Cutting Breakfast (Revised for Bacon) (Revised Again for Daphne’s Headscarf)

First, thank you all very much for the feedback.

Second, I agree with almost everything. Here’s a discussion of the comments as of midnight last night:

SANDY: She’s such a nice person and yet you wanted her cut back. You were, of course, right. What I need to do is figure out what I want her there for. She’s there to establish Nita’s relationship with the community and Nick’s impact as a newcomer, and she’s there to sling hash. But I can do that in one pass. The person who’s a real player in this is Daphne and I’ve got her stuck behind the cash register. And there’s a bit that was in the lunch scene that I should probably transfer in here, Dag and Rab coming in for breakfast, too, just a couple of sentences. All of that is actually setting, not part of the scene which is Nita vs. Nick. So I need to figure out a three-beat there, and it’ll probably be Sandy/Daphne/Sandy, just delivering food with Daphne in contrast to Sandy because she’s mad at Nick. So pull out the three food-deliveries so they’re not beats, they’re just breaks between beats maybe.

BACON: I had no idea the bacon was an issue. So first, what kind of diner only gives you two pieces of bacon? The diner here piles it on. I eat some and take the rest home for the dogs and there’s always at least three or four pieces for them. So Sandy piles it on, but yes, I have to go back and count the strips. Should have done that once the discovery draft was over. Discovery drafts can be sloppy. Truck drafts, not so much. Also, bacon and eggs are not carbs, plus I think the way I used it was wrong beyond that, I don’t think Nita would think that, so that goes. Three eggs; I think maybe our diner only has two but I can’t remember. The reason I thought the spread with the French toast was lavish was because when I order it at the diner, it’s two orders, one full order of French toast, one full order of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns with toast. People have been known to make comments. It’s important because Nita eats like crazy and doesn’t gain weight because she’s burning energy like crazy just trying to stay warm while . . . other stuff. It’s actually a plot point. But I can cut the food talk back some. The other thing is that this is the second (hopefully subtle) foreshadowing that Nick’s subconsciously remembering being alive, and when he remembers something, he automatically develops that sense again, in this case, taste buds. When he remembers something and wants it, that part of being human comes back to him. The first beat was sleep, which he managed to reject, this second beat is tasting food, which he gets caught by. So I need that, but I can cut a lot of this way back.

SUNGLASSES: I think that what Lani calls a vestigial tail, something that was important in an earlier draft that lingered after it wasn’t needed. I had a whole thing about sunglasses, but it’s just extra stuff and I don’t need it. So I can cut the sunglasses.

LUNCH CHAT: Yeah, that can go.

JOEY’S CELLPHONE: I have no idea why I put that in there. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time. I need to figure out a way to make that work or it can go.

GRANDPA’S BAR: I’m not sure about this one. I know it’s important, but I agree that it doesn’t really belong here. For one thing, it makes Nick too human too quickly. I think I can have her negotiate this with Rab later that morning. So cogitating, but I agree it doesn’t fit and should be cut.

JOEY AND THE AGENTS: I think this is really what both Nita and Nick would be focused on. The food stuff should be happening, but I think it’s stronger if it happens without them realizing it, they’re antagonists on the information so they don’t notice they’re bonding over the food. I had Nita repeating the Joey question because I wanted that sense that she was implacable, but it just comes off as repetitive. So what I need to do is look at the beats in that conversation, cut out all the repetition, and then match them to the background beats of the food. I can do that.

And then miscellaneous stuff:
• Let my editor make the cuts: Nope. I send Jen a mss. that’s a perfect as I can get it. Then she tells me the weak places, the same way you all just did, and I fix it. This is my book, I’m responsible for every word. Yes, I am obsessive about that. Anybody here who thinks I’m sane about my writing obviously hasn’t been paying attention.

• When did Nita find out Vinnie was e-mailing with Mr. Lemon? When she questioned him at the bar. It’s in the last couple of rewrites. You haven’t seen them, but I promise, it’s there.

• Does Nick eventually stop giving off heat? Yes. But he also figures out what’s making Nita cold and fixes it. So they recalibrate each other.

• Nita’s awfully calm about him not having a pulse. Yeah. I might just cut that. It was a late addition, and I’m thinking it happens too soon. She shouldn’t be touching him that casually that quickly. So there’s a chunk that can go.

• Two “cutes” for Daphne; I’ll get rid of one.

• Why would Nita tell Nick about her mother? Huh. I hadn’t thought about it. It was mostly efficiency, and I wanted them struggling over something, but what Nick really needs/wants to know is if both of her parents are human. Since she obviously thinks they are, questioning her about them is non-starter anyway. What he really wants to know is the agent/hellgate stuff. Must cogitate, but that’s probably something else than can be cut.

• Why does Nick sound so modern? Because he is modern. That is, he didn’t go to sleep yesterday in the fifteenth century and wake up today in the 21st, he’s been here all along, five hundred Earth years and fifty Hell years. Plus he’s been to Earth, all over it, many times as Satan’s agent. I look at it this way: I left home at 17 which was fifty years ago. I have a vague recollection of those years although pictures of them are always a shock, but the only thing that’s really vivid in my mind is the music. I have little recall of food, for example, except for the egg salad sandwiches at the Dairy Bar, which was the diner behind my dorm. (They had “Different Drums” on the juke box.) I have almost no recall of drugs I did except for the mescaline trips. I don’t remember the clothes except for one blue calico mini dress that was so short I had short shorts that I wore under it. That’s the thing about the passage of time: you LOSE stuff. And Nick’s dead, he doesn’t even have sense memory left. I’m not even sure he can see color although he might need that to function as a fixer. So the fact that his language is modern and his clothing is modern seems to me to be more logical than anything that would hearken back to fifteenth century Italy, especially since as Satan’s con man he’d be adapting to whatever environment he had to work in. The problem will come in that other readers might have the same question, but I don’t think it’s logical that he’d be a throwback. I just have to find some way of getting that on the page.

• Lack of physical variation: This is a problem for me because I don’t see these stories, I hear them, so I have to really work to get physicality on the page. In this case, though, I think I want Nita and Nick on opposite sides of that table. In the earlier scene, the first time they’re together, they’re on opposite sides of the bar, first he’s behind it and she’s in front, then later she’s behind it and he’s in front, and then at the end of the scene he goes around to her side behind it because he knows she’s going to pass out. So now it’s six hours later and she’s sober, and they’re on opposite sides of the table, but they don’t really have reason to move. They’re eating breakfast; musical chairs makes no sense. So the physicality becomes the food. She has a spread in front of her and he has a single egg-white omelet. By the end of scene, they’ve divided two breakfasts and he’s eating her French toast. I think in this case, that’s enough, since they’re also swapping food. That is, she flips a piece of toast over to him, he takes a strip of bacon from her, he dumps half of his toast serving on her plate . . . they’re concentrating on what they’re saying, they both live the life of the mind, but their bodies betray them, first because bodies need fuel, and then because even while they’re in conflict, they’re collaborating on the food. I agree that the beats of the scene should be played out in the physicality, but I’m fine with them staying in their seats and doing it all with the food.

Here’s something I’m still struggling with: Nick’s appearance. In general, I’m not crazy about the Super Hot Guy unless there’s a reason. Cal had to look like a prince in a fairy tale, Phin had to look like the blond frat boy, etc. Nick’s idealized because he’s not real, he’s what he remembers, and he’s going to change as he remembers more and gets more real—I have him getting shorter, for instance, and his ears start to stick out—but he was a con man back in the day from a family of grifters, all of whom were beautiful, and he really is strikingly handsome. I have a couple of placeholder photos that really aren’t Nick any more but that give me a touchstone for description, but I am just not comfortable with what I’ve got yet, it’s too over-the-top-bad-romance-hero. I’m trying to undercut it with Nita’s resistance to it because she knows there’s something wrong there, but I think it’s going to take me awhile to get that right. When I was doing the collage search, I found an article that quoted the placeholder’s straight best friend who said that when he’d first met the guy, he’d thought that he was the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, and I wanted that kind of reaction, but it just seems clunky on the page. So I need to figure that out. Up side: I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of a great-looking guy.

The big difference between the Discovery Draft and the Truck Draft is that now that I’m in the Truck Draft, I can be spare. That’s Krissie’s favorite writing word, and it basically means that once I know what that scene has to do, and I can slash everything else, once somebody points out to me what slows everything down. (Congratulations, you are all now beta readers.) I’ll still be tweaking it forever, but I know that I can cut pretty much everything that everybody mentioned, and tighten everything else.

I’m feeling much better about this. Back at you tomorrow with a rewrite. Probably.

After talking about breakfast here, i was hungry, so I went to my diner and had the eggs over easy (with bacon, toast, and hash browns) and the french toast. Please note the bacon:

Daphne’s head scarf:

47 thoughts on “Cutting Breakfast (Revised for Bacon) (Revised Again for Daphne’s Headscarf)

    1. Made a long comment about descriptors over on previous thread. Trying to help.

      Btw – Does anyone else also have problems with mobile or opera mini browser not nesting their replies?

  1. This might be too late, but I was surprised that Nita didn’t seem to care about missing people? She got there eventually, but when he first said ‘missing people’ she let it go.

  2. I read your blog frequently, but never comment – I apologize if I’m stepping out of place now.

    You’ve said that Nick’s looks are made up from what he remembers about himself, but you also said his family were Grifters in the 1600s – how often would he have seen himself?

    Could the answer to his excessive beauty lie somewhere in that dichotomy?

    Thank you for blogging. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    1. You’re not stepping out of place. I don’t think we have a place. Most of the time, we barely have a topic.

      Nick died in the 1490s. But there were mirrors then. Glass mirrors go way back, like to 500 AD. They weren’t as clear a reflection as our modern mirrors, but they were used a lot. Look at all the mirrors in Renaissance painting. In fact, painters back then used mirrors to develop perspective.

      Short answer: His grandfather was a painter and would have used mirrors, and his father was wealthy and would have had them, too.

      Also, some people are just born gorgeous. The bastards.

      1. I’d like it if he gradually became more like himself – like he has remembered himself as a sort of generic-looking mannequin and gets more specific details as things go along. Which fits in with your height and ears thing. Would be cool if he became somewhat more italian-looking. I’m googling 1490 italian art and finding mostly saints and popes. They are not as pretty as I hoped.

        1. Italian-looking is in perception. There are blonde Italians. I think dark hair and dark eyes is as close as I want to go with description and the rest is personality and transformation. That is, he gets shorter, his ears stick out more, he starts going gray, that kind of thing. Description can be a real drag on narrative without accomplishing anything. I think the fact that he’s said he was born in Italy is enough.

          I’ve got stuff like this in discovery draft that should probably be cut because it doesn’t do anything; that’s the trap of description:

          “Your hair.” She hesitated. “It’s kind of . . . salt and pepper.”
          “You’re going gray.”
          He looked in the mirror. “Does this happen to every guy you sleep with?”
          “Oh, funny.”
          He turned away from the mirror and shrugged. “I’m over five hundred years old. Not surprising.”
          “You were in Hell for most of that. So not so long.”
          “Yeah, fifty years.” He put the kettle on. “I was twenty-nine when I died. One more year and you’re sleeping with an octogenarian.”
          Nita thought about it. “I’ve never been into older guys.”
          “Adapt,” Nick said.

          1. I’m on a diet, which is not making me happy. The bacon and eggs pic did not help. But this excerpt did. Thanks for sharing it 🙂

          2. Yes. I love this. I love your characters (all of your books). I love the worlds you build.

            Thank you for sharing so much with us!

        2. While they did have mirrors, I wonder if when he’s creating his image, he recreates a portrait either of himself or a more famous one from the period without even realizing it. So a portrait of himself at 22 or a Medici painted by Leonardo.

          I have mirrors too, but in my heart I’m pretty sure they make me look short & fat. Which of course in my heart I am not. So that mirror thing? I still don’t trust them. ; )

  3. I didn’t get to read yesterday’s post until today, but I didn’t think anything that someone else didn’t mention. I do love the feeling bad about eating pigs though (because I do, and I do) and Nick’s reaction seemed to me to be one more grain of sand of moving toward humanity.

  4. Yay! I feel helpful and honored to have been a beta reader.

    Also, bacon. Most diners I go to only give 2 pieces per plate, so consider yourself blessed by your current diner. I do agree that eggs and bacon aren’t carbs but I let it slide because I thought you’re going for Sandy delivering platefuls of calories and most people in the US think carbs=calories. (I was so sad when I realized if it wasn’t fat or protein, the food is a carb; thus fruit and leafy greens are carbs.) However, I’m totally with you that eggs, meat, hash browns and toast is one order and french toast is a second order, so it’s a lot of food.

    Once extra thought, at what point does a person willingly share their food with someone? Especially someone they don’t trust? I wouldn’t have you cut their sharing of food for the world, but I remember a time when having diner with a person who had been a close friend and then was an asshat but we were mostly passed that and he offered something on his plate. I had already minutes prior stuck my fork into it and had taken a bite. He hadn’t noticed because we had been sharing food easily when we were close friends without question. It was something that was just comfortable to do. Now, I also had an instance going out with a group to keep a visitor company for dinner. When the person I had just met asked about the drink I was having, I offered him a sip. He was a little taken aback and said something like, “so we’re that close already”. I shrugged and he took a sip. Anyway, just mentioning it.

  5. Please note addition of breakfast photo to the post.
    Four pieces of bacon, but they were long pieces which is where I think I got the idea there were more. It was delicious, and the dogs got the leftover bacon.

      1. I love bacon, but it’s so rich one or two pieces is enough, usually.
        Also I had eggs, two pieces of regular toast, three pieces of french toast, and hash browns. There’s a limit.

      1. Is it bad that I’m tempted to google diners in New Jersey to find homemade carrot cake?

        Not that I’d drive that far for carrot cake. At least not this time of year. Have you tried their breakfast sausages? Our local diner is pretty good, but I’m unimpressed by their sausages. They’re not the ones that taste like hot dogs, but they’re not terrific.

        1. I’m not a sausage person. Krissie likes them.
          ETA: Edited to clarify: Krissie likes the diner’s sausages, not just sauages in general.

  6. I thought of the bacon as just part of her usual custom order, kind of like the Nita burger.

  7. Sorry for the late addition. I was surprised that Nita was so casual about touching Nick to take his pulse, because I thought that touching people makes her feel slightly sick (even if they’re not guilty). I seem to remember her bracing herself before shaking Vinnie’s hand. Or was that from an earlier version?

  8. I have not read every comment, so apologies if someone else already said this: I think that Nick’s physical perfection works against the Super Hot Guy romance trope, because the reader knows that he’s manufacturing that appearance–he’s sort of photoshopping himself.

    So I had a very good time with that, FWIW.

    1. I love it. You should see the desserts. They don’t serve pieces of cake, they serve slabs. And their burgers are amazing.
      Maybe I should go back there for lunch. Nita eats burgers for lunch.

  9. Dear Jenny
    Re the diner. The first time my DH and I went to the States and ate in a cafe we were shocked at the amount of food you were served. When we had visitors from Scotland we would always go to the States (from Vancouver) and this is true, they would Always share a lunch. this was in the sixties.

    1. America is nuts when it comes to food.
      OTOH, I ate almost everything. (Left some of the potatoes–I’m diabetic and not supposed to have any–and I eased up on the bacon, but the dogs got that).

  10. I think Nick getting shorter as he remembers more of himself is a) hilarious, and b) genius. People WERE shorter 500 years ago!

    He might also be getting hairier (all over). 🙂 Love the salt-and-pepper bit.

  11. this may be using a scalpel when you need a sledgehammer, but wouldn’t Nita’s breakfast have a name (and save some space). Most diners have a breakfast like that , that has a name (ie ‘the heart attack’ or ‘the farmer’).

    1. My diner doesn’t, not for the eggs/potatoes/meat/toast combo. The cheeseburger is just called a Bacon Cheeseburger. We’re not fancy out here in the boonies.

  12. Very late to the discussion but I knew a couple of spectacularly beautiful men in college and I was always amazed at how fast I forgot about their looks. They weren’t hung about their looks and we had other things to talk about. I remember a moment when I watched a girl trip over something trying to get a better look at one of the guys and I was ” what’s her deal?” And a friend had to point out that guy was gorgeous.

    1. We once hired a drop dead gorgeous guy who had the brains of a infant mouse.

      It’s amazing how fast the drop dead gorgeous part lost all meaning to us.

  13. Late to the party…I don’t understand why Nick is eating salads and eggwhite omelets. He is dead so he doesn’t need healthy food. I expected him to eat 16th c food but if you don’t want that…did he even eat in the last 500 years? If so why didn’t that food wake him back up?


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