Rewriting Button

The first time I wrote Button’s scene, I wrote it in Nita’s PoV. But Button has a big role to play in this book, and I need her PoV, plus Nita’s PoV was just more drunk Nita learning things. The second time I wrote Button’s scene, I wrote it in her PoV, but it was a just-get-it-down-on-paper version. That’s the one some of you read. This is the third rewrite of Button’s scene, trying to add some layers to her characterization. It’s not gonna be the last rewrite, either. There’s a lot more to Button that I already know about and I’m going to learn a lot more as I move through the book. This is why I always laugh when somebody asks seriously, “How many drafts do you do?” “Oh, two, three thousand . . .” * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Chloe Button was having a trying day, and she was only two hours into it. She took a deep breath to center herself as she got in her car and then looked over at the woman getting into the seat next to her. Her new partner. Spooky Dodd. Well, this is perfect, she thought. I’m partners with an insane drunk, and she’s still my best career option. She liked to think she had an open mind, Buttons were known for being open-minded to the point of lunacy, but she had a legacy to fulfill here. Clearly, lines would have to be drawn. “Detective Dodd,” she began. “Nita.” “Nita. We need to talk.” “Oh, good.” Nita rolled her head on the back of the seat and looked at Chloe, those black eyes still piercing and not a little scary. “Look, I know this has been bad. I know I’m drunk on the job, although in my defense, I didn’t know I was going to be on the job when I had the first four toddies. But something is very wrong back there, everything tonight has been very, very, very wrong. So while I understand completely why you might be upset, you’re going to have to either go with me on this, or ask for a new partner, which I would also completely understand. I’m going to have to annoy people to get to the bottom of this, so it’s going to get dicey. Really, get yourself a–” “I don’t want a new partner,” Chloe broke in to stem the tide of drunken babble. “I want to partner with you. I applied to the force on this island, and one reason was that I wanted to partner with you.” Nita stared at her, those black eyes narrowing under pointed brows. “Why?” “Because you have an incredible arrest record,” Chloe said. “Because you’re a woman and I’m sick of working with men. But mostly because you’re psychic and I think that will give us an edge. I want to do well. I want to succeed. My family’s history in law enforcement goes back to the seventeenth century.” “I’m not psychic.” Nita frowned. “Wait. The seventeenth century? Really?” “That thing with Vinnie and his hand–” Chloe said, trying to get Nita to focus. “I need to know about that.” Nita rolled her head again to look at the ceiling. “I had seizures when I was a little kid. I’d see things. Hallucinate. Now they’re just this feeling of nausea whenever I touch anybody.” “Anybody?” Chloe said startled. “Yeah.” “Then how did you and Detective Witherspoon–” “Lust trumps nausea,” Nita said. “Until, you know, the lust goes. Then you just want to throw up. Which I think is probably the same for everybody, more or less. Once passion goes–” “Detective Dodd, are you really psychic?” Nita looked at her again. “No, of course not. I’m probably not a very good cop, as you’ve seen tonight, but I’m a trained detective, so I’m good with details, and somehow the seizures combine with that so that when I touch somebody who’s guilty, I hallucinate blood. I am not psychic. I do not see into the future, I can’t read people’s minds, I have no idea what your deepest secrets are. There’s nothing supernatural about it.” Chloe thought about it. Really this was better than psychic. This was almost logical. “Still very handy.” “Yes,” Nita said. “It’s probably the only reason I’m still employed.” Chloe slumped down in the driver’s seat and let her head fall back against the headrest, staring at the ceiling in unity with her new partner, the not-psychic. She’d been wrestling with a conundrum ever since her conversation with Lieutenant the day before. Pick a side, Button, she told herself, and considered which side would most likely to guarantee a law enforcement career fitting a Button. Obviously, the lieutenant’s side. On the other hand, Nita Dodd had that stellar arrest record. And while she was wrong about the very attractive Nick Giordano not being real, she was not incorrect about there being something very off about the way Detective Witherspoon was handling the investigation. Buttons had had exemplary careers in law enforcement for three centuries, she knew, but not because they played politics. They solved crimes. They arrested lawbreakers. They shot down the worst of humanity like the rats they were. She had a legacy of fighting evil to uphold, and reporting on her insane but efficient partner was not the way to continue the Good Fight. All she had to do was make sure Nita Dodd did not do anything too bizarre, and they’d both come out of this on top. She sighed. “You may not be employed much longer if you can’t get a grip.” Nita looked at her again, eyebrows up this time, surprised. She still looked scary as hell with her black helmet hair and those black, black eyes, but Chloe was getting used to her. “The lieutenant asked me to take notes on you and report back anything you did that was . . . not . . . standard police procedure.” “I hope you have a big notebook.” “I think she wants to get rid of you.” “I think that’s a fair assumption.” Chloe frowned at her. “You don’t seem worried.” “I like my job,” Nita said. “But I like the detecting part. I like protecting my island. I like protecting the people here. I like knowing things. Not that crazy about the procedural stuff. So while I do not wish to get fired, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.” “It would for me,” Chloe said. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do. This is what I was born to do. So, please, no more wearing poodle pants to a crime scene.” Nita nodded. “That’s fair. No more poodle pants.” “And no more telling people they aren’t real.” Nita straightened. “Okay, I know I’ve had too much to drink, but I’m telling you, that guy is not real.” “We should talk in the morning,” Chloe said, starting the car. “We should talk right now,” Nita said. “Why did you tell me what Chinamin said?” “Because I had to pick a side. ” Chloe pulled out and steered around the ME’s van where Mort was arguing with Blake Witherspoon. Which explained why Mort hadn’t come back to the bar. She waved to him and slowed so that he could see Nita, who waved, too, and then she sped up a little, anxious to get away from anybody else Nita might insult. “Well, thank you for picking my side,” Nita said, “although I still think it’s a mistake.” “There’s something else you should know.” Chloe turned down the side street that led down to the water and the little beat-up shotgun house where she’d picked Nita up three hours earlier. It was dark off the main drag, and not a little ominous. She felt the weight of her gun in her shoulder holster and felt comforted. “What is it?” Nita said into the long silence, sounding wary now. “I applied specifically to come here and work with you as a detective,” Chloe said. “And also to get the promotion, but I was going to have to leave my job in Haven anyway.” Nita nodded. “What happened?” “I shot somebody.” “Oh.” “In my defense, he was committing a crime. I would never shoot anyone who wasn’t a criminal.” “That’s important,” Nita said. The silence stretched out as they drove on, and Chloe knew Nita was doing it deliberately so she’d get nervous and blurt something out. “It wasn’t the first time I’d shot somebody,” she said finally. “Okay, how many bad guys have you drilled, Detective Button?” “Three,” Chloe said. “But they were all guilty and they were all ruled as good shootings, so I’m not under investigation or anything.” “Gooood,” Nita said, drawing the word out a little. “You seem very young.” “Not that young.” “How long have you been on the force?” “About a year,” Chloe said, trying to keep her voice light. “You shot three people in a year,” Nita said. “Yes.” “You know, there are no guns allowed on the island.” “Except for the police.” “I don’t carry a gun.” Chloe looked at her in surprise. “You don’t carry?” Are you crazy? “Button, given my temperament, would you want me armed?” “No,” Chloe said. “Well, there you go.” This makes no sense. This was a woman who was so paranoid she thought people weren’t real, but she walked around without any form of protection? “You really go out unarmed.” “I have a baton. It telescopes. My sister Keres bought it for me for Christmas my first year on the job. I like it. It gets me results and it doesn’t kill people. So far.” That’s nuts. “What if somebody else has a gun?” “There are no guns on this island. There’s a metal detector at the other side of the bridge. They wand the people before they get on the trolleys that carry them across. Most people are grateful. It’s a safe island.” “Except Joey just got seventeen bullets,” Chloe said. “Which is one of the many reasons I am going to find the person who ordered that hit, and discuss things with him using my baton, including how that gun got on the island. I’m not anti-violence, I just think violence should be up close and personal. It means something that way. That’s my house up there on the right.” Chloe pulled up in front and parked, still shocked that Nita didn’t carry. “So you go out on a dark street like this,” she said, trying to understand as she leaned forward to look out the window at the treacherous night. “Without . . .” There was a very faint light in Nita’s window, and somebody had just moved in front of it. “You live alone,” Chloe said, every cell in her body on alert. “Yes,” Nita said. Chloe pulled her gun from her shoulder holster, calm and steady, the Button Way. “Stay here,” she said, and got out of the car. First the poodle pajamas, then the whole reality thing, and now her partner was unarmed. It was a damn good thing there was a Button on the scene. She headed for the house.

41 thoughts on “Rewriting Button

  1. This is fantastic! I remember complaining on the last draft that I didn’t see the point of including Button’s POV because it wasn’t giving us anything new, but in this draft I can clearly see that it’s adding quite a bit of awesome Button-ness. I am now very eager for more Button.

    1. The rest of the book? I’d like that, too.

      The rest of the WiP I’d posted? Go to, hit the ABOUT pull down menu, go down and select “WiP” and look to the pop-up menu on the right. Any posted WiPs will be there until I take them down. Which I should probably do tomorrow.

  2. I’ve been a Button fan since the beginning. More Button, please! Although I’m quite fond of Nita and Nick, also. I’ve loved this story from the very first and it just keeps getting better and better.

    Also comforting. I don’t feel like quite so much of a failure for being on my three hundred and seventy-ninth draft of my WIP.

  3. You’ve given us a remarkable sense of a world, and mostly done it through action, dialog and characterization. I’m in awe of your storytelling efficiency.

    Button is beguiling. She gets anymore beguiling, she’s going to upstage Nita.

    Please change the name “Chinamin.” I keep reading it as “Chinaman,” and out here in coastal California, knowing something of our history, not such a good thing. Really takes me out of story and into mid 1800 San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego.

        1. I think she’s trying to break all the detective novel rules which is why Nita and Mort are twins. But, I agree, Chinamin throws me every time I see it and not in a good way.

    1. Yeah, I know you don’t do sequels but I’m kinda hoping there’s another Button book coming.

      And I’m glad you changed the Lt’s name because I was getting the same thing as everyone else. And I’m in the Midwest.

      1. It never really worked. That’s part of writing a discovery draft, getting rid of the stuff that never worked, especially if it’s an inside joke/shout-out to Argh.

        1. Maybe you can still have your inside joke by including a non-Asian character known with the nickname “China man” because he owns a restaurant supply store called Forked Tong China. He can sell tableware to Hell Bar after Nick destroys the place. Sorry…couldn’t resist.

  4. I feel incredibly lucky to get to read your partials. Love Button and her voice. It’s going to be interesting getting in to the scene where Button pulls a gun since that’s so not Nita’s style.

  5. This part made me laugh out loud:

    First the poodle pajamas, then the whole reality thing, and now her partner was unarmed.

    It was a damn good thing there was a Button on the scene.

  6. I remember early-Button being an interesting foil for Nita — fun to read but easy to forget. Now she’s this multi-layered, interesting force. *love*

    Just adding my favorite line to the others:

    Button: “I would never shoot anyone who wasn’t a criminal.”

    “That’s important,” Nita said.

    I can *hear* the dead pan. Thanks for letting us see up the skirt of your novel 🙂

  7. Weird, off-topic question for the crocheters in this group.

    Has anyone worked with a Tunisian S-hook? I found a “pussy hat” I want to make for the Women’s march, but the pattern calls for this specialty hook. It looks intimidating, like a cross between a sex toy and drug paraphernalia. Is it easy to learn?

      1. Thank you for the great suggestion. I signed up and posted my question and got a bunch of really helpful responses within hours. These people are ON IT.

  8. I love Button. There’s depth there now, and I feel she can hold her own with Nita, not just be the requisite two-dimensional aide-de-camp. I want to know her better, but I don’t see any danger of her being more interesting than Nita. After all, we’ve yet to see sober Nita.

  9. So the title on this post really threw me, because I was imaging some insane magical button to push that made a rewrite happen (read it with me again: rewriting button) and I was fantasizing about that no end and realized that was NOT the case, and it is always more painful than a button to push and yet, one can hope.

  10. This makes me want to know all about Button’s three shootings and hear her family anecdotes about law enforcement through the ages. Also, it seems good that Button will be Nita’s partner just as she starts investing something that could lead to a shootout since she goes out without a gun. The 17 bullet drive by suggests there could be more shooting and Button can clearly handle that.

  11. This isn’t a statement about you or your writing of the Nita story.

    It’s about recognizing my taste in reading. In other words, there is no reason you should bother to read this comment. I’m writing for my own sake because I figured something out.

    I realize that I can’t stomach cops who shoot people or talk about “good shootings.” For me, Button and Nita’s conversation is one I don’t want to read.

    Thinking about my reaction to Button and Nita, I wonder — and not for the first time — why I like Agnes & the Hitman so much. I shouldn’t. Now, after reading the current Button scene, I see that, in contrast, each of Shane’s kills was intricately tied to two themes: (1) Shane’s gradual opening up to himself emotionally, and (2) Wilson’s demonic urge to destroy Shane’s sense of self in order to make Shane into another Fortunato patsy. Also, each murder was presented as a miniature story. And, Agnes couldn’t handle Shane’s profession. Besides, Brenda ordered and/or committed murders with glee. So, altogether you and Bob Mayer created a story that I love when I can’t stand that sort of story. (In comments you’ve made on this blog, you seem to give Bob Mayer all the credit for what works well in Agnes & the Hitman. I believe that your craft is at least as present as his.) Anyway, thanks for giving me the chance to figure out why I like that book so much.


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