You Again: What Was That Story About, Anyway?

I am oddly loath to open that You Again file, and I think it’s because I’m afraid I’ll end up drowning in it again. So, in homage to Bob’s One Sentence Idea, I’m thinking that I should get a good idea of what the story is about straight in my head first, the things I remember, because the things I remember are going to be the One Sentence Idea aspects of it, the things that made me want to write it three years ago. I’m not going to have a One Sentence Idea, you understand, just the sense of it.

Start with the protagonist always, so that’s Zelda. Zelda’s a tough chick, she’s been making it on her own, and now she’s coming back to where she spent her teen years and all of that is going to swamp her again. But back story can kill a book, so it has to stay in the now, with what Zelda wants now, very modern, and that was always to find out who her father was, a very old-fashioned goal. So tension between classic and modern, old and new. Except the motivation for that goal was weak, I remember that, she wanted to find out who he was because he was her father, not because she needed anything desperately in the now. He’s been a mystery all her life, why does she need to know now? So there’s something I have to think about: Who is Zelda and what has happened now that makes her decide to find her father? She’s also got a simple elegance to her, I think. Very controlled, but underneath very sensual. So how does all of that, of who she is, play into the goal and the motivation and the story as a whole? Because who Zelda is will determine what You Again is.

Then the antagonist. I know who the antagonist is, but You Again is a mystery, so I’m not telling you.

Then the overall genre, the kind of book I want it to be. My version of the Christie mystery, but still a Crusie. So the big house, people trapped inside by a snow storm, and then they start dropping like flies . . . Actually I’m semi-trapped in my house my snow right now, so this is a good time to do this. So a mystery with a love story, traditional but not. Twists along the way. Sex. Drugs. Rock and roll. A dog. (What was the dog’s name? Great dog. Began with a P. Plum.) But keeping that traditional mystery flavor strong because that’s the backdrop, while not letting the story get strangled in clues and “you’re probably wondering why I call you together” infodump.

And then just the mood of the story within the genre, the way it feels as the reader turns the pages. I want it to have a bit of a timeless feel, I think. These people are from three generations, but they’re cut off from the outside world. That’s going to make them a community unto themselves and maybe that will give it that Christie vibe. But it’s still modern, snarky, a cast of contrasting characters. I don’t want a romp or even a comedy; it should be a mystery/romance about people who have good senses of humor rather than zany situations. I hate zany situations.

Then I did what I always do when I’m trying to get a feel for something. I went to visuals, back to the collage and it’s still the book I want to write, but there’s no one thing that stands out, Zelda is just part of the overall story instead of owning it. Which means I need to move Zelda front and center there, and as I remember, that was a big problem with the book. She didn’t own her story. Which makes sense since I haven’t really worked out completely who she is.

So I went to and looked at type. Hundreds of fonts, trying to find one that seemed to fit “Zelda,” that felt right for “You Again.” And I found three I liked, Erehwon (yes, that’s the way it’s spelled), Fireside Chat, and Archive Lightface. Then I tried the key words in them to see how they felt. Here’s Zelda:

I like all of these, they all feel right for a Zelda, but only one of them can be the Zelda in the book. I like the clarity and the no-nonsense elegance of the first one (Erehwon). I love the sass and personality and the femininity of the second one (Fireside Chat). And then the third one, still elegant but grittier, kicking butt and taking names (Archive Lightface). They’re all serif types and they all have some swash to them (Zelda has swash) but not cute; they have presence. And looking at them, I’m thinking about which one of those Zeldas is going to power my book. I’m leaning toward that last one. She looks like a take charge kind of woman.

But she’s just the key to the book, the book overall has to have a feel, so what does You Again look like? I tried it with all caps first:

I love the first one. It’s stark but elegant, almost a Gorey feel to it, but still there’s humor there. But that O is staring at me pretty hard; don’t want to do that to a reader. Then the Fireside Chat version, very period looking, very Christie, but not, I think, very Crusie. And then the Archive version that’s practically an assault on the reader.
These are invitations to the book, but they’re invitations to three different books. The first one is modern, no nonsense but feminine, a little sense of history to it, very clean. It’s probably the Crusie-est of the three. The second is just beautiful and fun and very elegant. Maybe too elegant. And the third one says, “Jack the Ripper in the house,” which isn’t far off the truth but may be a little more brutal than I was looking for. They all emphasize different elements that are in the book. The question is, which book do I want to write?

And then to get a feel for the story in general, I did Chapter Ones:

The thing it’s going to come down to, I think, is exactly what kind of story Zelda would find herself in. She’s not in a Fireside Chat story, no matter how beautiful that type is. So is she mostly elegant or a little bit rough? She’s the illegitimate daughter of the former housekeeper: did she work hard to raise herself up in class and inhabit the world she attained, or is she defiantly up front about her blue collar roots in spite of having success in her field? (She was a cookbook writer, I’m just remembering now, but that’s what Agnes is, so Zelda is about to find a new profession.) And is she maybe a different font from her story? Is she such an outsider that I need one font for the story world and one or Zelda? Or do all of these fonts fit, some for supporting characters, some for the story and other characters, and just one for Zelda, the outsider?

So that’s where I am now. Still trying to get a sense of who Zelda is and what I want the book to be before I open that file and get confused by the words I wrote three years ago. Classic. Elegant with snark. Danger and sensuality. And Zelda, taking no prisoners.

I’m thinking here. No point in rushing into anything. I’ve still got the last of the Agnes rewrites to do. But I’m closer, closer . . .

43 thoughts on “You Again: What Was That Story About, Anyway?

  1. I have no doubt this will be a great book, because even with the darn font, you just nailed it. I have a favorite but don’t want to impose. You have yet to write a character and most definitely a protagonist I’ve not fallen in love with by paragraph 2.

  2. Definitely the “Fireside Chat”. When I think of the old “Who dunits”, I think of all the suspects having a fireside chat that ends with the detective solving the crime after explaining why everyone else couldn’t have dunit. I was more a fan of Ellery Queen and Inspector Wexford, instead of Christie. Since I’m a huge Crusie fan, I’m sure I’ll enjoy Zelda’s story.

    Maybe Zelda has to find her dad because her mother is dying and wants to see him one more time. Or she listened to her mother’s stories all of her life and now wants to find out if her mother was telling the truth. A third reason could be that she is finally deciding to look for a husband but she wants to prove to herself that she wasn’t a failure in the relationship with her dad before she can settle down. I know you’ll get it all together. I look forward to reading it.

  3. I’d never though of varying the fonts to give a character feel…I usually write in boring old courier….must give this a go!

    And Zelda will be fabulous!

  4. Interesting writing exercise, getting a feel for the character and story through fonts.

    I’m all for the first font, Erehwon was it? It doesn’t come across as such a verbal assault on the eyes as the third choice, and while Fireside Chat is undoubtedly beautiful in a 1920s way, I agree that it just doesn’t seem like a Crusie font: too light-hearted and magical somehow. The first one has elegance, class, and could knock a man unconscious in a dark alley.

  5. I don’t see why Zelda’s font shouldn’t be the same as The Story, or even the Other Characters; maybe she’s just the italicized version.

  6. By italicized, I of course meant that she’s drawing from a blue-class upbringing (possibly within the world of an upper class environment if parent was housekeeper of an estate), so she would likely be similar to Other Characters, but quirky and/or slightly crooked.

  7. Maybe Fireside Chat for the title on the cover to give it the “Christie” feel. As for the chapter numbers…Different style for each chapter to indicate the “mood” of each chapter.

    Just helping.

    Can’t wait for “Agnes” looking forward to Zelda’s story.

    Keep on writing.

  8. I like the Fireside Chat. It’s the book I *want* to read. The third one looks too scary. The first one is a little too too…too what, I don’t know, but it’s too. But the Fireside Chat one gives me a vibe that’s inviting me to snuggle my butt in a chair, put my feet up, and fall into a story.

  9. and here i was thinking most people didn’t use fonts for different stories/characters. glad to see i’m not alone.

    i thought Zelda was Fireside Chat and You Again was a bold, lower case Erehwon and the chapters Archive Lightface. just my three cents.

  10. NOT Archive Lightface. Looks too much like Times New Roman, Book Antigua, or Bookman Old Style, in particular. That kind of person is a quality assurance inspector of zippers or a petty cash dispenser or an automotive parts inventory person stuck in the same job until way beyond gold watch time, cobwebs slowly covering him, furiously holding onto “It’s right because we’ve always done it that way.” Sorta an Ebenezer Scrooge. Not Zelda.

  11. Hmmm. Do you like a ticking clock mystery? Maybe Zelda has to find out who her father is in time to save. . . . something. An inheritance? A person?

    Elegance and snark make me think of the Thin Man movies, and Myrna Loy in particular. Not Christie, I realize, but then Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford were England’s answer to Nick and Nora Charles. Oh, and Nick and Nora even had a dog!

  12. Wow, okay, looking at fonts to get a feel for the essence of your character. No wonder you write such damn good characters.

    Maybe Zelda’s having dreams or visions of her father, a man she doesn’t know, has never met, being in some kind of trouble. I think there’s a basic yearning in all of us to identify with the people that gave us life. It’s like a missing piece in your life puzzle. Hell, I never knew my mothers mother and it makes me sad to this day.

    …..font – jeez, theres so much stuff you can learn from other peoples processes……

  13. When I see the name Zelda and the phrase “snow storm”, I think St. Paul (well, I live in Minneapolis, so I probably just think local as a matter of course)… because the Fitzgeralds lived in St. Paul, and also it’s very cold and snowy.

    Which is apropos of nothing, really, just where my mind goes seeing Zelda in all those fonts.

    The father thing… maybe all of her life, she had believed that she didn’t want to know anything about her father, because from the only clues she had, he was kind of a shady character? But then she finds something — a first edition of The Great Gatsby? yes, I’m still stuck on F.Scott & Zelda — that makes her wonder if whatever she had been told was a lie, and maybe her father wasn’t such a bad guy after all? Ok that’s kind of weak. Never mind.

  14. Fireside Chat – definitely. It has an Art Deco look to it that fits with Christie. Jenny, have you read “Death and the Dancing Footman” by Ngaio Marsh? Snowbound house full of people, everyone’s got a secret, and everyone’s got a motive.

  15. Like Karen I immediately think Fitzgerald when I see Zelda, and that is why I associate her most with the Fireside Chat font, which as McB says, has an Art Deco look to it. But I’m sure you will be able to replace Zelda F. with a new image in the first chapter.
    The most urgent reason to find an unknown father I can think of is genetic. Does she need to know if she carries the gene for a disease, does she need bone marrow or something, for herself or for a child? Does she have children? Or want them?

  16. Well, you know, out of all that very interesting and comprehensive analysis, the one thing that jumped out at me was, “…a Gorey feel to it.” And wouldn’t I just love to read a Christie/Crusie Mystery with a Gorey feel to it.

  17. Geez. Are you really brainstorming this in public? Well then, you asked for it.

    “…she wanted to find out who he was because he was her father, not because she needed anything desperately in the now. He’s been a mystery all her life, why does she need to know now?”

    Mysterious or not, she always thought she knew who he was and, therefore, who she is. She’s still young enough to base her identity on who she came from, right? Maybe she thought he was dead and now finds out he is alive, or vice versa. She finds a letter or overhears a conversation that tells her [something awful] about who her father is/was and she won’t believe it. Everything she believes to be true about herself stems from who she *knows* her parents were, esp. her father, and now that is turned upside down. Now she has to prove this new information is wrong (hey, you love negative goals, right?) because it is a threat to her identity.

    Maybe her father is in danger and asks her to go back to that house to find [something vital], because he can’t. Maybe he’s dead or missing and the letter tells her [something important] is in the house. Is it something of great value or just significance? Will finding it bring destruction or exoneration? Is someone else looking for it? Are they planning to use it or destroy it? Who is willing to kill for it? From the looks of that collage, a whole lot of very interesting stuff will turn up before she discovers what she set out to find. And of course it won’t be what she thought it was.

    But she has to find this thing by a certain time or [something bad] will happen. But to whom? To Zelda, her father, her family? In her search, she discovers everyone in that house is keeping secrets. None of them are who she thought they were. She has always told herself stories and now she can’t trust whether her memories are real or made up. She can’t move on with her future until she uncovers the truth about the past, and herself — but the people who might have the answers keep dying in mysterious ways. Thank god for good old dependable [someone] who has always been exactly who s/he seems. S/he’s probably the murderer. And then there’s the snow. Don’t forget the snow.

    There you go. Now that you’re pounding a fist against something and yelling, “NO, that’s not IT!” and I’ve completely screwed it up for you, I have to go finish my own book.

    You won’t know who Zelda is until the end of the story. And neither will she. Open that file, you big chicken, and find out.

    You’re on your own with the fonts.

  18. OMG!!!!

    There ARE others out there who choose fonts to match their characters and story!!!!

    I am not alone in my insanity! Wooohooo!


  19. Maybe Fireside Chat, because it has that wonderful 1920’s feel, that whole Art Deco thing going on. You could link that to Zelda’s grandmother who would be the major key to the story. Even though her mother was a housekeeper and had Zelda and raised her alone, she obviously got pregnant by some intelligent, wealthy guy from blue-blood stock, because Zelda is showing these signs of good breeding. Or was the housekeeper/mother also of good stock and had fallen on hard times? Hmm?

    Maybe Zelda wants a baby but not marriage. In looking into artificial insemination, or invitro fertilization (whatever the heck they call it these days) she visits a clinic and looks through donor bios and that makes her want to discover her own genetic background. Instead of going through with her plan to get pregnant, she goes on a personal discovery tour knowing everyone will be at the house over the holidays. Her questions start getting people bumped off.

    Hey you’d have a pure romance. Just toss in AMNESIA and there it is. *grin*

  20. Oh, giggle snort. Zelda, with hair in finger waves because she likes Art Deco, and drives an heirloom convertible because she likes Art Deco, ends up in this 3-story mansion where they play Clue for the weekend. She meets her father, who is the butler polishing a candlestick in the study. Ultimately lots of people die. And who dunnit? TaDa!!! The BUTLER with the CANDLESTICK in the STUDY.

    I guess the romantic male is the Driver in the Mews with the Polish Cloth. Untimately he’s a megamillionaire with 6-pack abs and AMNESIA.

  21. Well, I like the Fireside Chat, but that’s me, not you, and probably not Zelda either. Unless she arcs that way, from a driven person to one who welcomes more gaiety into her life.

    I’m sure you’ll make it work, no matter what you choose.

    I sometimes use Desdemona, for REALLY BAD NEWS.

    I just hope that Zelda doesn’t spend a lot of time feeling betrayed by everyone who didn’t tell her everything from her infancy. People have a right to their secrets and may have good reasons for not telling a kid things. I am frequently irritated by characters who feel that they have a right to all kinds of emotional trauma from not having been told things by people they trust – without regard for the difficulty of deciding when it’s necessary to tell people icky, distressing things.

    Maybe Zelda just needs a security clearance.

  22. A friend casts Zelda’s horoscope and comes up with the following comment :

    “Something in your relationship with your father aroused in you either fear or anger or both. Your relationships with men – personally or professionally – are not comfortable and when you are feeling vulnerable, you can be overly defensive or challenging. ”

    This annoys/ irks/ worries her, as she never knew her father, and so when she goes to Rose’s she decides to ask a few questions. The questions get the antagonist worried, so he/ she starts trying to put Zelda off, which in turn makes her more stubborn and determined to keep looking.

    I know, I know, full of plot holes. If someone gave me that as a blurb I would dismiss it as packed with cliches. Which is why I’m not a writer. But I am drawn to the idea that Zelda was only vaguely interested in finding out about her father until the antagonist’s response gets her really keen.

    Oh, and the horoscope stuff is courtesy of

  23. I think it’s funny that “Erehwon” unscrambles to “Here now.”

    Yeah, like your subconscious didn’t spot that.

  24. I love the first font. You said Zelda is tough, but modern and new. To me, the first font says chic, sophisticated. She’s sleek, a Carole Lombard look-alike. She’s worked hard to move away from her low roots and has really made something for herself–maybe a fashion editor or mystery writer. But something is still missing. She thinks having a child will complete her, but without her father’s medical history, she’s afraid to plunge into sperm donation. Returning home means facing the person she used to be, and trying to find her father, who, inconveniently has been murdered.

    Font number two screams The Great Gatsby. And number three is a Mugsy and Moll shoot ’em up from the roaring 20’s.

    Of course, I only read this stuff. I’ve never even come close to writing anything and I’ve had three glasses of wine.

    Good Luck! I love all your stuff.

  25. So does she need to know who her father is or who he was. Because if the latter, it could be that he knew about her and she received a bequest that has her looking for more information about him. Or like BCB said, there was a letter from him after his death (okay that didn’t sound right; you know what I mean, right?) that involves her in a treasure hunt.

  26. Dear Jenny, I hope it’s okay to offer an idea about why you don’t know Zelda. Maybe you don’t have a full sense of who Zelda is because that’s her main problem: SHE doesn’t know who she is. She won’t allow herself to be her whole self until she knows who her dad is, but for the sake of the plot, she will have to sacrifice that need and be her whole self before she finds out who he is (if she ever does find out). She may be tough and in charge in the book, but it could be she’s compensating for feeling that something is missing. Her external motivation for finding her father is up to you–but I wonder if she’s afraid to come front and center and show you this internal vulnerability in her. She knows you are going to make her face it and eventually drop it. Maybe that made no sense. Good luck, and thanks to you and Bob for all this great FREE writing instruction.

  27. How did we get to Art Deco? I can’t remember. I went looking for some Deco fonts on, but what good does that do? I am not the one who has to figure out who Zelda is. But whenever she’s ready, I will be pleased to meet her.

    I have always been a fan of Dorothy L. Sayers myself.

    So here’s the thing. When I am not ready to write about the stunningly compelling subject matter I write about — utility regulation leaps immediately to mind — I dither. And it’s a part of my process, much to my editor’s disgust. Of course I could give a crap about his disgust, and I should waste my own blog space on that. But he doesn’t get what I do and why it’s important. His punishment is that he has to live in his own skin and that’s the nastiest revenge you could ever wish on anyone, if you wanted to mess with Karma.

    So dither. But have a map. You will get there in the end, Jenny, and there’s no point in torturing yourself about it now. Pick the right route and there will be no shampoo/conditioner combos.

    We wait, and we support, which is not something my editor is so good with.

  28. Gosh, For a second I thought I was on HWSW and thanked both you and Bob for the wonderful, free writing instruction! I’m sorry I referenced HWSW indirectly and hope I didn’t confuse your ARGH INK readers!

  29. Hmm I have no idea who Zelda is, but for some reason the Archive one doesn’t strike me as a Zelda. 🙂

    One thing I do to get to know those nagging people in my wannabe novels is to have them tell me about them.
    I lock them into a room with no windows and I have the only key.
    Then I ask questions.
    Yes, I’m probably nuts, but I swear they tell you the oddest things. 🙂
    The “interview” never makes it into the story, but I dang well get a feel for who these people are!

  30. Remember how devastated Jack Nicholson was when he discovered his older sister (the one he felt the closest to and the one who died of cancer) was really his mother and the woman he thought was his mother was his grandmother? He was about forty years old when he found out the truth and felt as if his whole life was a lie.

    Soooooo, what if Zelda’s mother is on her deathbed and Zelda begs for answers about her father only to learn that her mother has no answers because she was paid to raise Zelda as her own? She tells Zelda who her birth mother is. Zelda goes back to the place she grew up in to get answers but instead exposes too many well kept secrets that affect too many reputations, or inheritances, and the “bumping off” starts.

    Thank you for letting me play, Jenny. Your story has been bugging me all day. *grin* Now I have to get real and go work on my own damn story.

  31. I agree that the third font looks like Zelda for her name. However, I like the first font for You Again and Chapter One, (lower casw) but I like the thrid font again for the “one”. I see your dilemna. Is Zelda a Gemini, perchance? Dual personalities? Trying to be genteel but still has some rough edges? Fighting who she is by trying to be who she thinks she should be?

    Like the wanting to know who her father is. I never met my dad, but I went to his brother’s funerla just to see what he looked like. He ended up sitting in front of me and the two kids who sat next to me called him Dad–very surreal experience, to say the least! Why does she need to know who he is now? Is she considering having a child? Is she possibly having some kind of medical problem that could be hereditary? Sometimes you just want to know why, Jenny: why wasn’t he there? Why did he not want me? What does he look like? Mine died before I could get up my courage to ask him those questions. I will always regret being a coward, because now I will never be able to answer those questions. maybe that happened to a friend and she wants those answers before something happens to him.

    I like your premise, Roben. I’d read that story–if Jenny doesn’t write it, maybe you should! *grin*

  32. Well now, got stuck last night with my anthology that has to be turned in like days. It had been going so well. I had it all worked out and then, SMACK! hit a freaking brick wall. I had been thinkig about this post because well, I thought it was interesting and I for one have never, I repeat Never! played around with fonts. So, at midnight last night, I started playing with fonts. Frank and Lacy have visual fonts now. Weird. But by 2 in the morning, not only did I have cool fonts, a few new visual pictures, I finished the dang thing. thank you Jenny.

  33. roben: was this Jack Nicholson thing a movie? actually, kind of sounds like my dad’s life.

    JJ: good job!

  34. Hi OH. It was on the T.V. show Biography. I saw the show recently but don’t know when it was made. I’m sure it will be played over and over. It was an interesting look at Jack Nicholson’s life.
    And, good for you J-T. I’ve never tried using special fonts either but intend to try it.
    Thanks again for sharing, Jenny
    It’s almost kick-off. *grin* “How about them Bears?” Sorry, couldn’t resist, consider it a nod to the HWSW Blog.

  35. Hi, I’ve loved all of your books, and I wanted to second McB’s suggestion- read Ngaio Marsh, and especially her house murders. They are fantastic, and the charaterization is a lot stronger than Christie’s. She also frequently introduces a secondary love story, which is always sweet.

  36. Fireside Chat. The first one is too blah. The third one looks like something under a mug shot. If Fireside Chat bugs you change the name. Christie Fireside.

  37. I’m way ahead of you on Marsh. In fact, I wrote the entry on her in Women Mystery Writer’s Dictionary, although I can’t remember the name of the dictionary now. It’s around here somewhere.

  38. Kate – I’m with you and G&T in preferring Sayers and Marsh to Christie. I also adore the mysteries of Georgette Heyer. Agatha Christie was a great intro to mystery and wrote some lovely puzzles, but I do like the characterizations of the others better. Heyer is particularly fabulous in developing people: unlike some authors I could mention whose heroes are all the same and heroines all have essentially identical motivations, few of her many characters could be mistaken for one another.

    Jenny, I hope you find the name of the dictionary – it sounds like a possible gift for my mom!

    If I weren’t so lazy I could look it up myself. Ok, I did – is it Great Women Mystery Writers? It doesn’t seem to be available direct from Amazon right now…

  39. Well, Jenny, you just added to my woo-woo tally. This is exactly what I do when I start a new project. Whether it’s a book or a web site or working on a design, I sit in Fireworks and play with fonts until I pin down just the right look. Sometimes I take letters from different, but similar, fonts because I don’t like the way one looks, like those really big round Os you’ve got there. ;+)

    I’ve been wishing for you to get back to “You Again” because I loved your male protag. I hope he’s still going to be in it. You write some of the best men. ;+)

  40. Could the first murder have taken place and Zelda is the reporter sent to cover it when the other murders start happening? Mr Right could be already in the house in some capacity or as an honoured guest. Maybe he is the author of a book entitled “Fathers and Daughters” and it makes her want to reach out to her missing father. I know it is weak but work with me here.

  41. P.S. I like Fireside Chat for the character you described. Maybe she is sitting at the fireside with the author discussing his book and she is intrigued.

  42. What if Zelda was a librarian instead of a cookbook writer? You could really do a lot with that 🙂

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