Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Gift of Bad Writing. Really Bad Writing.

On this Christmas Eve, I would like to give you all a gift. This gift can at once inform and mortify. It can inspire simultaneous tears of joy and dismay. It will reveal me to be a complete and utter dork. I give to you the gift of Bad Writing.

Nick_rhodes_poster_duran_duran

This poster hung right beside my bed. So dreamy…

As I mentioned in my previous post (A Backward-Looking Foreword), my early writing efforts focused largely around the fantasy life I had concocted for myself at the age of 12. In these stories, my occupation varied – I was a writer or a singer or a fashion designer, and, inexplicably in one, an aerobics instructor who had attended Harvard – but the object of my affection remained constant: Nick Rhodes, keyboardist for Duran Duran.

I have excerpted from one of these tomes (this one 454 handwritten pages and ending with a Q&A interview where Nick announces to the press that he and I are to be married at last) for your reading pleasure. Or horror. You can’t say I never gave you anything.

Getting ready for a big party where “all the famous actors, actresses, and even rock stars” will be in attendance (and to which I was personally invited by my good friend Cyndi Lauper):

I picked out the fanciest and prettiest dress I could find. I don’t have a lot of posh dresses because I only make a moderate sum of money. Working as an aerobics teacher, I can’t expect to (sic) much. I picked out the best looking dress I had, a beautiful white lace evening gown. It was strapless and made my figure very flattering.

I always knew how to arrive in style:

 While driving to the huge mansion in which the party was to be held, I put on one of my tapes. It was Power Station’s Bang a Gong, Get in On. I turned it up really loud and opened the windows enough for everyone to hear the blasting music but not to (sic) much that it would mess up my hair.

Getting scoped by my first celebrity of the evening:

Somebody tapped me on the shoulder about thirty seconds later. I slowly turned around and found Philip Michael Thomas of the American show, Miami Vice. I froze, and stared into his eyes, dumly (sic).

“Hi,” he said. He kissed the top of my hand quite elegantly. I was very impressed by that.

“My name’s Lisa,” I said.

“You’re American? Then you must have seen my show.”

“Many times.” I replied with a confident and assuring smile.

“Even though this music is not the best,” he motioned to the soft idiotic orchestra playing in the background, “but…would you mind a dance, or two?”

“I’d love it.”

I rested my chin on his shoulder and gloried in the fact that I was actually touching Philip Michael Thomas. 

But I was fickle:

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Nick (Rhodes) was looking at me. Actually, it wasn’t looking, it was more like watching. I blushed and turned my head so I couldn’t see him anymore. But, I couldn’t keep my concentration off him for very long.

Alas, I was a shy young thing and left the party a la Cinderella before Nick could sink his rock star hooks into me. Days later, he showed up at my front door:

To my complete surprise, I saw Nick there, waiting for me. He was wearing a grey suit with a pink shirt, and a grey tie. Pretty dressed up compared to my bleached, tight jeans and white beer-stained half-shirt.

“I’ve been trying to call you ever since Saturday night,” he explained. “I was wondering if you wanted to go out some time.”

“Sure, anytime,” I said instantly. “But how did you find out where I live, my name and my telephone number?”

“I can find out anything if I want to.” (not creepy at all)

As with many romance novels, describing what everyone is wearing was clearly more important than developing a plot:

I showered and dressed in a white pair of pants and a low cut, short sleeve pink shirt. I stepped into a white pair of leather flats and put my hair in a French braid…I heard a knock at the door. There was Nick, he was dressed casually in a white jumpsuit, and a red pair of shoes. I decided I was dressed properly and slowly opened the door.

During our first date, we break the rule of not talking about dating while on a date:

“This may sound a bit weird and straightforward, but I’m dying to know, uh…do you have a boyfriend?”

“None serious. I guess you could say I’m dating, trying to get into the swing of things around here.” I explained, with a smile. “How ‘bout you?” I asked hesitantly.

“Well, there is one that I date when I need to take someone with me somewhere, but we have an open relationship so to speak,” he answered uneasily. We pulled into the parking lot of a fancy restaurant. Nick turned the engine off and looked over at me. “We don’t really have an emotional attachment, if that’s what you want to know.”

Showing Nick my bedroom for the first time (can you say Fan Girl?):

I pushed the door open and sat down on the bed. I flung my arms up towards the walls. “Taa-daa!” Nick stared around the room. One wall was completely covered by posters of him, and one other wall was covered with pictures of Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Howard Jones, Paul Young, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Bananarama and Power Station. My floor was fairly clean, but my closet doors were open and advertising my clothes. 

“Interesting, very interesting,” he glanced at my micalaneous (sic) wall. “What about Madonna?”

I stared at him in horror. “Madonna? Ug!”

“I like her,” he remarked.

“Oh, gag! She is such a sleaze bag. I’ve never seen anyone more of a slut than Madonna! She gives women a bad name!” I exclaimed, disgusted.

Our first kiss:

“Do you kiss on the first date?”

“That depends on who I’m with,” I said teasing. He looked uncomfortable, so I added, “I will with you, though.” He smiled and put his hands on my cheeks. He leaned over close, so close I could feel his breath, and pressed his lips against mine. We kissed for twenty seconds and I never wanted it to end, but unfortunately, it did. Nick got into his car and shut the door.

“Uh…bye,” he said.

But then I spot Nick (that Playboy) out to dinner with another woman. Things get crunchy when he takes me to the same restaurant the next time we go out:

“I hope you wont be too mad at me, but I made reservations for the place I was last night. I kind of have a booth that is constantly reserved for me,” Nick explained.

Rub it in my face just a little bit more now! “I don’t mind,” I lied. (And then proceeded to put on my most revealing dress in an attempt to win him over.)

When we arrived at the restaurant, I got so many looks from jealous girls, and guys, it really wiped me out. We were seated at the same table as he and Tiffany were the night before. I could just imagine Nick showing up there every night with a different girl, but the thought made me sick to my stomach.

Despite his romantic gestures, I just can’t get the other woman out of my head:

“How’d you meet Tiffany? Do you like her a lot? Do you think she’d prettier than me?” I interrogated.

“Hey, slow down.” He opened the car door and let me in. “One question at a time. I met Tiffany at a party a month ago. She’s pretty nice, but kind of an airhead, stereo-typed dumb blond.”

“Do you think she’s prettier than me?”

“Not by a long shot!”

I start to come around, but then he takes me to his eleventh floor penthouse and makes his move, the Cad:

“Do I get a grand tour?”

“Sure,” he turned around and slid his arms around my waist, “but that’s not what I had in mind for right now.” He leaned over and gave me a warm kiss.

“Aw, come on. We’ll do that in a while. You can wait a few minutes, can’t you?”

“Okay, fine.” He impatiently showed me around his extravagant flat, making a point of showing me his bedroom. By that time, I was really beginning to wonder if all he wanted was to get me in bed. Maybe all his sweetness was just a cover.

Later: While we were kissing, he began to unzip the back of my dress and push it down. “I…I don’t want to uh…go all the way right now, okay? I’m just not ready yet,” I explained nervously. “Do you understand where I’m coming from?”

Nick is not impressed and gives me the cold shoulder. But my demure ways win him over in the end:

“I didn’t expect to hear from you again,” I said.

“Why not?” he sounded surprised.

“After last night, I thought you were pissed off at me,” I told him.

“Oh yeah, I was at first but after I dropped you off, I got to thinking. I do understand why you stopped me, I’m just used to having women jump at the chance. I respect your decision. But…that’s not the reason I called. I wanted to know if you’re busy this afternoon.”

And a romantic walk in a park is all it takes to win me over again:

“You’re pretty special yourself, you know,” he said and looked right into my eyes. Nick moved his hands onto my cheeks and bent over to kiss me. We stood there for about ten seconds until he pulled away and said, “I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll remind you. I really like you a lot. I don’t want to intimidate you or anything, but in a few weeks, I think it’d be a possibility for me to feel much stronger about you, maybe even…”

Love? I thought. Or is it to (sic) soon for that? Damn, I wish he would finish his sentence! “Go on,” I encouraged.

“Love you,” he finished. I gasped and smiled.

“I think I might be able to feel the same way about you, too…in a while,” I told him.

  

One of my first book covers

One of my first book covers. Hand-drawn, of course.

Love is in the air on we’re only on page 59 out of 454. Many hi-jinks ensue, including copious extremely awkward sex scenes. Money problems threaten me with an unwelcome return to the United States. Nick whisks me off to his villa in France, where his bitter home-wrecking ex-girlfriend shows up to cause trouble.  I accidently ingest drugs and spend a confusing afternoon wandering the streets of Paris. I am assaulted while trying to scare off would-be muggers. But in the end, our love is too strong to be felled by such trivial matters.

Okay, I think I need a strong drink now. Merry Christmas!

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Post-NaNoWriMo, aka The Love Haze

Hmmm, smells like a tear in the space-time continuum.

Hmmm, smells like a tear in the space-time continuum.

Despite the risk of nettling my fellow WriMo’s, I will start with a bold statement: This year’s November writing bonanza was by far my easiest. This is not to say that I did not get stuck in the mud a few times along the way. There were of course moments when I questioned my characters and my plot—for instance, the plausibility of dogs sniffing out disruptions in space and time just as easily as they can sniff out the cocaine hidden in your suitcase. But these literary roadblocks were more like mud puddles than floods, and I was able to navigate around them without stalling for too long. (How many travel-related metaphors and similes can you cram into a 113-word paragraph?)

So why was this November any different from my three previous jaunts? How was I able to escape with only minor psychological scrapes and bruises? Now a solid ten days into December, I can reflect back on a few of the key distinctions:

My Target Audience

Each NaNoWriMo, I challenge myself to write in a voice or format I’ve never tried before. This year I decided to write a book for kids. Or rather, for that magical age that falls somewhere between Barbies and keg parties, the ‘Tweens. Admittedly, this did pose some hitherto unknown challenges: Would an 11-year-old know what “bereft” means? Can I really write 50,000 words without cursing? No drinking, smoking, casual sex, infidelity, drug flashbacks, bar fights or hookers? What the hell (sorry, heck) else am I supposed to write about?

Trust me, you do not want to try to herd me.

Trust me, you do not want to try to herd me.

But these challenges were promptly countered by one of the really great things about kids: they aren’t yet jaded. When I was a kid, I loved to read mysteries and adventure novels…bring on the magical and the supernatural! I didn’t question a character’s motivations or scoff when the next-door neighbor turned out to be a witch or a unicorn herder. I did not need to suspend my disbelief because I still believed in most anything. I was – pardon the pun – an open book. So whenever I bumped up against a question of plausibility in my ‘Tween novel, I shook it off and kept going. Because of course an 11-year-old will believe that a rusty old ladder can serve as a bridge between the worlds of Here and There. Duh.

Plot-Driven vs. Character-Driven

My favorite books to read and to write have typically been character-driven. Another first, this year I decided to try my hand at Plot with a capital P. In nearly every piece of fiction I have written to date, I struggled to get to know my characters, to understand their thoughts and behavior, and how they grow (or don’t) over time. But with my plot-driven story, it felt like I was putting together a jigsaw puzzle; once I identified the “big picture”, it was just a matter of sorting through the pieces. Lesson learned: It’s much more difficult to determine the trajectory of a character than of a storyline.

However, when I mentioned this discovery to a writer friend of mine, she promptly asked, “But do you feel less close to these characters?” And the answer was unequivocally yes.

A Good Sounding Board

If all writers’ have just one thing in common, it may be that we tend to spend a little too much time in our own heads. Writing is a very solitary activity, and anyone who has ever had the fortune to find a good sounding board in a friend or colleague understands the value of talking through the issues. I was lucky indeed to have such a person this time around.

Having said that – and in keeping with my previous point – I find it much easier to obtain helpful input from others when it comes to matters of plot over character. Determining the sequence of events, when to reveal the plot twist, etc. is a very different matter than looking to someone else to predict your character’s emotional growth. That’s almost like a psychologist spending 20 hours with a patient, summarizing that person in two sentences, and then asking a total stranger how to advise him. Almost.

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