Sunday, January 16, 2011

New character, new short story

So I got some good writing in this week.  I managed to get another 1500 in on the novel.  I am still setting up characters and introduced a new one.  I have included the excerpt below.  Followed by feed back questions.  The whole process is pretty interesting (at least to me).  Even though I have a pretty clear and detailed novel outline, I am already starting to see the story deviate from it.  Not from the major bones, but some of the smaller details.  Every time I rewrite the story (this is the third version)  Frank lives a little longer.  In the first draft, he was already dead in the second paragraph.  In the second draft he is killed in the first chapter.  This draft he will make through at least chapter 1 if not chapter 2.  God only knows what will happen in drafts 3 and 4.  My goal is to go with this draft until I have finished the novel and then revise, not to revise part way through, like I have done in the past. There are writers in my writing group that bring in chapters of a first draft novel for review while they are still writing. I can't imagine trying to revise the first chapter before the thing is done.  It could completely change the trajectory of the novel. The group has been invaluable to me in working out the novel outline.

I was interrupted on Thursday by an idea for a short story and so worked on that.  I've gotten about halfway through it.  It looks like it will end up being 5-7000 words. It is entitled "How To Throw Out A Dildo."  Surprisingly, it is not very racy, except for the fact that it is about throwing out a dildo and all the things that implies.  It is my attempt at comedy and I may post an excerpt here once I complete it and possibly had the writers group take a look at it.   I am thinking of pitching it to Cosmo magazine, should anyone else think it is funny.  I guess I'll have to remove my "Why Cosmo Annoys Me Post."  I know already it needs a lot more work.  Parts emphasized, parts removed or diminished. My goal is to finish the first draft Monday/Tuesday and then get back to the novel for the rest of the week.

Anyway, here is the excerpt from the novel.

Claire was so happy to see Anna walk through the door for her weekend visit for Frank’s birthday.  Even though she had only been away at college for a little more than a month, she seemed to have already changed and matured.  She carried more self assurance in her tall frame and she had cut her long blonde hair short into a sleek pixie cut.  It made her look even more like Frank.  
Claire and Anna went into town to have a cup of coffee and to buy the final ingredients for Frank’s birthday dinner that evening.  The fragrant warmth of the coffee shop was a sharp contrast to the crisp October air.  They were ensconced in a booth overlooking the sunny street, chatting, and watching passersby.
“So my roommate, Bonnie, changes her clothes about 50 times a day.  And she leaves her clothes all over the room,”  Anna complained.
“Have you talked to her about it?”  
“No, Mom.”  Anna rolled her eyes.  
Claire repressed a retort at Anna’s sarcasm.  She didn’t want to get into a conflict with her daughter so soon after she got home.
“So any cute boys?”
“I met a guy at a party last week.  He’s cute.  We’ve been texting.” Anna’s phone beeped as if cued.  “This is him!”  she said enthusiastically, opening her keyboard to respond with alacrity.
“Excuse me, are you Claire Butler?”  A young woman had approached the table.  She stuck her hand out, “I’m Theresa. Theresa O’Williams, Professor Butler’s teaching assistant.”
“Oh, of course.   It’s nice to meet you.  Frank has said that you are a wonderful TA.”  
“Is this Anna?  Quite a change from the picture in Frank’s office.”
Anna looked up briefly from her texting and greeted Theresa then was immediately absorbed by her cell phone.
“It’s a boy.”  Claire nudged Anna under the table.  Anna knew how she felt about texting in the company of others.
Theresa smiled and consipiratorily leaned close to Anna, her auburn hair hiding her face.  “I completely understand.”  She turned to Claire, “So how’s it going with the empty nest?”  Theresa inclined her head towards Anna.
Claire smiled defensively, “It’s fine.  We miss her of course, but it’s fine.”
“And you,” Theresa poked Anna playfully, “How is the first semester going?  Your Dad says you’re doing pretty well.”
Glancing up from her phone, Anna responded with a short, “Yeah, it’s great.” Then she went back to her electronic conversation.
“Really?  What’s your favorite class?”
Anna shot a questioning look at her mother, closed her phone and said, “Um, well, I’m mostly taking required courses.  But I would have to say that English would be the best one so far.  The professor is really interesting.”
“So not Economics, like your Dad, huh?”
“No, not really.”
Claire shook her left arm vigorously trying to get her watch out from under her sleeve.  “Oh, look at the time!  Anna we have to get moving honey.  We still need to get to the grocery store and get the steaks for Dad’s dinner tonight.”
“You must be celebrating Frank’s birthday.  Tell him Happy Birthday for me.”
Theresa walked them out of the shop.  “It was nice finally meeting you.”  She shook Claire’s hand again, holding on to it just a little too long.  
“Weird,” Anna said.

Yeah, I don't like the word "alacrity" either, but couldn't think of another one to describe how sucked in kids get when their phone beeps.  What do you think about Theresa?  What kind of person does she come off as?  Why did Anna think she was weird? Looking forward to hearing your comments.  In the next week or so, I am hoping to add some code to the blog so I can respond to individual comments in order to spark discussion.  Write On!


  1. How about "zeal" or "in a fervor" instead of alacrity? As for Theresa, it's hard to say. If I ignore the synopsis, she comes across as a bit forward in a creepy sort of way. With the synopsis, I find her coming off more as a rival checking out the competition. In either case, it almost felt like she was a bit more familiar (almost clingy) with Clair and Anna than would be expected of someone you just met. I think I would have been a little wierded out too, but perhaps I read too much Stephen King.

    As for the synopsis itself, I think you have to decided what prejudices you want people to bring to the story. They always do, so it's more a matter of how you want to shape those prejudices before they get to your story. If you provide too few details, there may not be enough to "hook" the desired audience. Too many and you give away too much of the story.

    Now, all that being said, given just the little bit I've seen so far, I can say you've got at least one confirmed sale when you go to print... :-)

    - Mike

  2. Hey Mike,
    Thanks for the feed back. I was going for the creepy overly forward kind of thing, so I guess I am on the right track. I think I will leave the synopsis for now and revise it a little. Claire doesn't actually know if Frank is having an affair for sure until much later in the novel. She just suspects. I think it gives audiences a frame work to look at what I am posting.
    Again, I really appreciate your encouragement!