Revising Scene by Beats: Nita’s First Scene

So I had a first scene for the Book That’s Not Happening, and it was a mess. Well, it was a first draft, they’re a mess by definition. And since this week’s Writing/Romance post was on beats, I thought I’d break down the opening mess into beats and revise it here. Because that would be a blog post. It’s been a bad couple of days so I’m behind on Argh, and I am nothing if not a multi-tasker.

To start with, here’s the mess first draft:

First Draft of Nita’s First Scene (beats separated by asterisk)

Detective Nita Dodd spotted her brother as soon as she got out of the car. Even past midnight with multicolor neon reflecting off the rain-slick street, the big white “Coroner” spelled out across the back of Mort’s jacket was a dead giveaway.

“I really appreciate you calling me,” her new partner said as she got out of the other side of the car. “I know this is an off-duty thing and you didn’t have to-”

“I’d had too much to drink to drive, Detective Button,” Nita said, and headed for Mort.

“Well, I’m still grateful,” the little blonde called after her as she tried to keep up. “And you can call me Chloe.”

Nita’s head pounded as the bourbon began to wear off and left her mired in reality once again, this time with more dead people. To her left, Mort was bent over a body in the front seat of a car. To her right, a good fifty feet away, Clint Witherspoon was looming over another body in front of Hell, Vinnie Smith’s club. The body was bald which probably meant it was Vinnie. Wonder who he pissed off this time?

“Is that a dead body?” Chloe said, trying to catch up as she looked over at Witherspoon.

“The one on the ground is,” Nita said. “The one standing up is Detective Witherspoon. Go see what he wants. Check for a pulse.”

“Which one?” Chloe said, and then obediently swerved and headed for Witherspoon.

“Who’s the cute little blonde?” Mort said, his head still inside the car when she reached him.

“Chloe Button, my new partner. What is all this?”

Mort pulled his head out and looked down at her, nonplused. “There’s a homicide detective named Chloe Button?”

“What. Is. All. This.”

“Right.” Mort stepped aside and gestured through the window. “Happy birthday.”

“And I didn’t get you anything.” Nita squinted at the corpse draped over the steering wheel. No bullet holes. He must have died on impact. Nita put her head through the window, careful not to disturb the dead, and saw the gun where it had fallen from the driver’s hand. Okay so the body with Witherspoon was no longer an unsolved murder. So why am I here?

“The day’s only started,” Mort was saying. “Plenty of time to shop. Electronics are always good–”

“Mort, I’m tired.”

*

“Right. This is Ralph Denton. At approximately 12:30, he drove by Hell–” Mort gestured to the bar, clearly identified by the burning letters over the pitchforked door. “—and sprayed bullets into Joey Murdock.”

“That’s Joey? Why would anybody shoot Joey? He was the nicest bouncer Vinnie ever had.”

“Then Ralph here kept going and hit this lamppost. His airbag did not deploy.”

“So this is a crash victim, not a homicide, and we know he shot Joey, so why was I called away from my bedtime bourbon?”

“Because then it gets weird.”

“Oh, hell.” Nita put her hand on her throbbing temple. She was sobering up. That couldn’t be good.

“Why else would Witherspoon call you?” Mort said.

Because he wants to get back into my pants? “Give me the weird.”

“According to four different witnesses, all of whom I overheard talking while I was counting bullet holes in Joey—seventeen, if you’re interested—Joey was shoving some guy out of the bar in front of him when Ralph did his drive-by.”

“So we have three bodies.”

“Two. The third body is inside having a drink with Vinnie.”

“So he was behind Joey–”

“Not according to the witnesses. Front and center.”

“He was wearing a vest.”

“Nice of Ralph to group his shots. No. But then as Ralph drove on, the third body waved his hand, and Ralph’s car sped up and crashed into the pole.”

Nita tilted her head at her twin and, with thirty-three years of practice, gave him the fish eye. “You’re saying this is a homicide, too?”

“Swear to god it’s true,” Mort said. “At least, that’s what the witnesses said. They were babbling a little.”

“Drunk?”

“Surprised. So Witherspoon asked where you were–”

“And you gave him my new number,” Nita said, exasperated.

“Under the circumstances, yes.” Mort waved his assistant over to the car to deal with Ralph before he turned back to her. “I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.”

“There always is,” Nita said.

“And I’m equally sure that Witherspoon is not going to find it.”

“Excellent point.” Nita looked over to where the large detective appeared to be chatting up Chloe, his head bent down close to her fluffy little blonde one. “He’s a good detective. He’s careful. He covers the bases. He could have handled this.”

“He strikes out when it comes to the weird,” Mort said. “No imagination. It’s a design flaw. Are you going to talk to the third body? Can I come along?”

“Why?”

“I want to see him drinking. I’m picturing the booze coming out of the bullet holes.”

Nita frowned at him. “Two people are dead, Mort.”

Mort nodded, cheerful as ever. “I just want to know why it’s not three.”

I’m tired, my head hurts, I want another drink.

“Please,” Mort said. “It’s our birthday. We should do something fun together before we have dinner tonight with Mom.”

“Fine, come along, ” Nita said, and headed for Hell.

****************************************************

REWRITE
There are a million things wrong with that scene, but the biggest is that there’s no there there, it just follows its nose. But beating myself up for meandering in a first draft is just dumb. Stop the meander, that’s the ticket.

Start with a basic conflict analysis so I’ll have a spine to hang my revised beats on:

Protagonist: Nita
Goal: Do her job (find out what happened in the shooting) and go home to bed
Antagonist: Mort
Goal: Find out what happened in the shooting

Problem: No conflict. They want the same thing.

So they’re close, not just brother and sister but twins (TWINS! Now all I need is a Chinaman and a secret passage) and she’s drunk. He’d notice. Unless she’s always drunk at night, he’d want to know why.
I don’t think she’s a drinker. She’s very focused and a control freak, and that does not jibe with habitual drinking.
So there’s a reason she’s drinking. It’s their 33rd birthday, that might be significant. She’s had seizures when she was young, maybe that ties in.
She’s stressed some way, worried about something? Sick? What drives her to not just take a drink but several? Although if she doesn’t drink much, it’ll only take two or three.

So they both want to solve the crime, but he’s worried about her. Why?
Over-protective twin brother? That implies she needs protection and he knows she doesn’t.
Because she’s drunk and that could screw up the investigation? She’s off-duty, so there’s no reason she shouldn’t have had a drink, plus he called her in, it’s his fault she’s in this position.

So Nita moves from _____ to _____? (I’ll fill in the blanks in a minute when I know more about the scene).
Mort moves from his usual jovial self to concerned brother?
That is really weak. He needs a stronger goal.

So they’re both focused on solving crimes. (Figure out why later.)
She doesn’t think there’s an unsolved crime/problem at the scene and wants to go home.
Therefore he DOES think there’s a problem that only she can solve, and he has to keep her from going home.
So the conflict is Mort convincing Nita to go into that bar where she’ll meet Nick. Because he wants her to meet Nick? Because there’s something about Nick that he feels strongly should be investigated? Why by Nita, though? Witherspoon is right there. What’s Nita got that W doesn’t?

Beyond that, what’s the point of this scene?
It introduces four characters and hints at three more and describes the first crime, but that’s just information.

What’s the story?

The story is about a homicide detective trying to solve a murder with supernatural elements that turns out to be much bigger than just a drive-by. Too general.

The story is about a human detective who falls for the Devil, except she’s not completely human and he’s not a demon. Is this a romance? Because that’s a romance.

The story is about a battle played out in Hell and on earth over power. That’s thematic, not really the plot.

If you smush all of those together, it’s a story about self-knowledge and power? Too general.

It’s a story about a woman who realizes there’s a whole lot more to life than she knew. That’s closer.

It’s a story about a woman whose search for an evildoer gives her huge revelations about herself and about how the world works. (There’s a terrible sentence.)

It’s a story about a woman and the ruler of Hell trying to re-establish order in their respective spheres. That’s true, but it’s not really the story, or at least not the juice of it.

It’s a story about a woman and the ruler of Hell trying to re-establish order in their respective spheres, in the process of which they learn about each other’s spheres, which significantly broadens their understandings of how their own and each other’s worlds work, and which leads them to fall in love. That’s right, but it’s too wordy.

Also, where’s the focus? The story is either the mystery with a love story subplot or vice versa.

But the key to both is discovering information that completely changes their perceptions of how their lives work, which opens them up to falling in love, something that’s impossible when they first meet. So the plot changes them so they can fall in love, and falling in love changes the plot so that they succeed in their external goals.

Amanita and the Devil is a story about two people who discover information that completely changes their perceptions of how their lives and their worlds work, which opens them up to falling in love, something that’s impossible when they first meet, and which leads to them defeating evil together.

Okay, still way too wordy, but I think that’s the story I have to introduce in this first scene, at least Nita’s part of that story.

So the first scene has to establish Nita’s baseline as a no-nonsense, smart cop—and put a dent in her stable world with the introduction of the supernatural evil that’s going to upend everything. It can’t be just set-up. Begin with stability, challenge that in a way that foreshadows the huge revelations ahead, end with the instability of the overall conflict for the entire story/book.

So the stable world is Nita approaching Mort for information, Mort being his usual jovial self.
The cracks appear when Mort gives her impossible information, and she tries to interpret it to fit her stable world.
But Mort insists that the impossible happened and that she has to fix it, and she respects him enough and she’s curious enough and responsible enough that she agrees to investigate what she refuses to at the beginning of the scene.

Three beats?

So to start, let’s look at the existing beats:

First Beat: Out of car, Nita sees Mort, waves Chloe to Witherspoon, talks with Mort as usual.
End of Beat: Mort tells her about no bulletholes in Nick, supernatural at work.

Second Beat: She argues with Mort, kind of. Mort wants to come along to meet Nick.
End of Beat/Climax: She says yes. Mort wins.

Yeah, that sucked.

Revised Beats.
First Beat: Nita gets out of car, trying to sober up, sees Morte, waves Chloe over to Witherspoon, tells Morte to stay on task because she wants to go home. (Establish no-nonsense character, relationship with Chloe, relationship with Morte, normal world, goal to get out of there.)
Conflict: She wants to go home; Morte wants to jolly her into a good mood so he can ask a favor.
End of Beat: Nita makes him tell her what’s going on.
Nita wins.

Second Beat: Morte gives her the basics, Nita is not buying them (no bulletholes is not logical), asks why she’s there, Morte tells her Witherspoon wanted her because it’s weird, and Witherspoon was right.
End of Beat: Nita is not swayed, it’s obvious what happened and who killed who, and then Morte says, “This guy Nick says he’s the Devil.”
Morte wins (she’s still there).

Third Beat: Morte coaxes and argues that he needs to go interview this Nick before the guy disappears or gets rids of evidence, and Nita argues that it’s not the Devil, but she’s stuck.
Climax: Nita agrees to stay and investigate and to take Morte into the bar.
Morte wins.

Nita moves from tired and still a little drunk in a stable world to exhausted and sobering up in a possibly unstable world.
Morte moves from blocked from getting into the bar to interview Nick to going with Nita to interview Nick.

That’s still not quite right, but it’s a lot stronger.

So based on a lot of thinking and cutting and rewriting a couple of times, I’ve ended up with this:

********************************************************

First Scene Rewrite (beats separated by asterisk)


Detective Nita Dodd spotted her brother as soon as she got out of the car. Even past midnight with multicolor neon reflecting off the rain-slick side street, the big white “Elyse Island MEDICAL EXAMINER” spelled out across the back of Morte’s jacket was a dead giveaway.

“I really appreciate you calling me,” her new partner said as she got out of the other side of the car. “I know this is an off-duty thing and you just found out about me today, so you didn’t have to . . . ” The little blonde’s voice faltered, her eyes anxious behind her glasses.

“I’ve had too much to drink to drive, Detective Button.” Nita clutched her styrofoam coffee cup and pulled her shabby peacoat closer to shut out the February cold as she surveyed the scene

To her left, Morte was bent over a body in the front seat of a black SUV that had smashed into one of the island’s really expensive old-fashioned street lights. That was going to annoy the Mayor. It had also knocked sideways the Lemon Lane street sign, which some drunk had once again changed to “Demon Lane.” Because that never stopped being funny. Dickhead, Nita thought.

To her right, a good fifty feet away, her former partner, Clint Witherspoon, loomed over another body in front of Hell, Vinnie Smith’s club. The body was bald which probably meant it was Vinnie, which wasn’t good for her let’s-clear-this-up-fast-and-go-home plan. Half the island wanted to kill Vinnie.

Clint looked up and saw her and gave her a half wave, not sure, and she tried to smile back and waved a little with her coffee cup. Oh, god, guilt. Guilt. GUILT–

“Is that a dead body?” Button said, squinting over at Clint as she pushed her glasses back up her nose.

“The one on the ground is,” Nita said. “The one standing up is Detective Witherspoon. Go see what he wants, Detective Button.” So I don’t have to.

She headed toward Morte, and Button tried to catch up. “Call me Chloe, please. We’re partners!”

“You bet.” Nita pointed at Clint. “Go.”

Button nodded, narrowly avoiding a salute, and headed for Clint and Body #2 as Nita’s caffeine began to kick in. Hello, reality, she thought, this time with more dead people and a chipperish partner named Chloe.

“Who’s the cute little blonde?” Morte said, his head still inside the car when she reached him.

“Chloe Button, my new partner. What is all this?”

Morte pulled his head out and looked down at her, a lock of his dark hair making an upside down question mark over his right eye. “There’s a homicide detective named Chloe Button?”

Nita looked at him, dead-eyed. “What. Is. All. This.”

“Oh, we’re in a good mood.” Morte grinned at her. “Come on, cheer up, we’ve got a murder. And it’s a weird one! You live for this stuff.”

Nita stared at him balefully. “I’m tired, I’m sick, I want to go home. Give me the facts or I’ll kill you where you stand.”

“Right.” Morte stepped aside, his good humor undamaged, and gestured through the window. “Happy birthday.”

*

“And I didn’t get you anything.” Nita squinted at the corpse draped over the steering wheel. He must have died on impact. Considering where the steering wheel had ended up, it must have been one hell of an impact. She put her head through the window, careful not to disturb the dead, and saw the gun where it had fallen from the driver’s hand.

So Vinnie was no longer an unsolved murder.

“Now about our birthday,” Morte was saying. “I know what I want–”

“Morte, clearly this guy shot Vinnie and then died in the crash.” She slurred a little on the “crash” and caught herself. “Why am I here?” she said, enunciating carefully.

He looked at her closely. “Have you been drinking?”

“Yes.” She stared at him defiantly. “I wasn’t on duty, I was cold, I had a hot toddy to help me sleep.”

“You don’t drink.”

Nita gritted her teeth. “Why did you call me?”

Morte frowned at her and then went on. “This is Ralph Denton. At approximately 1:30 AM, he drove by Hell–” he gestured to Vinnie’s bar, clearly identified by the burning letters over the pitchforked door. “—and sprayed bullets into Joey Murdock.”

“That’s Joey?” Nita took another swig of caffeine, feeling depressed now. “Why would anybody shoot Joey? He’s the nicest bouncer Vinnie’s ever had.”

“Then Ralph here kept going and hit this lamppost. His airbag did not deploy.”

Nina looked at Ralph. He was still dead which, since he’d probably shot Joey, was fine by her. “So Ralph is a crash victim, not a homicide, and we’re 99% sure he shot Joey, so again I ask, why am I here?”

“Witherspoon asked for you.”

Nita closed her eyes as the guilt rose up again. “No.”

“Get over yourself,” Morte said. “He knows you’re through with him, you made that clear when you turned him down.”

“I didn’t turn him down, I told him I didn’t want to marry anybody. Why–”

“He asked me to call you because, as I said, this one’s strange. Have you been doing a lot of drinking at night? Because this is new and I’m worried.” He peered at her closely. “You look kind of green.”

“I had a bad doughnut.”

“There is no such thing.”

Nita took a deep breath. “I drank the toddies because I was cold and I needed help sleeping. They were medicinal not recreational. Why is this one weird?”

“Toddies? Plural? How many?”

“MORTE.”

Morte nodded. “According to four different witnesses, all of whom I overheard talking while I was counting the bullet holes in Joey—seventeen, if you’re interested—Joey was walking out of the bar with some guy named Nick when Ralph did his drive-by.”

“So we have three bodies,” Nita said, looking around for the third.

“Two. The third body is inside having a drink with Vinnie.”

“So he was behind Joey–”

“Not according to the witnesses. Front and center.”

“He was wearing a vest.”

“Nice of Ralph to group his shots. No. But then as Ralph drove on, he suddenly sped up and crashed into the pole.”

Nita tilted her throbbing head at her twin and, with thirty-three years of practice, gave him the fish eye. “You’re saying this is a suspicious death, too? Just because he sped up and crashed?”

“Under the circumstances, maybe. Also suspicious is the guy in front not dying from the bullets that must have passed through him to kill Joey. At least, that’s what the witnesses said. They were babbling a little.”

“Drunk?”

“Surprised. So Witherspoon asked where you were–”

“And you said I was home and you called me,” Nita said, exasperated.

Morte waved his assistant over to the car to deal with Ralph before he turned back to her. “Yes. I’m sure there’s a logical explanation. And I’m equally sure that Witherspoon is not going to find it. His capacity for failing at anything that doesn’t fit the usual is legendary.”

“Maybe this is the usual,” Nita said.

“No,” Morte said, very sure. “We need to talk to the guy in the bar, this Nick. He has an interesting story. He says the reason he’s not dead is because he’s the Devil.”

*

Nita let her breath out on an exasperated sigh. “I hate tourists. Especially role-playing whack-job tourists.”

“In his defense, he is still alive after being sprayed with bullets,” Morte said. “Which is why I would like to talk with him. You know how territorial Witherspoon is, he’ll never let me in there. But you can take me in with you. It can be my birthday present.”

Nita looked over to where the large detective appeared to be chatting up Button, his dark head bent down close to her fluffy little blonde one. “Clint’s a good detective. He’s careful. He covers the bases. He could have handled this.”

“He strikes out when it comes to the odd,” Morte said. “No imagination. It’s a design flaw. So are you going to talk to this Nick? Can I come along? I want to see him drinking. I’m picturing the booze coming out of the bullet holes.”

“It’s not funny, Morte. Two people are dead. One of them was nice.”

Morte nodded, cheerful as ever. “I just want to know why it’s not three. If there are holes in this Nick guy’s shirt but none in him, then we have a legitimate mystery, and you and I are the only cops on this island that are good at the weird. We need to go in there so I can check him for bulletholes and you can do that voodoo that you do so well.”

“Not funny,” Nita said. I’m tired, I’m cold, my head hurts, I want another drink.

She closed her eyes. And I’m whining. Great.

“You got a talent, you should use it.,” Morte said. “In fact, you should use it right now.”

“Morte–”

“It’s our birthday,” he said, switching tactics. “We should do something fun together before we have dinner tonight with Mom.” He flashed the big, toothy,fake grin they always used when talking about their mother. “Also you’re self-medicating with alcohol, which means you should not go into that bar alone to talk to what all the witnesses agree is a very good-looking man who should be dead but isn’t and who thinks he’s the Devil and who therefore might ply you with bourbon for nefarious purposes. As your brother, I should be with you. Also as your Medical Examiner. Also because I want to know why he’s not dead because as interesting as I find it, I’m not buying the Devil thing.”

“Nobody’s buying the Devil thing. Not even the tourists think the supernatural is real.”

“They might start believing unless we can explain the bullets. We don’t want another press frenzy here. That dickhead Harrow will be over the bridge in a nano-second if he hears the Devil is in town. Just get me in there so I can find the answer.” He ducked his head a little to look into her eyes. “And also because you know you’re not going to sleep until you get the answer, too.”

He was, of course, right. He was always right, her brother, the genius. She glared at him.

“You know I wouldn’t ask you to do the psychic thing if I didn’t think it was important,” Morte said, serious now. “Something is very not right here.”

“I’m not psychic.” Nita closed her eyes. “But you’re right, I know you’re right, and I’m being cranky, and I’m sorry.”

He put his arm around her, and she leaned against him. “It’s not your fault, it’s the booze,” he said, patting her shoulder. “After this, we’ll get some Chinese to soak up the alcohol, and everything will be back to normal.”

“What’s normal? And how would anybody in our family recognize it if we saw it?” Nina straightened. “Fine, I’ll go in and talk to this guy and you can come along. But that’s your birthday present. And I want extra potstickers and crab Rangoon for my present.” She straightened her coat again and started for the bar, thinking I’m going to regret this.

Excellent,” Morte said and followed her into Hell.

*********************

So now we have:
Nita’s Goal: Handle things fast and go home.
Mort’s Goal: Keep Nita there so she’ll take him in to interview Nick.
Conflict: Yep.

The scene sets up Nita and Mort’s relationship, the beginnings of Nita and Chloe’s relationship, the back story on Nita and Clint (except that it clunks pretty badly), and the strong implication that there’s something supernatural happening.

Nita changes from annoyed that she’s been called in to convinced that something needs looked at.
Mort changes from being blocked from talking to Nick to going in to talk to Nick.
The story changes from Nita’s stable unhappiness to her reluctant agreement to do her job because her world might be unstable.
The expectation is that the next scene will be with Nick, the guy who thinks he’s the Devil.

If the reader is not you all who’ve been in the loop all along, I think there’s still a mystery as to whether Nick’s really the Devil or just playing a game, but I also think it’s a curious enough circumstance that people will keep reading. Also, if this turns out to be a romance novel, people will want to meet the hero.

And this is pretty much where this scene is going to stay unless I decide to write the whole book, in which case I will rewrite it when the book is done because you can’t write an introductory scene until you know what you’re introducing. Continually churning the first scene is just a huge waste of time. I’ve got my protagonist on the page, although I don’t think she’s particularly likable so I’ll have to fix that once I know her better, and the start of her problem is now clearly introduced (fingers crossed), and that’s enough for now.

44 thoughts on “Revising Scene by Beats: Nita’s First Scene

  1. Your writing and your analysis is absolutely fascinating to read…and illuminating as hell!

    Amanita doesn’t know who she really is at the outset of the story, right? And Nick doesn’t see himself as more than a brutal punisher initially, right?

    So once they meet, they embark on a voyage of self-discovery as their worlds collide, and as they work together to restore (law and) order, their long-subdued feelings of attraction ignite their passion?

    As I read this paragraph:

    Amanita and the Devil is a story about two people who discover information that completely changes their perceptions of how their lives and their worlds work, which opens them up to falling in love, something that’s impossible when they first meet, and which leads to them defeating evil together

    I could hear the song ‘Bring Me to Life’ by Evanescense playing in my head. i can now see why a lot of writers use soundtracks to guide them…what a cool experience!
    Thanks for the illumination of all fronts.

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    1. Nick’s an administrator. Not interested in punishment, interested in governing, maintaining stability, making the trains run on time. Nothing like the Lucifer on TV.
      Nita knows who she is, Nick knows who he is, but the antagonist is doing things that will change both of them.

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  2. This doesn’t have to be a full fledged novel. It can be a shorter story, published online for whatever the going rate for a short story is. I know you’ve said you can’t/don’t like to do short stories but maybe this could be an exception?

    And for the record, you meander wonderfully.

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    1. It really can’t be a short story. The premise is too complex and the character arcs are too long.
      Also, I suck at short stories.

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  3. Wonderful how your focus on beats/conflict brought the story to life.

    Just in case you write it, I have a niggle with the changed spelling of Mort’s name. In English, both ways would be pronounced the same, and I quite like the ‘e’ on the end: it opens it out somehow. But I know in American such a letter would often convert the name to ‘Morty’, as for example Bette Davis, who’d be ‘Bet’ to an English reader. So I was distracted by how to pronounce him.

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    1. That’s interesting. I figured it would read as “Morte de Arthur,” not as Morty. You’re right about Bette Davis being “Betty” over here, but Bette Midler is “Bet.” I can’t think of any other “ette” names pronounced as “etty” here.

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      1. I’ve encountered a couple of Jeannies who spell themselves Jeanne. Then there’s Elle for Ellie, though maybe that’s Australian?

        I think I’d realize he must be Mort; it’s just that it tripped me up. (Morty and Nita is just wrong.)

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        1. Elle (as in Macpherson, the model) is pronounced Elle, if that’s who you’re referring to, by thinking that it’s an Australian thing.

          Which it may well be.

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    2. The spelling change caught me too, but in a book, I wouldn’t have known it had been any other way.

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    1. Same. Plus, she’s reluctant to do the right thing but does it anyway, and I like that. AND because Morte’s worried about her, I’m worried about her (because Morte is charming and also her brother).

      Really loved watching you de/re-construct the beats. Very, very helpful.

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  4. I do like reading about unlocking this process.

    I will admit to wishing it were about another novel and then leave it at that.

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  5. Love this. I’ve been reading through your writing posts and this opening scene rewrite is illuminating. I’d read this book–I already feel connected to Nita and I’m curious about Nick.

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  6. I enjoyed this. I like the reversal with the twins, how Nita speaks with brevity, and Mort (not certain about the E…is it short for Mortimer?) rambles in good-natured brotherliness. I like the twins. You’ve set it up well to show in such a brief time who all of the main players are, the beats are there, the tension is building, and I want to meet the devil. Love how you handle a large cast. Definitely keep writing this one. 🙂

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    1. It’s just Morte. I’d left the “e” off in the beginning, with the idea that he’d been christened “Morte” and dropped the “e” himself. Then I realized Morte wouldn’t care about an “e.”

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      1. But of course, he could have been christened Mort, since that’s modern French for ‘death’, as opposed to Mallory’s late medieval spelling.

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  7. Even as a rough draft I liked it. I’ve been reading a lot of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I like this kind of fantasy story, with a romance in it. : )

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  8. So far I like her and her brother and I want to read this book. If I picked it up at the bookstore I would keep reading even if it wasn’t a Crusie.

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  9. I love this! Both the analysis and watching how the final version came together was fascinating.

    As a reader, I love that Nita isn’t immediately winsome and charming. She’s cranky and competent and I feel like we don’t get to see that on the page enough. You’ve completely captured my attention and I’m hungry to learn more about every character on and off page. (Who is Harrow? A bible thimping hellfire and brimstone meddler? A charlatan claiming psychic powers? A washed up heavy metal rocker determined to use any local weirdness he can grab to get back in the game? I wanna know!)

    Even if you don’t continue this project, thanks for sharing it with us!

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  10. I liked Nita right from the beginning.

    Thank you for sharing with us. Watching you work is fascinating and so helpful. I keep having light bulb moments.

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  11. Off topic here: You write – as you’ve written the construct before – “something needs looked at.” Is the phrasing idiosyncratic, maybe Midwestern speak? Some of your commenters use the “needs ***ed at” too, I’ve noticed. In good ol’ SoCal speak, the “something needs looking at” is predominant. There’s mystery here for me.

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    1. Glad someone else is mystified! I thought she’d left out ‘to be’ at first, but realized a while back it must be deliberate.

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    2. I hear it a LOT in Indianapolis, for the record. (I’m from Cincinnati, but don’t remember hearing it much then… of course, I had parents who were sticklers for correct grammar, so that may have sheltered me from it.)

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      1. I’ve always figured it was Southern. There’s a lot of Appalachian background in central Ohio. My accent really comes out when I drink. I think that “needs done” construction is the only thing I’ve held onto; too much education flattens accents.

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        1. I am a fan of accent, and accents are flavor. It is a part of people as a story and gives more weight to it for me as an audience. Cant stand movies filmed in “San Francisco” when it is clearly Vancouver, come one people our street are not that clean. Just saying I like little moments like……..”someone need smacked”

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      2. It is a regionalism from Ohio and surrounding states. Pets need fed, dishes need washed, etc. I didn’t learn that it was a regionalism until I was in grad school.

        What is also interesting, is that when I lived in Scotland, I heard the same grammatical expression there at times. Upon investigation, I learned that it’s originally Scots. Your tidbit of linguistic knowledge for the day.

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    3. You hear it in Pennsylvania, too (the lawn needs mowed, the house needs cleaned). I didn’t know it was wrong until I was in college.

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  12. I got nutin’ (a NY-ism, I think). I like it. I like it so much I keep trying to turn a page and read more.

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  13. I don’t know if I’m tenacious as a dog that grabs on and holds or like the one that bites to shred. But the tenacity? I got it.

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  14. WHY aren’t you doing this book again?

    WANT.

    Frankly, if you were interested, this would probably work as a series.

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  15. I completely get that cruising through a first draft is not the same as turning out a finished product, but I can’t help but notice that the voices are really chattering away at you with this book.

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    1. Yes, I have noticed that, too. I’m trying not to get invested because then all the pressure bears down on it.

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      1. Why does it matter which book you write as long as one gets written? I would think the one you’re most intrigued by would be the easiest/ most fun to write.

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        1. They’re always fun in the beginning. Then the going gets tough and I wander off . . .

          But it doesn’t matter which one, from a contract point of view. All my contracts are written for the “next work of fiction.”

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  16. I’m loving this – so very fascinating to see the same scene with two completely different tones (and different characters coming across) but with effectively the same outcome.

    Much more information in take 2 – but I did miss Chloe’s snark of “Which One?”.

    As much as I love the idea of seeing Nadine and Co again, I’m hoping that this one gets a look-in as well 🙂

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    1. That line was a character violation.
      One of the things I have to watch out for is making all my characters sound alike. That might have been a Nita line, but it definitely wasn’t a Chloe line.

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  17. I found her likeable. I don’t know why she’s drinking but she’s a cop, there are bodies, I liked her best

    Small niggle. Is Mort a doctor? Because thanks to PBS & Frontline, I now know that coroners are elected and don’t have to be doctors (and very often aren’t) but medical examiners usually are MDs.

    If you come to a sorry end, you want a medical examiner.

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    1. He’s a doctor. I started him out as a coroner, but I wanted him to be an MD.

      I don’t know why she’s drinking, either.

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