Tag Archives: fiction

Yes, apparently, I am that stupid

I’m a huge fan of the work of Tom Robbins. Another Roadside Attraction is my favorite, although I’d probably argue Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is his best. Recently, I started re-reading – for the third or fourth time – Jitterbug Perfume.

A brief synopsis: Jitterbug Perfume is an epic tale that connects the desire of an ancient, pagan king to thumb his nose at death to the activities of a group of modern perfumers making an effort to create the ultimate natural scent. Scent is the center around which the rest of this novel works, whether’s it’s the incense of Kudra, the earthy odor of Pan or the jasmine that permeates the modern scenes. It’s all about odor.

So I get about 75 pages in, enjoying the read, catching those little things you sometimes miss on earlier reads because you’re caught up in the tale or because you were a less mature reader last time around. Then it hits me: My developing novel doesn’t stink. Which is a bad thing.

I realized that, through all the work I’ve done setting scenes, drawing the reader in, giving them that vital mental picture, I’ve pretty much completely ignored one of the five senses: smell. There’s a church scene where smell comes up, and there’s a specific scene where the change of odor in the room is a hint that someone’s broken in. But that’s it. I’ve set a novel in rural Indiana, in the middle of a bunch of cornfields, yet never mentioned the smell of fertilizer, cow shit, tractor grease, outdoor cookouts, that fresh, breezy smell of the early rural morning. I’ve got a Grandma getting down in the kitchen, but I never mention the odor of butter, baked bread, cooked corn, greasy ham, nothing. I even have a character who smokes weed, yet never mention that distinctive, skunky smell.

I don’t know why, is the thing that’s driving me nuts. I understand the power of smell, the power it has for me, particularly when it comes to nostalgia or a sense of place. How did I pretty much completely ignore that?

Perhaps I should focus on the positive, that I caught it now, while still in the developmental/writing stages.  I’ll just call it a win, and move on.

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Ellis and Hemingway, tellers of manly tales

Sometimes, you don’t want to put a book down, while on the other hand dreading the eventual conclusion because the story just has you so damn hooked. Yes, Warren Ellis’ Gun Machine, I’m looking at you.

The short review is this: Imagine CSI (and CSI Miami, CSI New York, CSI Denver, CSI Terre Haute, CSI NCIS THEGOODWIFE, etc.) didn’t suck.

I know, it’s hard to get past the way-too-stylish-for-cops clothes and hair, the over-lit outdoor shots and moody indoor lighting, the fact that the dialogue seems to have been written by a junior-high dropout nursing a 700-mg-a-day Thorazine habit, and realize that police procedurals work because the science of crime, evidence and death is fascinating and many times odd. Part of the brilliance of Gun Machine is that Ellis captures the interesting points of fact-finding without being bogged down by the heavier aspects of the science or resorting to talking down to the reader as if they are a two-year-old, a lobotomized howler monkey or a U.S. congressman.

The other part of the brilliance is the heavy, numbing noir world in which Gun Machine is set. While N.Y. Detective John Tallow drives, he eschews music or talk radio for the police band. Over the course of the novel, the reader begins to roll with him to the beat of  reported rapes, murders and mindless violence that the city’s residents wreak upon each other. The image that has stuck with me since I finished Gun Machine is that of Tallow sitting in the basement of One Police Plaza, in a room covered floor-to-ceiling with photographs of patterns made of guns – big guns, small guns, new guns, damn-near ancient guns – the smell of tobacco faint in the air and the omnipresent pressure to fail or disappear (or at the very least go fuck off for the rest of his life ) pushing down on his shoulders. The final chapters of this book even got my heart racing a bit. I’m a huge fan of Transmetropolitan (comic series) and Freakangels (online comic series), and I liked Ellis’ first novel, Crooked Little Vein. (Most people probably know him from Red, his graphic novel about retired CIA agents that was turned in to a 2010 film starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Hellen Mirren.) But he hit it out of the park on this one. Gun Machine is a novel I’m looking forward to reading again.

Sometimes, you can’t help but put a book down, hoping it will end just so you can return it to the library. That’s what happened to me during my time with Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hemingway does a terrific job – too well in fact – of mimicking the “hurry up and wait” military life. It was mind numbing. To be fair, it was also a busy time for me, so it made it harder to sit down and get into it, but Hemingway certainly didn’t make it easy. I had no such problem with the last 270 pages, when the isolation recedes and the war starts to close in on Robert Jordan and his band of Spanish rebels. It took me more than a month to finish the first half of the book, less than a week to finish the rest.

The set-up is just too slow. Many of the rebels kind of run together when it comes to personalities and roles, and the romance with Jordan and “Rabbit” seems forced and childish, especially when compared to the affair of Frederic and Catherine in A Farewell to Arms. It’s B action flick bad, like a studio exec said to Hemingway, “We need romance so we can get a hot piece of ass in the picture, sell it to teenage boys.” I think the set-up and romance might have worked better spliced into flashbacks. In media res would have been a better way to handle this story, throwing readers into the action and then looking back to see how Jordan, Rabbit, Pablo and the rest ended up where they did.

What I thought may have been Hemingway’s greatest accomplishment, to give some credit to the set-up, was the character Pablo. When Robert Jordan arrives at the rebel camp, Pablo is the undisputed – if often drunken – leader. His fall from that position and subsequent reveal of him as a pure opportunist was easily the most interesting subplot that surrounded the attack of a key bridge.

I also like the end. Jordan completes his mission, blowing the bridge, but is fatally wounded in the escape. He orders his compatriots to leave him behind, armed, so that he can hopefully slow any pursuit. For Whom the Bell Tolls ends with the image of the dying Jordan, his gun trained on a Fascist officer, preparing to drop the unknowing soldier. An American’s final gasp against the tide of authoritarianism.

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Doers of dirty deeds

“A hero is a hero, but everybody loves a great villain.” – Ferb, Phineas & Ferb

I wrote previously about a conversation with a young film enthusiast and how it led to a discussion of heroes. We also talked about villains. “What makes a great villain?” At that point, we parted paths, so that just kind of hung out there, in the air and in the corner of my mind, nagging at me.

Heroes tend to be a bit easier because, no matter how messy they are, at the core they just want what’s right, what’s fair, what’s just. A villain is more of a balancing act: they have to be menacing to the point you think they might prevail (and in some cases, evil does prevail), but they also can’t turn into a gasbag who can’t cash the check his ass is writing. For example, Bond villains. They tend to lack any true menace, and I’ve always been pretty sure that – given a baseball bat and a couple of minutes to go to work with it – that I could have absolutely wrecked Goldfinger, Le Chiffre, Sir Hugo Drax, etc., weeks before their ludicrous plans every came to fruition.

One of my favorite examples of how this menace-follow through balancing act can work is a character from both literature and film: Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men. Chigurh is a contract killer for pay, although destiny has selected him to be an agent of chaos, a coin flip determining who will live and who will die as the poor unknowing wander into his path.

What interests me is the difference in Chigurh’s impact when you compare Cormack McCarthy’s gritty novel to the faithful screen adaptation by the Coen brothers. In the novel, I feel like the impact comes from the reaction by Chirgurh’s victims, particularly the effect on Sheriff Bell. Make no mistake, Tommy Lee Jones does a terrific job in the movie, slowly weakening at the knees as he realizes the evil he is facing. That said, I’m more shaken by just how much Bell is shaken in McCarthy’s novel. The depth to which Chigurh’s killing spree shakes Bell’s faith and perception of the world as it is and was comes across clearer, harder in print.

In the movie, Chigurh is brought to life by Javier Bardem’s performance. Bardem’s Chigurh is magnetic. The viewer is sucked in by Chigurh’s dark-eyed intensity in all manners, his obedience to the randomness of fate. Whenever Chigurh is on screen, there is a pit in the viewer’s stomach, that queasy feeling that something is going to happen and it will not be good, it will not end well. The scene where Chigurh flips a coin for the life of a gas station attendant is chilling and sickening. When Carla Jean Moss (in a brief but awesome piece of acting by Kelly Macdonald) refuses to play Chigurh’s game near the end of the movie, the fear and anticipation mount further. Plus the effect Moss’s refusal to play Chigurh’s game really throws a curve to the killer. Well played, well written and well directed.

The same character, the same story, the same menace … but done in a slightly different way to slightly different effect. It’s a perfect mesh of long-form written fiction and the screen portrayal of the same story.

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I need a hero

The face of a man truly wronged.

The face of a man truly wronged.

I recently had a conversation with a high school-aged acquaintance who hopes to someday write and produce anime. He has an idea he’s been working on, and he occasionally runs his schemes by me. The other day he asked this: What makes people identify with a hero? As the elder statesmen, I felt like I couldn’t just say, “Good question. That’s what every writer is trying to figure out.” Thinking quickly, I came up with this example.

SPOILER ALERT

I gave my young friend two examples from cinema: 1997’s Con Air, directed by Hollywood action maven Simon West and starring Nic Cage, as well as 2003’s Oldboy, directed by Korea’s Chan-wook Park (not the current version in production as directed by Spike Lee).

In Con Air, decorated military veteran Cameron Poe (Cage) is unfairly jailed after defending his wife from a bunch of predatory hoods. Scene after scene, we are reminded of how much Poe loves his wife and daughter, who was born after he was sent to prison. Poe, when not trying to reign in a plane full of violent sociopaths or find his best diabetic bud some insulin, spends the bulk of the movie attempting to keep track of a teddy bear he has purchased to give his daughter upon his release.

It’s simple … simple enough for simpletons, in fact. The wrongly convicted champion Poe loves his wife and baby. The wrongly convicted champion Poe loves his wife and baby. The wrongly convicted champion Poe loves his wife and baby. It’s classic Hollywood, an underdog and family man trying to right the wrongs and return to the loving arms of his family. West drives this into each viewer’s skull over and over again. A big-budget action flick like Con Air doesn’t have time for a vast plot or characters with depth. The idea of being separated from the ones you love and having no power to change that, that’s a concept anyone can understand. No explanation needed. You just need a teddy bear as a symbol and you’re ready for an hour and a half of shit blowing up.

Then there’s Oldboy. Our “hero,” Dae-su Oh, is a mess. Here’s a middle-aged man arrested for public drunkenness who handles his arrest with all the aplomb of a two-year-old who has had his favorite toy taken away. A friend bails him out, but Dae-su shows no gratitude. The friend abandons him in the street outside the police station. Then, with no warning, Dae-su disappears.

When we see Dae-su again, he is a prisoner in an odd hotel room. He has no idea where he is. The first thing he sees: A TV news report about the mysterious death of his wife and daughter, and the fact that he’s nowhere to be found. Dae-su is drowned in grief and rage, but has no outlet. In fact, for the next 15 years, Dae-su is trapped in the room, never seeing another human being, food handed to him through a slot in the door, occasionally gassed so faceless men can enter and clean the room (and, on occasion, Dae-su himself).

Then, as suddenly as he is imprisoned, Dae-su is released, a pocketful of cash and no explanation as his only parting prizes. His desire to find those who imprisoned him and seek revenge is all that remains for Dae-Su. He has nothing else.

Yes, it’s essentially the same idea as Con Air: A wrongly imprisoned man loves his absent wife and daughter and wants nothing more to return to them. The difference: Con Air spells out everything. There is no mystery, no gray areas, no room for interpretation on the part of the viewer. There is no doubt that Poe is the triumphant hero and will return to his wife and child and that, in the end, everything will be OK.

Oldboy … nothing is spelled out. We don’t know who imprisoned Dae-su. We don’t know why. And it’s hard to imagine what would compel someone to take such drastic action, especially against such a waste-of-space meat puppet like Dae-su. He hardly seems worthy of the attention.

We also don’t know how Dae-su will react. He is fractured, no longer human in the way most of us are. Will he seek the people who are responsible for his imprisonment? Will he become the drunken loser he once was? Will he lose his mind, alone in the wide world for the first time in more than a decade? Here, the connection isn’t as simple. You must be able to identify with Dae-su’s sense of impotent rage and total confusion. Chan-wook Park is asking for a much deeper investment on the part of the viewer. Not all viewers are going to be able to make the commitment – some of that comes from the fact that incest becomes a key part of this puzzle – but those who do will be rewarded with a tale that is Biblical in its sense of honor and vengeance. It also contains the most shocking final scene I’ve ever scene, in the sense that Park manages to create a happy ending out of a horrific tale … or, at least, the happiest ending that could possibly come from this situation. I consider Oldboy to be the best film I’ve ever seen (suck it Citizen Kane, which will surely be an “Overrated Shit” topic somewhere down the road).

In the end, did my explanation help my young friend? I’d say yes. Because one of the most important ideas to come from our talk was that, as the writer, you control the world. You don’t have to give the viewer/reader any information you don’t want to until you want to. Con Air chooses to put that all out front because it’s appeal must be broad. Oldboy gives away nothing, slowly unfolding until the final piece of the mysterious puzzle is revealed. One is about an immediate, broad connection. The other is about commitment by the filmmakers and the viewer to a complex, rewarding story.

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Another pair of classics: “Catch-22” and “Great Expectations”

I am a man of two minds when it comes to Charles Dickens. On the one hand, I see why the word “journalistic” is used often in critiques of his work. He has an eye for detail and does a nice job of laying out the political, economic and social justice issues of the day. He has a knack for undercutting corruption and outing false, self-important people. There is a straightforward quality to his work that is to be admired. And there is no doubt about the importance of his novels and their relationship to the Victorian Period.

However … I might argue that all of those terrific things don’t necessarily make Dickens a great writer of fiction. I know, heresy. But let’s think about this … If Darth Vader had virtually disappeared after A New Hope and not even shown up at the end of Return of the Jedi, would anyone care about the Star Wars series? If Voldemort had dropped out sight pretty much after The Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter had fought Crabbe and Goyle at the end of Deathly Hallows instead, J.K. Rowling would be a significantly less wealthy woman. Imagine a Big Lebowski where Walter damn near quits showing up after his run-in with “the Jesus” and the Dude is left to battle the nihilists and bury Donnie alone.

Maybe I’m stretching it with the last one, but you get my point. Miss Havisham is the interesting personality in Great Expectations. Not Pip, who the novel is about. Not Estella, who gets less interesting the more the novel progresses and eventually just fizzles out. Certainly not Joe, the people of the town or London, even the notorious lawyer, Mr. Jaggers. And most of those characters stick it out through the end of Great Expectations. But Havisham is outed as the fraud mentor at the end of the first third of the book and is relegated to minor character status for the rest of the novel. Easily the most interesting personality in the novel, Havisham is gone well before the end. The second two-thirds of Dickens’ fairy tale drag without her presence. And for some reason, both Dickens and Great Expectations are celebrated for it.

No similar problem plagues Catch-22. It’s madmen wall to wall: Yossarian, Doc Daneeka, Captain Black, Major Major Major Major and, of course, Milo Mindbender, who I may be elevating to my personal great literary characters pantheon. Each character – great and small – has their way of contributing to the madness of Joseph Heller’s WWII bombing unit. And despite each character’s unique foibles, each in his own way is locked into the catch-22 that plagues all of them. Every time you think Heller can’t take it any farther, he does. It takes a focused mindset to pull that off, almost an author’s form of method acting. To consistently immerse yourself and your work in the same logical fallacy and find new, more extreme ways of expressing it as the novel unfolds … it’s astounding. I couldn’t recommend this novel enough.

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Another pair of classics: “Catch-22” and “Great Expectations”

I am a man of two minds when it comes to Charles Dickens. On the one hand, I see why the word “journalistic” is used often in critiques of his work. He has an eye for detail and does a nice job of laying out the political, economic and social justice issues of the day. He has a knack for undercutting corruption and outing false, self-important people. There is a straightforward quality to his work that is to be admired. And there is no doubt about the importance of his novels and their relationship to the Victorian Period.

However … I might argue that all of those terrific things don’t necessarily make Dickens a great writer of fiction. I know, heresy. But let’s think about this … If Darth Vader had virtually disappeared after A New Hope and not even shown up at the end of Return of the Jedi, would anyone care about the Star Wars series? If Voldemort had dropped out sight pretty much after The Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter had fought Crabbe and Goyle at the end of Deathly Hallows instead, J.K. Rowling would be a significantly less wealthy woman. Imagine a Big Lebowski where Walter damn near quits showing up after his run-in with “the Jesus” and the Dude is left to battle the nihilists and bury Donnie alone.

Maybe I’m stretching it with the last one, but you get my point. Miss Havisham is the interesting personality in Great Expectations. Not Pip, who the novel is about. Not Estella, who gets less interesting the more the novel progresses and eventually just fizzles out. Certainly not Joe, the people of the town or London, even the notorious lawyer, Mr. Jaggers. And most of those characters stick it out through the end of Great Expectations. But Havisham is outed as the fraud mentor at the end of the first third of the book and is relegated to minor character status for the rest of the novel. Easily the most interesting personality in the novel, Havisham is gone well before the end. The second two-thirds of Dickens’ fairy tale drag without her presence. And for some reason, both Dickens and Great Expectations are celebrated for it.

No similar problem plagues Catch-22. It’s madmen wall to wall: Yossarian, Doc Daneeka, Captain Black, Major Major Major Major and, of course, Milo Mindbender, who I may be elevating to my personal great literary characters pantheon. Each character – great and small – has their way of contributing to the madness of Joseph Heller’s WWII bombing unit. And despite each character’s unique foibles, each in his own way is locked into the catch-22 that plagues all of them. Every time you think Heller can’t take it any farther, he does. It takes a focused mindset to pull that off, almost an author’s form of method acting. To consistently immerse yourself and your work in the same logical fallacy and find new, more extreme ways of expressing it as the novel unfolds … it’s astounding. I couldn’t recommend this novel enough.

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The magic Bug

Apparently, the Volkswagen Bugs from the 1960s had warp drive. “I’m giving her all she’s got, captain!”

Checked out Steve McQueen’s 1968 detective flick, Bullitt, for the first time yesterday. A decent action film, what it’s really noted for is the big chase scene, with Bullitt in his Mustang Fastback chasing a couple of mob guys in a Dodge Charger. It’s quite a doozy, the true centerpiece of the movie.

However, there is a pretty serious flaw, one I haven’t seen mentioned in most reviews or commentaries. Four times during the chase, in the steep, claustrophobic streets of San Francisco, the Mustang and Charger fly past a green Volkswagen Bug. The same, green Volkswagen Bug. When the chase leaves the city and the speeds crank up even more, it doesn’t stop. One more time, there’s the Bug, being passed again.

So, either the Volkswagen Bugs of the 1960s have FTL drives, or someone should have been paying a bit more attention about the secondary cars in that chase scene. Because no matter how good the chase is – and it is top quality – seeing that Bug kept taking me out of the moment, even had me bursting into laughter in the midst of a very serious situation.

As a writer, I can sympathize. In my novel, the main male character manages a restaurant and the main female character works there. There are multiple situations throughout the book where the two characters interact at work. In two different scenes, the pair is having a conversation after the restaurant it closed, mulling some of the things that have happened to them over the course of the book.

I went back through some of the chapters the other day, reading and tweaking. I’d just finished the second, post-closing scene days before, and I was re-reading the first post-closing scene when I realized I had pretty much re-used the same conversation.

Dumbass.

Not exactly the same, of course. But both opened with my female lead cleaning and complaining about parents who would bring twin toddler boys to all-you-can-eat-spaghetti night. From there, the scenes diverge, focusing on what each scene needs to be to make it work. But that’s a pretty big does of dumb. Unlike Bullitt, I caught mine before anyone else saw it.

Continuity matters, and it isn’t always easy. Lesson learned.

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A tale of two classics

Sometime this summer, I decided to re-read some canonical novels and read a few classics I’d missed. In part, it’s a self-education thing. For me, it’s about being well-rounded.

The other part? I won’t go off on a long “the canon is bullshit” spiel, but that was my thought. I’m curious to know if these so-called classics really are worth the hype. In two instances where I read books unfamiliar to me, I was a bit surprised with the results: Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms.

The Count of Monte Cristo is one I’d been wanting to read for awhile, and it just never panned out. But this summer I made the leap. I found it to be … epic. Not in the way my grade school-age daughter and her cohorts abuse the word. In the true, grand, sprawling definition. It takes place over decades, draws people from around Europe, Asia and northern Africa and is the longest of long cons. Dumas’ plotting and characters are all what and who they need to be to make a story this complex work.

However, you could probably cut 150-200 pages from The Count and not miss much. Why? First of all, the novel lacks in the dialogue department. Oh, there’s plenty of people talking. But much of it is A) re-hashing stuff that doesn’t need re-hashed or B) monologues disguised as dialogue. Second, there are too many lengthy side-trips in the set-up. The chapter where the Count brings a friend of one of his marks to his island in an effort to move at said mark sideways could have been covered in a quick paragraph of conversation later as a flashback/aside. Instead, it was a long chapter of indulgence on the Count’s part and self-indulgence on the author’s part. A modern editor would make quick work of plenty of Dumas’ bloat. I’d really be interested in seeing a leaner version of this story. I think the pacing would be significantly improved, and rather than getting buried in the excess of Dumas’ prose, the result would be a better read.

As for A Farewell to Arms, most of my familiarity of Ernest Hemingway comes from The Old Man and the Sea. My junior high, high school and college teachers/professors thought Old Man was a necessity. Coughbullshitcough. Maybe it’s just seafaring books – I really can’t stand Moby Dick, an overly long fishing tale sold as a must-read story of obsession – but I kind of kept hoping the sharks would just eat the old bastard so I could move on to the next reading assignment. Unlike The Count of Monte Cristo, I was in no way looking forward to A Farewell to Arms.

And the joke was on me: A Farewell to Arms could end up becoming one of my favorite books. The description of the toll of World War I on Europe and its people is amazing. I thought Hemingway’s style was visceral and potent. The way he captured the early, silly nature of the relationship between Henry and Catherine was silly and true-to-puppy-love form. The way both their desire and their situation drove them closer, Henry’s decision to seek out Catherine after his near execution and their boat ride to freedom were all spot-on. There’s no bloat, not a word wasted.

But what did it for me was the ending. I have to admit, I was kind of expecting Catherine to die in childbirth. But when the child died, too, I was surprised. Hemingway could have given Henry a partially happy ending. Instead, Henry’s world was rocked. There is power in the sadness and shock that surrounds the death of loved ones, and Hemingway captured it perfectly. Henry had been witness to the vulgarity of war and limped away relatively unscathed. But the death of his wife and child carved a hole in him. Beautiful in its heartache.

What’s next? Well, I don’t know that Brave New World is considered canonical, but Aldous Huxley’s disturbing tome on the future of the new world order is definitely a classic. I just wrapped up the re-reading of it and am now a few chapters into Catch 22, which may be the funniest and most outrageous American novel not written by someone with the name “Vonnegut.”

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Figuring it out

I haven’t written about writing or my novel-in-progress for a while, for good reason. I was starting to think things were a bit too … straightforward. This meant stopping to re-examine what I’m doing.

To refresh, my main male character is not exactly who he seems, and my main female character sort of stumbles on to this fact. In addition, there is a shadowy figure – whose identity is not revealed until late in the game – that is on the tail of the main male character. I’d been working with two suspects, the sheriff and a local pastor. But I decided that isn’t quite enough. I needed a third.

But who? This is supposed to be a small town. I have a main street with a few businesses, a grain processing plant, the grade, middle and high school, a couple of churches, a golf course, a mechanic … and that’s about it. Pretty limiting. Plus, this is a student who is somewhat new to the area, so that’s going to limit the places she goes, the people she bumps into on a regular basis even more. Not only that, she has plenty of relatives in town. I didn’t think a relation would work as a straw man/potential threat in this instance, so that limited the pool of potential new suspects even more.

I ended up going with a guidance counselor. My female lead, being new to the area and probably considered at-risk (father died at an early age, living with her grandparents a state away from her mother, etc.), would likely be a regular in the guidance office early in the school year, out of legitimate concern she’d adjust and thrive. Plus, a guidance counselor is going to be privy to private, personal information and be able to ask questions that most people couldn’t ask a teenage girl, without seeming like creepy stalker pervs.

I’m also making Marcia Miller (it’s a good, eastern Indiana name) a woman. The sheriff and pastor are both men, so their interaction will be different with my female lead than will Marcia’s. Again, because she’s a woman, it’s should be easier for the female lead to divulge certain personal information, the kind of things someone collecting information can use to her advantage. It’s a bond my FL is going to lack elsewhere in her new hometown and school. With her mom at a distance, both physically and emotionally, this gives the counselor an in, as well.

I’m going to make Ms. Miller consistently behind the game. As is obvious on this blog, my political leaning is to the left. However, sometimes I have just a little patience with the people I share common ground with as those that I don’t. Ms. Miller will by a symbol of those people, who often don’t seem to see the right’s attacks coming, a step slow despite possessing great intelligence. She’ll react, not act. My hope is that this won’t be taken as an attack on her gender, especially because the pastor is a bit of a nervous nelly and the sheriff is on the wrong track for a considerable portion of the novel. Nobody gets to be a super-genius evil villain. They all have blind spots.

On a more personal note, my high school counselor was a bit like this, slow to react. There were certain things she did well, but often seemed surprised at the behavior and reactions of teenagers and unsure of how to proceed once encountering said behavior. Maybe it’s just me, but those seem like the kind of things one should be prepared for as a high school counselor. But I guess it’s working out in the end. She gave me a model to work with. This ever sells, I may owe her a beer.

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The bring down

On the one hand, when I’m writing and I come up with something unexpected, something that wasn’t part of the plan, I’m excited. The muse has been benevolent, solving a problem, filling a gap, sending me in new and exciting directions.

On the other hand, then I think to myself, “Why the %$@& didn’t you think of that already?”

Writers … we don’t win even when we win.

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