Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Challenging your knowledge

I'm still in the "tearing up" stages I mentioned yesterday. I got fabulously inspired with my new chapter one, and had a healthy start to chapter two. But my text is now meandering. I know exactly why I have chosen to move in each of these directions, but the word count is stacking up and the chapter still hasn't covered what it needs to do.

I try to structure each of my chapters like a short story, with a finite piece of action that almost works on its own without the rest of the novel. Thus far, that structural trick has escaped me in most of this volume, plus I've had unclear transitions between the chapters. Enough so that when I go back after a few weeks rest and read it cold, I get jarred by what's happening.

Not good.

But now this chapter seems to be spending its forty days in the wilderness... I have a good chapter one (I think, it's resting and I'm uncertain how it will read after a break) and I know I have a good chapter three (my husband has insisted for years that it is chapter one in disguise; plus my critique group liked it). So, why the problem with #2?

I listed the items that this chapter needs to establish:
  • The layout of the house/ the real setting (Étienne comes home from the bar)
  • Slowly include other characters (so far we have met Étienne, our hero, and Galen, our bad guy. Since Galen punch Étienne in the face twice in the initial chapter I think it's fair game to mention that here)
  • Lay the groundwork for the relationship between Étienne and his wife/ex-wife/fiancée (yes, these are all the same person, Basilie, or as he calls her, Zélie)
  • Have Étienne find Adelaide's sketchbook and her collection of his drawings (in the past, the finding of the sketchbook happens 'off-screen' and really should be a pivotal moment)
  • Link the middle of the night with the day, and the following evening, as Chapter Three begins at bedtime the next night. Chapter one: Friday night/Saturday a.m.; Chapter two: Saturday; Chapter Three: Saturday night/ Sunday a.m.; Chapter Four, Sunday a.m.; Chapter Five, Sunday a.m.
That's a tall order. And later I will have to tear up this chapter and evaluate how each scene contributes to each of these goals.

At the midpoint in the chapter, Étienne grows tired of everyone commenting on his black eye and uses Adelaide's make-up kit to cover it. In looking at my goals, I realize there's a good chance this scene might get cut (unless I later determine it's necessary to establish Étienne's weight in the fashion world) but for right now, I'm running with it.

A scene like this is where my journalism background comes in handy (now I'm getting to the crux of my entry: the challenging your knowledge bit). I know next to nothing about make-up. I also know covering a bruise like a black eye is hard. I've read enough fashion magazines religiously to know some basic concepts, but overall, when it comes to make-up, I'm a failure. I just don't use it.

And here's Étienne, about to attempt something I would never do. And he's supposed to understand how to do it. Now, for more academic topics, like daily life in Paris after World War II, I would turn to the college library and the article databases I can access as a student. For make-up, not so much...

I know this much:
  • the task at hand is hard
  • the colors he puts on his face must not only 'match' his skin tone, but they also must counteract the colors of the bruise
  • luckily, he could have almost any tool at his disposal, since we have the make-up kit of a former supermodel who has also done some styling over the years
So, I turn to the internet and some books I have, trying to hit the right key words for my questions:
  • What's in Adelaide's make-up kit?
  • What should he apply and how?
  • What are the details that will make it sound like he knows what he's doing without getting too deep?
I'm reluctant to share my first draft... especially since I know I'm going to cut some/most of it... but should I share what I learned? Hmmm...

Okay, rough draft, reminder, this is a rough draft (I can tell while I copy and paste I want to change lots of words here, but I won't. Not now. I have other things to do):

Never the type to fight, not even when his older brother had him pinned to the floor, Étienne hadn’t ever seen his face this swollen and mottled. Even after his car accident, with his head embedded in the windshield, he hadn’t seen this much discoloration. Suddenly, that fact struck him as odd.

He unscrewed the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer and applied some to the back of his right hand. Once convinced it wouldn’t turn his skin an unnatural color, he dabbed it on his skin with a sponge. He could have used his finger, but the sponge offered a lighter touch on his tender face.

He needed something with more gold, maybe some green to really hide the vivid bruise, so he rummaged through the kit for Adelaide’s RCMA foundation. He prayed she had the right colors, or he’d have to use other pigments to blend the right hue. Luckily, she had a KO sample palette. On the second guess, he determined the right base hue and piled some on the back of his left hand. With a small brush he mixed in some extra color to make the match and then added golden tones. When the heat from his hand had softened it enough, he layered some onto his eye, from under the eye to his cheek and then from the middle of the eyelid up and delicately toward the eyelashes.

He fished out Adelaide’s bottle of 244 and added a drop to what remained on his hand. After a good stirring of the thinner/remover and the foundation, Étienne used the sponge to apply another coat.

I can't believe I shared this. Off to run and hide...

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