Krissie has gone home and I’m talking to the dogs again, but for five days. we talked books, mostly our work-in-progress books. We’d read drafts of each other’s books so we knew enough about them to talk about them, and we discussed different problematical aspects of each WiP, arguing over some points (she was right on some, I was right on others, bless Google how did we ever work without it?) and taking apart some ideas. It was tremendously helpful and now we have to get to final rewrites.
One of the big things for both of us was the Unsympathetic Heroine, and I think it came down to the same problem for both: no vulnerability. Invulnerable characters have such hard, slick surfaces that it’s hard for readers to attach. Her character, as she said, is wealthy with a great job and great breasts; my character is surrounded by people who respect her and never has an uncertain moment. I told Krissie to go for less money. and smaller boobs, and I’m going to have to go with more isolation and uncertainty for Nita, and probably some loneliness, too.
After that, for both of us, it’s looking at the big picture and the Usual Suspects of Fiction: Central Conflict, Plot Arc Through Acts, Character Development, etc. And then some little things. I let things drop in the story so I have to weave them through again (Vinnie is crucial in the beginning and then just disappears, Rab needs at least one more Brilliant Idea, etc.); meanwhile Krissie has to check some historical stuff although she was right about “cruising for a bruising,” they definitely said that in the forties.
One way I’m doing that is by obsessively making tables that trace characters through the acts. That helps me make sure I haven’t dropped anybody (if I have, I need to either make sure they show up in each act, even if it’s. just to wave, or delete them entirely; sorry about that, Mort). And after all my obsessing about the team, (yes, I have a table for that, too) it turned out that I do have a five-man band. Okay, it’s a six-man band, but it was nice to see everybody fit into the trope: Nita (mastermind), Nick (thief), Button (hitter), Max (grifter), Jeo (lancer), and Rab (chick/heart). I know, Nick’s really more of a lancer, and then Jeo assists him, but this has to be Nita’s book, plus Nick’s so confused for all of Act 3, that Nita has to mastermind.
So it is finally all coming together. This part of the progress always feels like the August of the book, the tipping point, the eve of completion, the point when the book just needs a check (all those tables) and a polish. All the big problems are identified, we know how to solve them, and we can see the end of the process rushing toward us, after which, the summer of our disconnect from reality ends and we have to face the cold non-fiction of the publishing business.
But right now, it’s still August in my mind, and I spent the past week talking books with my best friend. That’s a great end to a summer and to a writing process.