Note 1: I wrote this awhile ago and never posted it. The excerpts are from One in Vermillion, so it wasn’t that long ago, but it does show a little more about how we collaborate.
Note 2: It was Bob’s birthday yesterday. (I suck at deadlines.) I think finishing three books is present enough, but I did cast an eye over the Lego zombie pirate captain on Amazon. Good thing I don’t know his address or he’d have that sucker on his desk now.
Bob and I have very different voices, which is good, it helps tremendously in differentiating the two PoV characters. But when we have to write each other’s characters, it becomes a problem. That’s okay, we just go in and rewrite our own characters to fit, smooth out the scene to conform to our styles. Bob shortens my run-on sentences in my first drafts of Vince scenes, and I start combining his sentence fragments into complete sentences in Liz’s. That’s not because I think sentence fragments are bad, they’re a feature of his writer’s voice and by extension of Vince’s voice. But they’re not Liz’s voice. In the same way Bob’s voice (and Vince’s) is fairly formal and measured, which I chalk up to years in the military. But my voice (and Liz’s) is very informal, full of slang and rat-a-tat-tat pacing. Again, this is a good thing, putting that difference on the page.
I thought of that last night when Bob gave me two scenes to rewrite in Liz’s PoV. Why was he writing Liz? Because she’d gotten sucked into an action scene with a gun, and I know zilch about that. Much better for Bob to write it and get the details right, and then for me to rewrite it to fix the voice. This is something we’ve been doing for years, so no egos are bruised or broken; I expect him to do the same thing for the Vince scenes I write. We usually end up handing the scenes back forth a couple of times before we’re both satisfied. It’s a good system.
Usually he hands me the scene and it’ll have a note on it that says something like “insert banter here,” and usually my process is go through and take out all his Latinate/formal words and put them into Anglo/Saxon vernacular, with a few stops to change something that sounds more like a guy than a woman. And I hand him a scene and say, “You’re going to have to butch this up,” and watch him start to cut. The important part is, it always makes the scene better.
So here’s a paragraph from the doc he sent me last night, first his version and then my rewrite to put it into Liz’s voice.
Bob’s First Draft:
Vince had roused me from barely enough sleep to be worth going to bed, well before the sun came up. I had to admit it was my own damn fault for pulling the stunt with Molly last night but it had been so worth it. And, as he’d reminded me, a couple of times during the drive, this was the price to be paid.
This morning, though, wasn’t on the same level of being a stunt. This was for real, which hit home when Vince pulled off Route 52 onto a dirt road to a small clearing where George was waiting in his big truck and Rain in her snazzy Mercedes. They both got out when we stopped.
Jenny’s Second Draft
That morning, Vince had woken me up a couple of hours after we’d hit the sheets, long before the sun came up. I rolled down over the foot of the bed, cursing Major Rogers and his perverse lust for dawn. I knew it was my own damn fault for trashing O’Toole’s posters with Molly last night but it had been so worth it. And, as Vince continued to remind me as we drove to meet Rain and George, this was the price to be paid for immature vandalism.
“There is no free lunch, Danger,” he said. “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
“It was a paintbrush,” I said. “Die by the paintbrush just doesn’t have the same ring.”
He continued to explain why trashing the posters was immature, unproductive and illegal, but I didn’t care. People were going to laugh their asses off when they saw those posters. Also, I was pretty sure he was doing it to distract me from the fact that we were all gonna die.
There was nothing funny about this morning, though, which hit home when Vince pulled off Route 52 onto a dirt road to a small clearing where George was waiting in his big truck and Rain in her snazzy Mercedes. They both got out when we stopped.
You’ll notice my draft was longer. That’s in part because I’m a slut for dialogue, but mostly because of character. That is, if that scene had been from Vince’s PoV, it would have been the length Bob made it because Vince (and Bob) would be thinking about the mission, not bantering with a nervous girlfriend.
But it’s in Liz’s PoV, and she (and I) are thinking about what’s coming up, about how dangerous it is and how out of her depth she is, so she’s babbling, trying to keep things light so she doesn’t start screaming from nerves. Humor: it’s a great deflector of emotion.