Friday, January 15, 2010

The emotional side of writing

My husband always says I'm happiest when I'm writing. My husband's happy when I'm writing the naughty scenes. On Wednesday, I was having one of those days where I was in a good mood (a very good, excitable mood) and I was still working on my outline and I got to a scene that recalled one of the male POV character's pivotal experiences in his youth that helped construct his sexual identity.

Doesn't that sound way more academic than I meant it to.

It was a scene that signaled the beginning of the end, the denouement if you will. The bad guys and the good guys get tangled a bit. Étienne and the female witch Flidais end up... well, having a special sort of battle. Flidais enters Étienne's mind and reads his memories and discovers that he harbors a bit of an interest in his mother-in-law. Nothing serious, nothing he'd act on, merely the impressions of a 12-year-old boy.


"Circa 1971, the 12-year-old boy sewed with his father, waiting for the coveted moments when Marthe-Georgine came into the shop. Her Chanel purse quickly opened to offer expensive bittersweet chocolates. Her bosom pert and her body an hourglass unlike the soft and undefined shape of his mother or the budding promise of the girls at school. She would step behind the screen to try her garments and he would hope for a stray glimpse of her silk and lace undergarments, so unlike the white cotton things his mother hung in the bathroom. Young Etienne loved the camisoles, the slips, and the seamed stockings of a lady who remained a lady even beneath her clothes."

I also have a line in there about him realizing years later that the smell that seemed attached to her skin was actually Chanel No. 5 (which his wife also wears).

This passage, which I merely reread and refined that day, had me on edge ALL day. I came home still excitable, and while my husband put my daughter to bed I continued the outlining project. That was my mistake. Because the chapter after the one that excerpt comes from has Étienne and Basilie getting into the worst fight of their relationship, followed by a life-threatening tragedy and a kidnapping. So, I was a tad depressed after reading that.

And for some reason, the next day, I realized I could make a small edit to the first volume of the manuscript and have a cameo from a very important character. Étienne's first love. I have a scene where all the guys go out drinking and end up at a jazz club and I thought, wow, since Arlette is a singer, they could go hear her sing, and her brief (800 words) appearance could cement Étienne's typical behavior (I've billed him as a flirt with a rich history with the girls) and serve as a link for later volumes in the series.

But I didn't have time to write. My job needed my attention, as did my family, but I managed to carve 15 minutes out before my daughter went to school and another 15 while she was in school. The results thrilled me. Because it also helped Étienne's relationship with his brother. Here's the culminating end of the scene.

“As soon as that girl opens her mouth,” J.P. said to Edmond, “he’s drooling like a teenager.”

“Our relationship ended thirty years ago,” Étienne replied. “Why can’t I appreciate her?”

“Appreciate?” Edmond responded. “Is that what it’s called? Where are your hands? Keep them on the table where I can see them. My first love won’t speak to me. Étienne’s sits on his lap. I hate my brother.”

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