My other penpal is, of course, Bob Mayer, with whom I wrote for five years. If there’s one thing Bob and I can do, it’s communicate, often in short pithy phrases. Bob was career military, so he’s great at giving me parameters on that, plus we wrote together for so long that we speak the same fiction language. And, like Toni, he points out the places that tripped him up and gives me possibilities the story evoked in him. So below are some of the exchanges we had; as with Toni, there’s a lot more in my e-mail folder.
(He was particularly helpful with the strangling stuff.)
To begin with, I described my idea of Nate’s back story and got this:
Hmm. I think the military or jail thing is kind of cliche. Do you need him to be former military?
How about he had a rough childhood, did the crimes you say, but never got caught. But he watched all the guys he hung around eventually get caught. He’s not stupid. He knows his luck is going to run out, but doesn’t see many options.
Also, how does he end up in Art Crimes with no background in art? I also think FBI requires college. degree to be an agent.
(Then he gave me a much better back story I could tweak and make work.)
You are a genius.
(I told him I was worried about Anna’s mother being too much.)
I don’t think Angelina is over the top
she’s a mob princess– especially if she never married
you could have fun with all the beau's she had who proposed
From Part Four, which is a mess:
“Well, it isn’t a joke now,” Angelina said. “My baby gets engaged, I throw a party. Otherwise people will think something is wrong with me.”
Anna tried again. “We’re not engaged. He didn’t propose. There is no ring.”
“You can have one of my rings.” Angelina moved toward the door. “Do you think it’s too late to plan for Saturday?”
“Yes,” Anna said, but Angelina was gone.
“One of her rings?” Nate said.
“My mother was engaged several times when I was very young. I don’t remember any of them, she stopped saying yes when she realized she liked being single.”
Nate nodded and cracked open one of the beers he’d been stashing away. “Don’t people usually give back engagement rings?”
Anna looked at him. “Have you met my mother?”
“Right,” Nate said. “I wouldn’t ask for the ring back, either. Just back away slowly and head for the next time zone.”
Great minds think alike
I’ve never been big on critiquing mss in progress because it’s a living thing. Also, rewrites layer things. But feedback is always good since it can be ignored.
I do lots of loop rewriting now. Something occurs to me later and I go back and layer it in. I also start over every so often from the beginning before I get the first draft done.
Well, great minds wrote together for years. That’s gotta have an impact.
I look at some things and think, “That’s all wrong,” and then remember that it’s discovery draft and I can change anything. Lotta freedom in that.
The things I’m getting most from you and Toni are detail work. Like that back story I needed for Nate, so I sent you the idea because it was a throwaway, and you said, “That’s a cliche, try this,” and that opened up a much bigger and more interesting past for him. It’s not the story I’m discovering as I write, it was background I needed to set him up with a criminal past and still get him into the FBI, and your suggestion was more original and richer in possibility.
Toni’s stuff is more setting up guardrails, aka “The FBI wouldn’t do that,” and again, that’s not story or discovery, it’s more giving me parameters so I can keep this within the bounds of improbability instead of impossibility.
Basically, it’s good to have friends who know things. Thank you for that Army career, it’s coming in very handy for me.
My garrote thing will probably confused readers as they don’t see that in films or movies probably better the way you had it– simpler and straightforward–
If Angelina is a lot smaller than the guy it wouldn’t work anyway– I could see her dropping the garrote around the guys neck and then jumping on his back holding on to the toggles with all her might. And he’s trying to get her off, which only serves to cause the wire to dig in farther.
I like that.
Thank you for info on garroting people. You are, as always, invaluable.