You Gotta Have Friends, Part One

I have the great good fortune of having Friends Who Know Stuff, in my current case, two who are invaluable, Toni McGee Causey and Bob Mayer. I’ve been e-mailing like crazy with them about Anna.

Toni and I have been pals forever, and we think a lot alike, plus she knows a lot about the FBI from her Bobbie Fay books and from real life (like she me, she benefitted professionally from giving birth to somebody who grew up to be an expert) and she has background in the mob because Toni knows everybody, so she’s been reading and giving me feedback, talking through the back story basics with me. It’s not invasive, more like setting up guardrails, aka “The FBI wouldn’t do that,” and again, that’s not messing with story or discovery, it’s more giving me parameters so I can keep this within the bounds of improbability instead of impossibility.

So, on the theory that everything I do is fascinating, (sorry, Argh), here are some of things Toni and I talked about.

(I’ll put together some of Bob’s and my e-mails tomorrow if he gives me permission to post, and then on Saturday, HWSWA will be Bob and I talking about his idea and about getting story ideas in general. I think. We always have a plan, and we always end up somewhere else.)

Question — why do you think Nate is mad at Anna for drawing a gun when she was defending herself and shooting the guy? Most cops / agents I know would not be angry or even slightly miffed if she was smart enough to get out of that situation without killing the guy (and he’s not dead at the end of that scene). She’s got a gun pointed at her, a guy emphatically telling her to get in his car (or making moves to kidnap her) and she very smartly reacts. Nate’s anger there isn’t a logical progression in the scene. (I would never have sent this note, but then I saw the discussion with Bob and if you’re predicating all of the anger between the two of them on that moment—she shoots a guy, so she’s not what he expected, then he seems very weak as an agent, because she didn’t ask for a guy to be in the garage aiming a gun at her, so why would Nate be angry? If that falls apart, your reasons for them being miffed at each other / having conflict, falls apart. So I thought maybe I should mention this now before you get too far on that line of thinking.)

Now, if she killed the guy and Nate can no longer question him and get a lead as to who the guy is and why he was trying to kidnap her, then yes, he’d be aggravated, but not to an extreme. If she *knew* that she was being followed / stalked and had failed to mention that in the previous scene, then he could be really aggravated with her because she withheld something important and it could look to him like she was playing him. (So maybe just not have that revelation in the previous scene and save it for after the kidnapping scene.) Then he could really wonder if it was all a set-up to take him off the case, or screw the case they have thus far, and if she’s that clever, what else could she be up to?

My son (cop) would rather I shot someone than be kidnapped. It’s not clear to me in the scene that Anna knows they’re there and could potentially rescue her (and really, if she has a solution, why would she wait, all damsel in distress? A good agent wouldn’t expect her to.)

okay, shutting up now.


Never shut up. This is all good stuff.

I think I need to dial Nate’s anger back to annoyed. What I was going for there is that she is not what he thought, and he feels stupid at having told Carter she’s just a mild-mannered librarian. I’m not sure she’s a librarian, this is all discovery draft. Later that night she says, “That’s why you’re mad,” and he admits it. Truth be told, I don’t know why she’s so mad, and her mother at this point is a stereotype, but that’s discovery draft for you. Now that you’ve said this, though, I think I have to hit the mild-mannered librarian bit with Carter harder before they get to Jersey, so there’s more of a gap between his assumptions and how far he’s gone out on a limb with Carter.

I don’t want her killing anybody. Her grandfather was a monster, her mother is lethal but not professionally so, Anna just shoots in self-defense. I need that family arc that is increasingly sane. Also death is not funny (the guy lives).

I figure the reader will say, “Go, Anna,” but Nate will feel like a fool for having said, “She’s harmless.” So I really need to go back and set that up as his motivation.

Thank you VERY much for telling me this stuff. I really need to get the feedback, especially from you, since I know nothing about the FBI. Also you’re a very good writer (g).

I really REALLY should have added — these two characters are pretty fantastic. Seriously, I could have kept reading ALL DAY. I loved their banter, I especially loved the random-seeming tangents that Anna goes on and how Nate can follow. I love his way with her. So excellent, all the banter.

I only mentioned the motive thing because it fell under the FBI sort of umbrella, and how that sort of guy would act. Paper pusher guys might be aggravated (because it causes them a lot more paperwork). but that’s not Nate, so I hope you don’t mind I mentioned it.

Oh, I’m delighted. Truly. The more you talk about this, the less I have to research. You’re a gold mine.

Bob said to ignore the crime subplot and get the romance arc down first and he’s right. But I also need to need to get that dynamic down where they’re recalibrating their assumptions. She was nervous in Vegas and he got to be all patriarchal and take charge. Back on her home turf, she’s tough and in charge, and he has to adapt, which he doesn’t see until she shoots the guy, so I just have to dial back on the anger and get across that he’s trying to figure out who she is on the fly because all this other stuff is happening at the same time. Your point about his anger being unmotivated is crucial, I think.

Anyway, thank you. This is great.

I like that a lot. That resonates, because he (from Carter’s response) isn’t the kind of guy who gets made a fool of, so for him to be so off-base as to who she really is would bother the hell out of him, and he’d be embarrassed that he missed such a big clue (her walking out of the office and then being a suspect because of her delivery). That’s both professional embarrassment and personal-judgment embarrassment.

I’m going back in and layering in the “she’s just a nice woman” stuff, and that makes how patriarchal he is in the first part not just “nice guy” but an assumption that he knows more than she does. I think he’s likable in that first part because he’s so decent, but he’s also not treating her as an equal, so that can feed into the rewrite of the scene with Carter where he insists that she’s a complete innocent,. Which Carter does not believe because Carter suspects everybody, and then when it turns out Carter is right and she shoots the guy, he’s really annoyed, not because she shot somebody but because he’s so wrong, everything he thought about her was wrong. That’s SO MUCH BETTER than what I had.

You’re a genius.

16 thoughts on “You Gotta Have Friends, Part One

  1. I guess gut shots seem super serious and like good odds the kidnapper would not survive? If you’re wanting to tone down the violence and odds of death, maybe a limb?

    1. All the story says is, “He’ll live.” The only statistic I could find for abdominal wounds was an 88% survival rate; the determining factors appear to be if the bullet his the vascular system (bleed out) or treatment is delayed (they’re in the city and the EMTs get there fast).

      There’s actually a reason she shoots him where she does; it’s the recommended stop shot for somebody who’s attacking you.

      I know zip about guns, but I check on stuff like this.

  2. I think hitting him centre mass makes sense, she was trained by a hitman for her own protection and I remember a real policeman said things like, fancy shooting to disarm people just happens in the movies, in real life, you don’t have time to worry about that

  3. “especially loved the random-seeming tangents that Anna goes on and how Nate can follow.” Yes. This is why I already believe they belong together in the long run.

    1. Me, too. I think what we all want most is to really be seen and understood. There is nothing sexier than the thought “He Gets Me.” And being able to laugh with someone who enjoys your sense of humor is one of life’s finest pleasures.

      1. That’s why that moment in Faking It when Davey looks at the paintings and says “They’re you” was almost orgasmic.

  4. My only “helpful” comment is that Signor Kidnapper should point at the car with his gun so it isn’t aimed at Anna when she plugs his gut, else he might accidentally counter battery shoot her.

    If he isn’t wielding a gun, shooting him seems just a hair excessive. If he is, where did it go?

    1. Nate bags it at the scene.

      Anna’s car has just flashed its lights and beeped, so I think it’s been indicated.

  5. Toni is definitely a gem! This is great. And I ditto the sexiness factor about a guy who “gets” her. Yummy.

  6. It is nice to have savvy friends as early readers.

    My knowledge of the art crime world is minimal, but when we watch the Art of Crime show, hubby picks out many things he feels are off because a few years ago he read that book by Robert K. Wittman about his actual career as an FBI art investigator. In his book (and video interviews I think), Wittman seems to refer to it more as something like “cultural crime” because apparently the job often has more to do with tracking cultural artifacts with great cultural value but not necessarily monetary value. From what I gather, his job was rather fascinating, so it’s a great job to give your character with lots of potential for future crime situations, too, if you ever decided to go the series route.

    For my part, as opposed to my hubby, my “knowledge” re art investigators falls more in the How to Steal a Million O’Toole character category, lol. But then even for my own books which includes PI work, I did interview real PIs and do use their expertise a lot to ground my stories in reality, but I also take liberties because, you know, fiction:)

  7. You two have more energy than I possess. Following the ideas in the Jenny/Toni dialog is *exhausting.* Idea following takes sufficient vigor, and it is late afternoon here. My little brain is played out, but it approves the end result.

    still pushing for the art conservator angle. They’re trained to spot fakes, ya know, in addition to (maybe) doing restoration work.

    1. LOL. This was a vastly shortened version. The original e-mail exchange was much, much longer.
      But as I said, we’ve known each other a long time.

  8. Wow. Toni is one of the reasons I wanted Paradise Park/ Monday Street.

    But I’ve decided to limit my suffering to Alice and Nadine.

    Anna is very well written already. It’s almost like you didn’t have added banter like you did with Lavender. It’s a lot tighter.

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