September 08, 2005

The "Tired But Happy" Post

After a mad drive back to Los Angeles from Scottsdale, AZ on Monday I spent a day preparing for a visit from my sister-in-law, and I've been playing hostess for 36 hours or whatever.

No, I haven't caught up on my Arizona posting, but I've got several more entries in draft that I'll polish up and post as time permits.

Tomorrow (okay, today—it is after midnight) I'll be catching up on some personal business and then frantically putting together another chapter for my murder mystery. It is, as my husband reminds me, the reconvening of our respective writer's groups tomorrow: how glorious and awful.

I had lunch today with a family friend I'll call "Ship Ahoy," a man I've known since 1988. In that time we've been colleagues at two different organizations. I was his editorial assistant at one local magazine, and he was my managing editor. I transferred to another department. I fell in love with someone else who worked in editorial, and ended up marrying this person, to my eternal good fortune. Eventually, Mr. Ship Ahoy worked for me at an outdoor magazine; I was his ME that time around.

This time, Mr. Ahoy had looked over the outline and sample chapters for my book, and was giving me his input in exchange for lunch. We talked about the problem of motivation, which is pivotal for anyone who's writing about mysteries that are not police procedurals. Ultimately, one has to "sell" the idea that Lord Peter preferred solving murders to seducing young heiresses—at least part of the time.

I sighed, because I hear this from my writer's group all the time. None of them are big mystery fans, and they'd all like to know why any normal person would try to figure this sort of puzzle out, instead of leaving it to the police and coroner, and knocking off early for a gin and tonic vs. looking at dead bodies.

Mr. Ahoy doesn't think the motivations for my characters are watertight.

"You do understand," I ask him, "that real fans of the genre might be willing to suspend their disbelief?"

"Yes," he tells me. "So you have a tactical decision to make. Do people have to enter the world you create, or are you going to bring it to them?"

"I do want it to be enjoyable by non-mystery fans," I tell him. I resist the temptation to add, "and fuck you." (Because he's doing me an enormous favor, and because I truly admire him.)

He hands me the pages as we part ways, and asks to be kept abreast as I produce more chapters. He explains that he found "a few little things," which scares me because I'm a copy editor/proofreader myself, and I know "a few little things" generally means a mass of pencil markings all over one's [previously] clean, white paper.

I promise myself that I'll look them over later, because I have errands to do before I go home. I make two stops, and then I can't stand it. Getting back into the car, I sit in the back seat and read his remarks. One has to do with a man's non-jealous reaction to the news that someone's been putting the moves on his fiancee. In retrospect, I realize that it serves my plot for this character not to care too much. Mr. Ahoy simply writes, "not a 'guy' reaction. He would either be pissed or extremely pissed." Fair enough. So he would.

A woman honks at me as she tries to maneuver out of the space adjacent to me, so I close the passenger door and realize after I've finished going through Ahoy's notes that—once again—I've locked myself into the back seat of my own car, because it has some sort of childproof feature that keeps it from being opened from the inside. So I climb over the front seat and free myself from the tyranny of my own scatterbrained nature.

And I exit the parking structure smiling. With something that looks almost like a plan to fix the plot holes. Or at least a renewed commitment to a project that's as maddening as it is fun.

Bear with me, okay? (Actually, there aren't any bears here at all. I don't know why I said that.)

Posted by Attila at September 8, 2005 03:05 AM | TrackBack

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