And Anna Staggers On

I spent an hour yesterday on Spark with Bob trying to sort through my non-plot for Arresting Anna (chat goes up tomorrow on HWSWA), then woke up today to two e-mails from him that solved most of my back story problem. The man is a genius. He also read and made notes on the first five chapters, so he’s a hardworking genius.

Below are some of his notes on the latest iteration of Anna:

One of the things Bob pointed out in his ms. notes was that I’m going to have smooth out Anna’s character arc. Nate’s arc is a lot simpler, but Anna’s dealing with being dumped, her one-night stand turning out to be the FBI, a new boss who doesn’t like her, an attempted kidnapping, a possible disaster at work, a home invasion, and living temporarily with Nate, and that’s just in Act One. I have to figure out how she’s processing that, and get that on the page since right now she’s moderately calm about the whole thing. Probably the same thing for Nate.

BOB WROTE: It occurs to me that no one has really reacted to the fact she shot someone—Anna doesn’t seem bothered; her mother is relatively unconcerned; Nate seems more perturbed that she did it herself and not him. It’s not an everyday occurrence Maybe even if she has a moment, like when she’s getting the pizza. Also did they take her gun? Would she have a backup or would Lucianna get her one?
Marty took her gun for evidence. I can up Nate’s concern; he definitely was put out by it. I can up Carter’s too. Her mother wouldn’t care about the shooting, but she’d care about the kidnapping attempt. She wouldn’t forget it. And you’re right, neither would Anna, so back to character arc.

BOB: What are your symbols and repeats?
Oh, good question. Let me think.

Well, art. I’ll hit that harder in the rewrite. What is art worth, what determines what something is worth, what art means, etc.

The idea of faking the icons, faking spirituality, faking love, etc. The accidental non-engagement.

Family and betrayal. There are traitors at the FBI, at the museum, in Anna’s family. Alliances fall and reform.

Color. Color is a big thing for Anna: Sabrina’s cadmium red dress, the ultramarine of the pool, the colors of her twin sets, her hair, orange juice, the egg yolk, her robin’s egg blue gun (which is for sale in real life, helluva lot of pastel guns out there for sale). Her envy of her cousin’s rainbow tube top. The pink wig and coat in her fantasies. She’s got an art degree so she notices.

Food. I like it that Anna makes Steak Diane because you set that on fire before you serve it, which is probably what Anna is going to do to the plot at the end. The Snickers bit, which is not her favorite candy; she’s making do with what she finds in the mini-bar the same way she was making do with Jason. She cooks with color, too, the red onion for stir fry because stir fry needs body and color. I may layer the grocery shopping in three scenes throughout the book, depending on where the food goes.

The Lucy and Charlie thing being not real, infatuation, a cartoon relationship that Nate rejects when she shoots somebody. Anna and Nate having to work to get the real thing, mature love, using Lucy-and-Charlie as a shorthand foil.

I like the reversal of romance tropes: Charlie does not turn out to be her boss, they do not pretend to be engaged (they tell everybody it was a joke that got out of hand), he does not save her, she protects him, etc.

There’s more, but I’m still discovery drafting, so it’s all vague.

BOB: I do think Lucianna would give her another cute gun.
Lucianna’s going to give her a pink taser, I think. I’m not sure Lucianna has an armory, and she wouldn’t give her last gun away. Also, I’m a little leery of too many guns in this. Most of these people are not murderous, they’re just greedy and threatening. People are trying to make money, not off others.

BOB WROTE: I’m not sure what’s at stake other than someone is after Anna—or whatever is in the pool house. But what initiated all this? Why now? Did something happen in Vegas? Seems there needs to be more of a reason for the FBI and other cops not to be all over this. Right now it feels very informal. I sense there’s a reason for this having to do with the old case his boss, Madeline is hanging around for. But she’s off-stage. Is she the big bad and Fairfax working for her and she got him out of the hospital? Obviously the Russians are involved too. Do they kill their hitwoman in the hospital before she can talk? Sort of a twofer while busting Fairfax out?

All good questions. Wish I had answers. (Note: Bob straightened some of this out in three e-mails this morning.)

And then there are my own questions after 5/6ths of the first act first draft is done:

Why is all of this happening now? What did Anna do to start all of this in motion?

How does the Anna/Nate relationship affect/echo/contrast with the crime subplot and vice versa?

What happens at the turning points and what do those things mean?

What the hell is this book about?

So yeah, work to do. I’ll try to get the first five chapters up by the end of tomorrow. HWSWA chat about Anna also comes tomorrow. What else? Oh, yeah, if you’re an American, VOTE. Thank you.

23 thoughts on “And Anna Staggers On

  1. This is FASCINATING! And intimidating. I hadn’t thought of symbols and repeats before. I’ll have to become more discerning as I read other novels! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. On the subject of ‘why now?’, I came across a theory once that flips that and asks the question ‘so why hasn’t it happened before now? What factors have prevented it the past, and what changed?’ It was in the context of an invasion, but it works for plot motivation.

  3. Q that just occurred to me – does Anna normally carry a gun? Or would it be more normal for her to start with the taser and move up to gun once the Russian threats are a bigger deal?

    If she’d normally carry a gun, would she be OK moving down to just a taser? I feel like if she’s used to carrying concealed, she might not feel as safe with just a taser later, especially with the violence now being on stage, so to speak.

  4. I’ve just started rewatching Leverage (how could I forget how good that show is? and man, is it just the distraction I need right now). This story reminds me a little of that show. Obviously, that’s a good thing.

    I still need to read Anna. Any day now. But I love watching you and Bob go back and forth. Mystery author Donna Andrews (and reader pal Karen Buys) saved my bacon on cozy #3 brainstorming.

    Oooh, bacon. Sorry, what were we talking about?

    1. OT Deborah. I am glad I listened to you about how well older cats adjust to a kitten in the house. Our 12 year old thinks the 9 week old is the most adorable thing he has ever seen. And I was really doubtful about getting a kitten and my husband kept saying that Lindy needed company. So thanks. I haven’t laughed as much in the last 4 years as I have in the last week.

      1. Jessie, that’s great! I’m so happy to hear it is working out. Now, if you’d like another one, little Diana is up for grabs 🙂 (She’s not so little now, and gets along really well with the others. It’s just me she drives crazy.)

        1. Originally we were going to get two kittens but Dmitri was the only one I could get. Now I am wondering how thought I could handle two kittens at once. Dmitri exists at the conjunction of adventurous, suicidal and hold my beer.

          1. Jessie that last sentence is pure gold.

            It’s been a long time since I last had a kitten, but good luck!!

  5. I like (all of it and) the importance of art themes. I saw a great post the other day that said during the lockdowns, it is the artists we are turning to – those who create for others’ entertainment, comfort, and to provoke public discourse.

    Thanks for being one of those creators, Jenny.

  6. These thought processes are so amazing to read about. It makes me look at my work differently and realize what I’m doing unconsciously that I need to work with specifically.

    As for Russian icons, I think I own one. It was handed down from on my mother’s side. Her family are from Belgium (came to Canada after World War 2). If I am remembering the story right, when their village was in the midst of bombing raids during the war, this was the one thing my great-grandmother worried about saving.

    I hope this link works the way I want it to…!AuQf1bU6kT2BgbB41xHyEkSbR2aOZg

    1. That does look like an icon.

      I think you start unconsciously and then go back and look at what you wrote to see what you can play up or delete. I wouldn’t start planning motifs. Discovery draft first.

    2. Def an icon, looks valuable. Hope you have it insured to the max. We have a pretty darn fine art museum in town that prioritizes icons, and I’ve been hanging around since I could walk and talk looking and listening to stories. Doesn’t make me an expert by any means, but your icon has a story and an appraiser could fill you in.

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