odds are definitely stacked in Casey’s favor!

Monday, January 10, 2011


OK, I think it’s about time to call the cops.

Oh, there’s nothing wrong…well, I’m sure there’s plenty wrong, but it’s about time we find out what it is. Our story has a lot of “cop stuff” in it, and we need to know if we wrote them acting appropriately. Actually, we wrote them acting inappropriately quite a bit. Otherwise, what would be the fun of it? Our story is not complete and total slapstick—we don’t want our readers to suspend belief TOO much, but we do want it enjoyable. I think we’re looking for a reaction like “It could happen, I guess,” as opposed to a “No way in hell that would happen!”

I don’t personally know a cop, but I’m not above going up to one at McDonald's and asking a question or two. I’m always afraid if I ask too many questions, though, he’ll think I’m planning a heist or something, so I tend to limit my questioning. I happened to run across a cop who is interested in writing. He gave me his phone number and offered to help. When Becky and I get done writing all of our “cop stuff,” I’ll call him and arrange a meeting where we can interrogate him. Then we can rewrite to make it kinda accurate and believable.

So, why not get the info first so we don’t have to rewrite so much? We didn’t know where the story was going. I think few writers do. That’s why we need to wait until the last cop scene is written. We still don’t know, specifically, how it will turn out. There are a few areas where he might not be able to help us, like gunshot wounds and comas. And if not, I guess I’ll have to start ambulance chasing

Thursday, January 6, 2011

POV Shift Saves the Day--Again!

I sat down to pound out a scene, where the “big ending” is right around the corner. Larry and I discussed what I planned to write. I even had the scene in my head, all ready for paper.
Somewhere between my brain and my fingertips, the whole thing fell apart. Most of the information landed on to the page, but it didn’t pop.
What the heck’s wrong here? Was it my mood? Been feeling kinda tired and cranky. Was it that I didn’t have a clear vision? No, I could see it all happening in my head like a movie.
I decided to just walk away, let it sit for a day, and looked at it again, then realized—there’s no tension. The bad guys are on the way to kill the main character. This should be really tense, right?
            Not this draft.
So I rewrote it. Twice. I wrote that one scene three different ways, and it still stank up the room.
So I changed points of view. Again, the POV shift came to my rescue. When I first wrote the scene, the POV seemed obvious. Why would I write it from anybody else’s point of view?  
From now on when I’m struggling with a scene, maybe I need to just slow down and experiment with points of view instead of forcing onto the page only exactly what’s in my head.
Especially when we’re talking about the “big scene” coming up. I’m excited about being nearly finished with our novel. I can’t wait until we can hold up an entire manuscript and say, “We did it!”
We know what still needs to be written and for a couple of the scenes, the point of view is obvious. But for those that aren’t obvious, I have to remember to take it slowly, thoughtfully, and creatively.
Because even though finishing a novel is our ultimate goal, playing with the characters is half the fun!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cause, Effect and Random Crap

“Great writers pull stories from real life.”
I read that recently, and have heard it before, and it elicited the same reaction both times, which was: Dang, I hope not, or Larry and I are two of the most dysfunctional people on the planet.
That was my first reaction.
My second was to consider the possibility, which I quickly dismissed.
Larry and I are average people doing average things in our average lives. No big drama, at least not for me. I’m not a risk taker, the life of the party. I don’t deliberately do anything that would make me look silly or unintelligent. Dull as dishwater, I’m telling you right now. D-U-L-L.
So I have to make my stories up, and since I don’t really like drama, I make up nonsense. And there is some wild nonsense in our book.
Okay, now I’m rethinking my blog opening, primarily because I over-think everything, and have been told that my entire life, but that doesn’t stop me, because that personality trait is hard wired.
(Hang on a second—let me think about that.)

The most real thing I put in the story is how-I-might-act-if-I-thought-I-could-get-away-with-it. Our character Punch for instance—I would LOVE to dress in random layers that don’t match. I would LOVE to be able to switch personalities at the drop of a hat to suit the situation. I would LOVE to mouth off and be able to back it up with muscle or charm or a boot full of knives.
Then there’s Kelly. When I write for her, she’s my if-I-were-a-real-girl-this-is–how-I’d-act character. Anybody who knows me knows that I’ve never been a “real girl”. There is nothing foo foo about me. Anything feminine I do is entirely accidental.
So back to the original thought—great writers pull stories from real life.
After much thought, I’ve come up with two elements in this book that comes from real life:
1.    Cause and effect
2.    Random crap happens 

We’ve all pretty much all been victims of both, so yes, I’ve decided I agree with the opening statement. But that’s where it ends. If any of this stuff happened to us in real life, you’d be hearing it on the news.
So stay tuned. More at 11:00.