Jennifer Crusie's Blog, page 10
February 23, 2017
Yesterday, I forced myself to go to the diner for Nita’s breakfast. Today, I made the huge sacrifice to go back for Button’s lunch. It’s not Nita’s lunch because Nita’s lunch is insane, but Sandy’s Diner (and my diner) still serves a damn good regular burger. So here’s Button’s lunch:
And once again, here’s Nita’s breakfast:
The things I eat do for my art. It’s mind-boggling. (I’ll put the breakfast rewrite up on Sunday. Tomorrow is more research, and Saturday is Cherry Day. The days are just packed here on Argh.)
February 21, 2017
First, thank you all very much for the feedback.
Second, I agree with almost everything. Here’s a discussion of the comments as of midnight last night:
SANDY: She’s such a nice person and yet you wanted her cut back. You were, of course, right. What I need to do is figure out what I want her there for. She’s there to establish Nita’s relationship with the community and Nick’s impact as a newcomer, and she’s there to sling hash. But I can do that in one pass. The person who’s a real player in this is Daphne and I’ve got her stuck behind the cash register. And there’s a bit that was in the lunch scene that I should probably transfer in here, Dag and Rab coming in for breakfast, too, just a couple of sentences. All of that is actually setting, not part of the scene which is Nita vs. Nick. So I need to figure out a three-beat there, and it’ll probably be Sandy/Daphne/Sandy, just delivering food with Daphne in contrast to Sandy because she’s mad at Nick. So pull out the three food-deliveries so they’re not beats, they’re just breaks between beats maybe.
BACON: I had no idea the bacon was an issue. So first, what kind of diner only gives you two pieces of bacon? The diner here piles it on. I eat some and take the rest home for the dogs and there’s always at least three or four pieces for them. So Sandy piles it on, but yes, I have to go back and count the strips. Should have done that once the discovery draft was over. Discovery drafts can be sloppy. Truck drafts, not so much. Also, bacon and eggs are not carbs, plus I think the way I used it was wrong beyond that, I don’t think Nita would think that, so that goes. Three eggs; I think maybe our diner only has two but I can’t remember. The reason I thought the spread with the French toast was lavish was because when I order it at the diner, it’s two orders, one full order of French toast, one full order of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns with toast. People have been known to make comments. It’s important because Nita eats like crazy and doesn’t gain weight because she’s burning energy like crazy just trying to stay warm while . . . other stuff. It’s actually a plot point. But I can cut the food talk back some. The other thing is that this is the second (hopefully subtle) foreshadowing that Nick’s subconsciously remembering being alive, and when he remembers something, he automatically develops that sense again, in this case, taste buds. When he remembers something and wants it, that part of being human comes back to him. The first beat was sleep, which he managed to reject, this second beat is tasting food, which he gets caught by. So I need that, but I can cut a lot of this way back.
SUNGLASSES: I think that what Lani calls a vestigial tail, something that was important in an earlier draft that lingered after it wasn’t needed. I had a whole thing about sunglasses, but it’s just extra stuff and I don’t need it. So I can cut the sunglasses.
LUNCH CHAT: Yeah, that can go.
JOEY’S CELLPHONE: I have no idea why I put that in there. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I need to figure out a way to make that work or it can go.
GRANDPA’S BAR: I’m not sure about this one. I know it’s important, but I agree that it doesn’t really belong here. For one thing, it makes Nick too human too quickly. I think I can have her negotiate this with Rab later that morning. So cogitating, but I agree it doesn’t fit and should be cut.
JOEY AND THE AGENTS: I think this is really what both Nita and Nick would be focused on. The food stuff should be happening, but I think it’s stronger if it happens without them realizing it, they’re antagonists on the information so they don’t notice they’re bonding over the food. I had Nita repeating the Joey question because I wanted that sense that she was implacable, but it just comes off as repetitive. So what I need to do is look at the beats in that conversation, cut out all the repetition, and then match them to the background beats of the food. I can do that.
And then miscellaneous stuff:
• Let my editor make the cuts: Nope. I send Jen a mss. that’s a perfect as I can get it. Then she tells me the weak places, the same way you all just did, and I fix it. This is my book, I’m responsible for every word. Yes, I am obsessive about that. Anybody here who thinks I’m sane about my writing obviously hasn’t been paying attention.
• When did Nita find out Vinnie was e-mailing with Mr. Lemon? When she questioned him at the bar. It’s in the last couple of rewrites. You haven’t seen them, but I promise, it’s there.
• Does Nick eventually stop giving off heat? Yes. But he also figures out what’s making Nita cold and fixes it. So they recalibrate each other.
• Nita’s awfully calm about him not having a pulse. Yeah. I might just cut that. It was a late addition, and I’m thinking it happens too soon. She shouldn’t be touching him that casually that quickly. So there’s a chunk that can go.
• Two “cutes” for Daphne; I’ll get rid of one.
• Why would Nita tell Nick about her mother? Huh. I hadn’t thought about it. It was mostly efficiency, and I wanted them struggling over something, but what Nick really needs/wants to know is if both of her parents are human. Since she obviously thinks they are, questioning her about them is non-starter anyway. What he really wants to know is the agent/hellgate stuff. Must cogitate, but that’s probably something else than can be cut.
• Why does Nick sound so modern? Because he is modern. That is, he didn’t go to sleep yesterday in the fifteenth century and wake up today in the 21st, he’s been here all along, five hundred Earth years and fifty Hell years. Plus he’s been to Earth, all over it, many times as Satan’s agent. I look at it this way: I left home at 17 which was fifty years ago. I have a vague recollection of those years although pictures of them are always a shock, but the only thing that’s really vivid in my mind is the music. I have little recall of food, for example, except for the egg salad sandwiches at the Dairy Bar, which was the diner behind my dorm. (They had “Different Drums” on the juke box.) I have almost no recall of drugs I did except for the mescaline trips. I don’t remember the clothes except for one blue calico mini dress that was so short I had short shorts that I wore under it. That’s the thing about the passage of time: you LOSE stuff. And Nick’s dead, he doesn’t even have sense memory left. I’m not even sure he can see color although he might need that to function as a fixer. So the fact that his language is modern and his clothing is modern seems to me to be more logical than anything that would hearken back to fifteenth century Italy, especially since as Satan’s con man he’d be adapting to whatever environment he had to work in. The problem will come in that other readers might have the same question, but I don’t think it’s logical that he’d be a throwback. I just have to find some way of getting that on the page.
• Lack of physical variation: This is a problem for me because I don’t see these stories, I hear them, so I have to really work to get physicality on the page. In this case, though, I think I want Nita and Nick on opposite sides of that table. In the earlier scene, the first time they’re together, they’re on opposite sides of the bar, first he’s behind it and she’s in front, then later she’s behind it and he’s in front, and then at the end of the scene he goes around to her side behind it because he knows she’s going to pass out. So now it’s six hours later and she’s sober, and they’re on opposite sides of the table, but they don’t really have reason to move. They’re eating breakfast; musical chairs makes no sense. So the physicality becomes the food. She has a spread in front of her and he has a single egg-white omelet. By the end of scene, they’ve divided two breakfasts and he’s eating her French toast. I think in this case, that’s enough, since they’re also swapping food. That is, she flips a piece of toast over to him, he takes a strip of bacon from her, he dumps half of his toast serving on her plate . . . they’re concentrating on what they’re saying, they both live the life of the mind, but their bodies betray them, first because bodies need fuel, and then because even while they’re in conflict, they’re collaborating on the food. I agree that the beats of the scene should be played out in the physicality, but I’m fine with them staying in their seats and doing it all with the food.
Here’s something I’m still struggling with: Nick’s appearance. In general, I’m not crazy about the Super Hot Guy unless there’s a reason. Cal had to look like a prince in a fairy tale, Phin had to look like the blond frat boy, etc. Nick’s idealized because he’s not real, he’s what he remembers, and he’s going to change as he remembers more and gets more real—I have him getting shorter, for instance, and his ears start to stick out—but he was a con man back in the day from a family of grifters, all of whom were beautiful, and he really is strikingly handsome. I have a couple of placeholder photos that really aren’t Nick any more but that give me a touchstone for description, but I am just not comfortable with what I’ve got yet, it’s too over-the-top-bad-romance-hero. I’m trying to undercut it with Nita’s resistance to it because she knows there’s something wrong there, but I think it’s going to take me awhile to get that right. When I was doing the collage search, I found an article that quoted the placeholder’s straight best friend who said that when he’d first met the guy, he’d thought that he was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, and I wanted that kind of reaction, but it just seems clunky on the page. So I need to figure that out. Up side: I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of a great-looking guy.
The big difference between the Discovery Draft and the Truck Draft is that now that I’m in the Truck Draft, I can be spare. That’s Krissie’s favorite writing word, and it basically means that once I know what that scene has to do, and I can slash everything else, once somebody points out to me what slows everything down. (Congratulations, you are all now beta readers.) I’ll still be tweaking it forever, but I know that I can cut pretty much everything that everybody mentioned, and tighten everything else.
I’m feeling much better about this. Back at you tomorrow with a rewrite. Probably.
After talking about breakfast here, i was hungry, so I went to my diner and had the eggs over easy (with bacon, toast, and hash browns) and the french toast. Please note the bacon:
Daphne’s head scarf:
The post Cutting Breakfast (Revised for Bacon) (Revised Again for Daphne’s Headscarf) appeared first on Argh Ink.
February 20, 2017
So I’m not a fan of scenes that run on too long. I’m not a stickler about it, but in the first act, I try to keep my scenes under 3000 words, 2500 even better, and then in the last three acts never top 2500, in the last act even shorter. I’ve been rewriting the breakfast scene which has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and I like it. But it’s 4400 words. That’s ridiculous. It must be cut.
I am still in the darling stage with it. I want EVERY DAMN WORD. But at least a thousand words have to go. Your job, should you choose to accept it, it to tell me where it lags, where it’s confusing, where you’d cut it. Feel free to be brutal. As always, I won’t respond for twenty-four hours–YOU WANT ME TO CUT THAT??????–because I need to detach for distance, but all feedback is more than welcome.
Yes, I know I keep exploiting you. But you keep coming back. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
February 19, 2017
Evidently Trump cited the horrific events that happened “last night in Sweden” during his love fest campaign rally for the 2020 election.
Nothing happened in Sweden.
This would be just another alternate fact in the increasingly bizarro world America is now inhabiting were it not for Twitter, which immediately adopted the hashtag #lastnightinSweden. The tweets there will warm your heart (especially if you like Ikea and the Swedish Chef).
Also, I’m moving to Sweden.
Feel free to skip this, it’s just me frothing at the mouth over something personal.
I’m furious with somebody.
That somebody is being a hypocrite on Twitter.
I would like to tweet back something cutting.
I’m not going to.
BUT I WANT TO.
I don’t like it when people hurt my friends. I tend to overreact. And of course, I’m not over-reacting as Jenny Smith, I’m over-reacting as Jenny Crusie with all the baggage that entails. So that’s bad. But hypocrites make me crazy, so I’m posting here instead of on Twitter. It seems like a good compromise. My only other option is silence. Okay, that’s not really an option for me, but I can mutter quietly in my little corner of the universe. (That would be here.)
So my snit today is about a guy who tells his wife he wants a divorce on Jan. 1, leaves her stunned, horrified, and alone to explain things to her children while he takes off on vacation, and then gets engaged to somebody else at the end of the month, only to sorrowfully post on Twitter that the divorce was a hard decision for him to make.
I would really like to reply to that. I won’t. My friend doesn’t want me to, and she’s the one dealing with this, not me. But . . .
You know, if people want to be asshats–say our President–I can respect that. The choice to be a duplicitous son of a bitch is as legitimate as the choice to be a saint. You get to choose who you want to be, how you want to live.
But then, for fuck’s sake, OWN IT.
I’m a bitch. I know I’m a bitch. I’ve never pretended NOT to be a bitch. I figure as long as I’m up front about it, people will see me coming and either know what they’re getting into or get out of my way. I am not a fuzzy bunny, unless I’m the fuzzy bunny from the Holy Grail. And I’m okay with that as long as I’m not kidding myself that I’m really a nice person. Polonious was a bore, but he was right about knowing yourself. He just didn’t go far enough. Know yourself, be true to that self, and then BE HONEST ABOUT IT.
Trump is a sociopathic narcissist. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the applause, bend reality however he has to in order to believe he’s a winner. And now he’s taking his pathological need to be THE BEST national, and he’s letting the dregs of humanity dictate policy because they tell him he’s great, and my country is going down the tubes. The thing is, if he’d won the election and then said, “HAH, gotcha,” and resigned, I’d have a kind of grudging respect for him. He’d have accomplished something–the disintegration of the Democratic party establishment–and he’d have rick-rolled the party that tried to laugh him out of the election, and he’d have won by thumbing his nose at politics in general. There’s something kind of noble about that, even if he has mobilized the worst of racist, sexist, intolerant, dickhead America. Instead, he thinks he’s a great President, the best, and now my country is in chaos, all because this asshat will not admit that he’s in over his head and that people loathe him because of what he’s saying and doing. My only comfort is that he’s only been in office a month and he’s already in flames. With any luck at all, Paul Ryan will pull a coup and take over the government. I think Paul Ryan is a despicable weasel, but he’s a sane despicable weasel, and in the end, he’d be a pragmatist. I don’t think Ryan says, “Hey, I’m a man of the people.” He says, “Hey, I love Ayn Rand, screw the people.” If only Trump were that kind of honest, despicable weasel, we’d all be in better shape.
I feel the same way about this guy on Twitter. If you get engaged four weeks after you ask for your divorce, it was not a difficult decision. You had a plan. Embrace your despicably weaselly efficiency, if nothing else.
January: The month of Weasels With No Sense of Shame Who Refuse To Accept Responsibility For Their Weaselhood.
February 18, 2017
Today is Pluto Day.
Because Pluto is a planet:
And also, of course, a dog:
Do not attempt to argue in the comments that Pluto is not a planet. It’s a planet. Anything else is an alternate fact.
February 14, 2017
It’s Valentine’s Day, which for me is the day that the cinnamon jelly hearts go on sale. Not that I’m allowed to have any, but still, I know they’re out there. It’s also the day I’m doing a romance pass on Nita’s first act. Huh. I just realized that “romance pass” may not be the best term for the rewrite in which I go through and try to remember that I’m setting up a romance-to-come. Which is also probably not a good term to use. Uh, rewrite to foreshadow a future romance? Not as catchy, but then not snicker-worthy, either. Which reminds me, the Snickers in the pink foil wrappers are on sale today, too.
So what I’m doing is going through the first act and looking for story moments to foreshadow a romance. Usually, romance readers do a lot of this work for me. I’m fairly sure that if Nita has the first scene and Nick has the second and then they meet in the third, most romance readers will say, “Hello,” and settle in to see things develop. That’s because the real fun of a love story is seeing how thing develop: how they work together, how they handle disagreements, how they come learn to trust each other, the building of the community of two, the growth of the community around the relationship, all of that stuff. Usually when I write a romance, that stuff comes happens first, and then I think, “Right, I need a plot,” and find an antagonist. This time, it was all about the supernatural and struggling with ideas, although I liked both characters from the start.
The thing is, I don’t like most of the shorthand romance tropes. Like he’s gorgeous and she’s gorgeous, so of course they’ll be gorgeous together. I like it that Nick is supernaturally handsome because he’s not real, but that means that Nita has to point that out from the beginning or he becomes Romance Guy. I like it that Nita is kind of scary-looking. I like it that she doesn’t start to trust him until she sees that he’s a skeleton (helps that she’s drunk). But I still need cues in there that there’s a spark, moments that make the romance reader lean into the story. They’re not in there now.
I also like the idea of shared experiences, like the breakfast scene in Nita or the awful-movie-watching in Anyone But You. Okay, I like food and people who like food, so people who like the same food seems like a no-brainer to me. (For best romantic food scene of all time, see illustration above.) Beyond that, people working together on a problem are often drawn together through a shared goal and through stress which produces adrenalin which produces heightened awareness. Also, stress often makes people fall in love: see office and wartime romances. So a shared antagonist and interlocking problems and goals are already in the mix here. I just need to find the moments that make that clear.
But there are also a lot of little clues that work. I think one of the best ones I ever wrote (patting myself on the back here), was Shane giving Agnes the air conditioner. So not a romantic gift. So much more romantic than roses. It’s that moment of understanding that’s a throwaway, not a big production. In fact, I think the most powerful moments are always the throwaway moments, the things that the characters don’t even think about because it’s the natural thing to do.
And there’s there’s the retro but still compelling “I’ll take care of you” move, which isn’t that retro because it works both ways. Like the special license that Freddy brings Kitty in Sprig Muslin Cotillion. Cal defending Min at her parents and vice versa in Bet Me.
And then there’s the always powerful comments-by-others-who-know-the-couple. One of my faves is from The Grand Sophy: When one of Sophie’s friends says “. . . heaven preserve me from marriage with her,” another friend says, “If heaven did not, I fancy Rivenhall would,” an acknowledgement within the story what the reader has known all along, that Sophy and Charles Rivenhall are Meant For Each Other.
I could go on, but it would be more fun if you were playing, too. What are your favorite romantic moments in stories–page or film–and most important, why did they work for you? This isn’t a Valentine’s Day squee topic, we’re doing serious narrative work here. I have a romance to write. You should help.
Let’s talk about what makes a powerful romantic moment.
February 11, 2017
Today is Peppermint Patty Day.
Actually I think it’s supposed to be the candy, but let’s face it, the girl who called Charlie Brown “Chuck” and hung out with Marcie is much more iconic,
February 10, 2017
February 9, 2017
How’s by all of you? We’re having a blizzard here. The power went out for two hours, but I was already in bed typing, so I just put Mona and Milton under the blankets with me–Veronica has issues and so does not burrow–and we stayed fairly cosy. It was wonderful when the lights came back on, though, along with the heat. I love electricity. And now back to work.
Which is figuring out Nick’s body issues.
So Nick’s dead. His only earthly remains are a skeleton in a tomb in Italy. When Satan first pulls him out of Niflheim to be his assistant, that’s the body he projects/remembers, but that upsets the other demons who are really just another race of people, so Satan gives him the same power he gives his agents to Earth, the ability to create a facade, and Nick creates a facade that’s what he remembers. That’s the facade he brings to Earth, the facade Nita can see through after she drinks the scupper. It’s also the reason he doesn’t have pores and that even before the scupper she thinks he’s been air-brushed; he’s just doing the general impression of who he used to be, there’s no there there. No body, no emotions, just the mind/intellect.
Of course, he’s gonna have to get a body before the book is done, although I think I want him to stay dead. I’ve had enough dead-then-alive-again plot points from the Berlantiverse, thank you (how many times has Sara died now?). So like Marley, Nick is dead to begin with. But then he starts to change. Part of that is being back on Earth which awakens memories, like being uncomfortable on barstools and being tired. Remembering being tired reawakens muscle memory which will lead to muscles as part of the facade which will lead to the need for sleep. He goes to breakfast with Nita and sees not just the food but how much she enjoys it and remembers taste buds. I don’t want anything mystical about Nita making him human again, I just want his human memories reawakened which will change how he imagines his facade which will awaken further memories which will make his facade more life like and so on until one day he looks at Nita and remembers lust.
What I need to know is, does this make sense? I don’t want to have to explain it, I just need to know if people will buy that. What do you think?
(I just talked to Krissie in Slack and told her my hero was a skeleton. She said, “You’re kidding, I hope.” Nope.)