Monday, December 18, 2017

Another lightweight post

"Gonna take two weeks, gonna have a vacation"--Summertime Blues, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Capehart

Last night, in the final hour or so before I went to bed, I was writing today's post in my head, a non-review review of Sleeping Beauties, a 700-plus page doorstopper from Stephen and Owen King. The super condensed review: I liked it. But. It's that 'but' that causes the problem, makes me want to write about it. It's also that 'but' that's going to stop me from writing about it today, because it's 6:36 in the morning, I'm not really awake, and I want to try to be in the office by 8. Rather than leave a half-assed 'review' that doesn't say what I want to say, I'm going to punt, and not just for this week. Next week's post (if there is one at all) will probably be nothing more than a 'Merry Christmas' message. The week after that will almost certainly be my last reading list for 2017, and then? Hopefully then I will have actually written the post about Sleeping Beauties that I want to write.

The quickie weekend update: The gang's all here, all the birds are again in the nest, and most of our Christmas shopping (at least for the wife and me) is done! Sweet!

There's a tree in the stand, but it's completely undecorated. If my children are nice (and they are), they will string the lights today while I'm at work, a job that I have grown to loathe over the years.

Had a good conversation with Agent Carrie over the weekend to talk 2018. We've got a plan in place, and we're both feeling optimistic.

I've been  busting a nut on the WiP. I have so far trimmed 5000(!) words and 30(!!) pages. A lot of the pages (well, a few) have been eliminated simply by killing the extra 1.15 pt space at the end of paragraphs that Word insists on putting in; I've got to change my default settings. The monster is still north of 130,000 words and I'm not quite halfway through. My goal was to be done with this pass by Christmas, but that may not be realistic. The end of the year is, however.

That's it for me, what's going on with all of you?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Weekend Update: Post-travel edition

This past weekend saw us travel for a funeral. On our return trip, we got hung up in the snow that came up the coast, which added an extra two hours--and an untold level of stress--to the drive. The weather reports gave no indication that the storm was going to impact as far as it did,  thanks, weather service models!

I need this today
As a result, yesterday was kind of a do-nothing day. Rather, it was a 'Write Like Hell' day, as I was able to put in a full day plus on my WiP, which helped offset the couple of days at the end of the week where I couldn't work on it. I'm roughly a quarter of the way through now, and, after a few days where my massive word count didn't seem to be going down at all, I have now chopped nearly 3000 words away. And a lot of these are from the front half (heck, quarter!) of the manuscript. I have a tendency to build too slowly, I think, and not leave enough room at the resolution end. I'm still excited about this project; whether or not I can get this draft completed in time for Christmas remains to be seen. If I do, then I'll be faced with a conundrum: let it sit, or go right back to the start and take another pass through? If I let it sit, then what do I work on? There's nothing really in the back room right now (as far as I know), and I hate to be not writing at all.

Not much else to report. I'm back on submission, so trying not to think about that, enjoying the Bruins' current surge that has seen them go 8-2 in their last ten, and trying to come to grips with the fact that we are just two weeks away from Christmas. And no, my shopping isn't done. Or started. But we do have lists going, so that's good.

Anyway, that's it for me, what's up with you all?

Monday, December 4, 2017

The struggle to keep current

In the Netflix comedy series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ellie Kemper plays Kimmy, a 29-year-old woman who spent literally half of her life imprisoned in an underground bunker with three other women, and the doomsday cultist who kidnapped her when she was 15. Upon being freed, Kimmy decides to move to New York and start fresh, hoping to avoid having to forever be one of the "Indiana Mole Women."

Part of the show's humor (and, despite what is Kimmy's horrific background, the show manages to be laugh out loud funny, which can be a little uncomfortable when you consider how many women have lived--and died--in such circumstances, and when you try not to wonder how many women might actually be living in similar circumstances right now) is how much of a "fish out of water" Kimmy is: small town girl trying to make it in the big city, which is compounded by the fact that a) though Kimmy turns 30 in season one, she really has the emotional development of a teenager (and a naive one at that), and b) the world has changed substantially in the fifteen years she was captive in the bunker. Kimmy dresses like a kid and often acts like a kid, and her speech is filled with references to people and things of the nineties, when she was a teenager and free, such as when she uses "Psych!" (does anyone do that anymore?), or describes brunch as being "Frasierfancy," or when she asks aspiring Broadway star Titus if he'll "...sing at the Grammys with Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson?"
Her optimism is endearing

I like to tell my kids that I'm an incredibly hip, incredibly with it guy, that I have my finger on the pulse of society, that I know what's hot and what's not, and what all the cool kids like. They see right through it. The truth is, I'm a fifty-plus year-old man who grew up in the suburbs of Long Island and went to high school and college in the 80s. I hear music on the radio and I have no idea who the singer/band is; I see pictures of supposedly A-list actors and actresses and have no idea who they are, and on the rare occasions I move myself to find out, I tend to forget and have to ask again the next time I see/hear them. But I can still quote from Caddyshack, or Animal House, or The Terminator. When NBC hockey analyst, Ed Olczyk referred to a player getting caught in "a Malacchi Crunch," I knew exactly what he was talking about (and was then surprised to realize he and I are pretty much the same age).

The pop culture of my youth had a big impact on me, and does to this day. As a writer, this can create some interesting problems. In my first two manuscripts, my protagonists were man suspiciously close to my own age, who grew up in similar places to me. Easy enough to represent their similarities. In my now back-on-submission third attempt, two of the three POV characters are close to my age, while the third is a bit younger. In my WiP, my protagonist and her peers are squarely in the Millennial category. What's a borderline boomer/Gen Xer to do?

"Pond would be good for you."
Way back in 1999, Bill Murray guest-hosted Saturday Night Live and appeared in a sketch called that opened with this voiceover: "You're a white male between the ages of 15 and 41, chances are you love quote lines from Caddyshack." Later in the sketch, Murray says, "the secret language of American business is peppered with quotes from this classic 1980 comedy."

Saturday Night Live (original cast); Caddyshack. Animal House. National Lampoon's Vacation. Stripes. For better or worse, these films and TV shows are part of the lens that my world view is filtered through. So, it's no surprise that one of my characters, when faced with a difficult choice, might say "Sometimes, you gotta say 'What the fuck.'" And while that might be right for a fifty-year-old, is it right for a thirty-year-old? Or a twenty-two year-old?

Maybe it is. After all, it's entirely possible that my twenty-something character has seen--and loved--the old movies and TV shows, just as I watched I Love Lucy and could complete this run of dialogue that was old before I was born: "Who's on first?" "I don't know." "________"* While my twenty-something character might know "See the ball, Danny. Be the ball" would that be her 'go to' quote in the appropriate situation, or would she come up with something from, I don't know, Happy Gilmore or...or...I don't know. (I could write about hockey players. Hockey players all quote from Slap Shot.)

So, there's my question to you: if you are writing characters that are younger than you--a generation or two younger, in particular--how do you keep them from sounding like they just came out of a bunker after fifteen years?

*"Third base"