Trudy 1: Ice Station Zebra, Not

So today was the day I was supposed to outline Trudy. I spent the morning with Val on the deck discussing Battlestar Galactica, tattoos, and general gossip, but then she went home and I spent six hours on business stuff, phone and e-mail. Then I crashed for two hours. Then I went to work on the outline.

It’s twelve scenes broken into four acts with turning points:
Three scenes, then a turning point where the heroine cautiously trusts somebody a little.
Three more scenes, then a turning point where the heroine trusts somebody a lot.
Two scenes and then a turning point where the heroine is betrayed.
Three scenes ending with the climax and a fourth scene for resolution.
(Yes, Act Three seems a little light, but the Act Four scenes are short. I still have to graph out the motifs and subplots and figure out how the tension escalates and where to run the romance plot, so I’ll probably figure out Act Three then.)

Then I sent it to Bob for butching up. I was hoping for pointers on the fight scenes but he got distracted by the end where he wants the heroine to save the planet. I said, “No, Bob, it’s a Christmas romance, she restores a little boy’s faith in Christmas and her own faith in men.” He said, “OK, fine, but I really think you need the Ice Station Zebra Ending with your heroine playing Rock Hudson.” I’ve never seen Ice Station Zebra, and I’m not going to any time soon because I’m pretty sure it has nothing that I can use for a romance heroine in a Christmas novella. Which I told Bob. And he wrote: “The key is [The Good Guy in the novella] makes the decision to protect her over getting the X. He loses the X, the Bad Guys lose the X, but he gets the girl and there’s peace on earth because she kept either side from gaining an advantage. You really need to watch Ice Station Zebra– very smart ending.” [I’m using X to protect the real deal here in case some of you read this novella fifteen months from now.]

If you look closely at Bob’s e-mail, you’ll see our main cognitive disconnect: I always assume Our Girl is the protagonist and he always assumes The Guy is. Except this time, we’re not collaborating, and there’s only one POV in the novella and it’s Our Girl Trudy’s. So Bob’s “He decides, he loses, he gets the girl” has this basic flaw. OTOH, I need him to make sure The Guy’s POV makes sense, so it’s good he keeps thinking of this as The Guy’s story. But I’m still not watching Ice Station Zebra. Which I said. Well actually, I wrote, “Get over Ice Station Zebra.” And he wrote back, “I’m just trying to give your girl the most important role. But she can stand around and cheerlead.”

He knows how much I hate cheerleader heroines, so I had to respond. Yes, I know I asked him for help, but I wanted to know how to beat up the Bad Guy and his Minions in a Christmas-y way, not how to have Our Girl save humanity. I was thinking of bashing them with fake reindeer antlers (listen, there’s a reason I need Bob), but he’s fixated on Ice Station Zebra. So I wrote back, “How does nobody getting the X give her the most important role? Especially since her goal is to get a toy to her nephew by Christmas morning?” And he wrote back, “But my way she saves the world.”

There you have it. He thinks globally, I think locally. Well, he was a Green Beret and I was a small town school teacher, so that makes sense. What I wrote back was straight out of that old dissertation: “This is classic male vs female stuff. You want the global win. I want the intimate connection.” And he wrote, “Good, she can be a cheerleader.” That was just trying to start a fight, so I wrote, “It’s a Christmas romance novella. Globally significant irony is not appropriate.” And he wrote, “OK, she saves Xmas. Woo-hoo.” And I wrote, “Still global. She saves a little kid’s faith in Santa. Or something. The personal, not the political, Bob.”

And then he wandered off since I wasn’t going to blow up a major city or fight back on the cheerleader thing. So I’ll go back to him tomorrow or the next day to get the violent stuff I need because he won’t remember any of this. He says twenty years in the service used up his adrenalin for life; I think it might have used up his short term memory, too. And anyway, he should like doing Christmas violence. Maybe strangling bad guys with a light string. That’s Christmas-y.

In other news, I have had no sugar today in spite of the birthday cake sitting on my stove. It helps that it’s the ugliest cake in the history of cakes. I tried that new microwave icing that you heat and then pour over the cake. Every time Val walked past it last night, she said, “Your cake is still seeping.” So we pigged out on cookies and popcorn. But I have been good all day, no refined sugar at all, so I’m going to go hit the treadclimber for an hour and then come back and analyze this outline again for motifs and subplot, answer several more e-mails about covers and the next anthology, and then I’ll probably crash.

Tomorrow, I have to dig out the Christmas music, throw the cake away, and start to write. There will be no Ice Station Zebra.

It’s a plan.

8 thoughts on “Trudy 1: Ice Station Zebra, Not

  1. Maybe your Bad Guy could be boiled with his own plum pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. I think I heard that somewhere…

  2. This blog is not only entertaining, but inspiring. Thank you for being here, Jenny. And thank you for writing the books that have brightened many of my days. Waving to Bob! Greatly anticipating ‘Don’t Look Down’.

  3. Hey Jen

    Back when I was doing Women’s Studies in university (now, of course, I’m an accountant), I wrote my thesis on the functionalism of the Harlequin romance, and stopped reading romances for years (you try reading 150 Harlequins from the 1950’s to the present and see if you don’t develop a strange aversion to the genre). In any case, I borrowed Welcome to Temptation from a co-worker one day as I needed a book to read while I was having lunch, and was forced to go out and buy not only that book but everything else I could find that you have written.

    Were I a writer (my mother is convinced I will be the next J.K. Rowling – I don’t have the heart to tell her that I have neither the time nor the ideas :-)), I would like to be able to write like you (and Connie Willis actually). As I am not a writer and unlikely to become the next J.K. Rowling, I will content myself with reading everything you and Connie Willis ever publish.

    Long way to say I don’t think you require butching up πŸ™‚


  4. I think your guy POV’s were pdg in your BB (before Bob) books.

    However, isn’t it nice to know any guy weirdness associated with AB (after Bob) books will be blamed on Bob. πŸ™‚

    Enjoying seeing your writing process and the cake sounds like something I’d make!

    I like being dragged behind Santa’s sleigh as a good way to kill off the bad guy–but I guess you need to believe in Santa to pull that off πŸ™‚

  5. I vote for inadvertently poisoning your Christmas bad guys with contaminated egg-nog. It would just be so festive. Besides, you can make the results non-lethal if you’re looking for a non-Boblike nonviolent ending. πŸ™‚

    PS: First Buffy, and now it turns out you’re a BSG fan – I love your taste in TV!

  6. Hi – this is about my second ever blog so hopefully have done things right! The sugar thing – that potato before bed thing – I have a friend whose brother is addicted to sugar and his mood and humor were diabolical so he went on the potato diet and the difference in him is astonishing. He is no longer grumpy, moody, sleep deprived, unbearable, etc etc etc. Apparently the sugar levels in a potato are more stable that white sugar which sends you up and then plummets down just as fast leaving you floundering.

    As for me, I have just given up coffee – I LOVE COFFEE! And I feel completely different. More alert in the morning, no more heart palpitations and no more panic attacks on top of the palpitations!

    Anyhow, Jenny, I love your blog.

    Rowena from NZ

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