Monday, February 23, 2009

Oh the Places You'll Go...Part 1

This week, I'm prepping my latest novel The Night Caller to enter the world. This means pouring over a canary-yellow pad scratched with those vile echo words, seeking them out using Word's Find feature(LOVE it); and yes, utilizing an actual Thesaurus to select alternates. So far, the word brittle is a three-time offender. Now I must decide if brittle best describes the black and gray waist-length hair of an elderly neighbor, pages of an antique journal or one of those nebulous character moods I forever run out of fresh ways to capture.

To kick off this ultra satisfying week for me, I thought we'd resurrect my original opening line from the FastDraft days. You might need to rub Ben-Gay in the nostrils like those crime-scene detectives. This one is foul:

Even his own breath reeked of psychosis. Stale from exhaustion and hours-old Jamaican Blue Mountain coating his teeth, Evan Braun’s urgent, but intimate encounter with the oak door spiked an inferno against the sweat sheen above his lips.

First, and most obvious perhaps, is the unintended proximity of my lead character's name to Adolf Hitler's mistress. I'm sure my subconscious filed Eva Braun's name during some AP History class in high school or while watching The History Channel. My intent was to imbibe my hero with a characternym: Braun=tough, strong. FAIL.

Second, and likely equally disturbing, was the suggestion that my character was not merely staring through a peephole, but humping the door. I guess intimate encounter resides firmly in the mind's gutter, at least in the minds of my beta readers. FAIL.

Third, and lesser known, I'd assumed everyone roaming the world knew Jamaican Blue Mountain was coffee. It could be alcohol or lizard piss used for medicinal properties. Specific is good but dangerous what-the-hell? territory. FAIL.

So there you have it. The not-so-glistening, dependent-clause happy, constipated hook at the story's inception.

Wednesday: Part 2: Secrets in the pages...


Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, L.A., your commentary made me laugh aloud. I *had* kind of wondered about the "intimate encounter" thing--trying to figure out what poor Evan was doing, exactly, with that oak door :-). But even in this earliest of drafts, your use of vivid imagery jumps out at the reader. I'm sure it's a fabulous novel.

Barbara Martin said...

I agree with Marilyn and I admit that I thought "Jamaican Blue Mountain" was the brand name for plug tobacco.

Even I have trouble with opening lines and have considered chopping the manuscript until I find a paragraph that fits.

Your post made me laugh and that's always the best medicine.

Pam said...

Okay, I thought Jamaican Blue Mountain was rum or some other kind of evil drink (which works for tough and gritty, so...)

But I also loved your commentary on your intro. And I wish Evan and the door the best of luck--they're going to have difficultly with their alternative lifestyle, but true love will triumph.

Sue L said...

haha! I vote for Jamaican Blue being rum. ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

The "intimate encounter with the oak..." is the thing that jars me a bit.

the walking man said...

I love Jamaican Blue but I think you're right TMI. The rest of it though...isn't there an award like a razzy for that kind of prose? ;-}

A nod to the editing process.

Vesper said...

Great post, L.A.! :-)
I thought of rum too...

Good luck with the edits. It's such an exciting time even with the hunt for vile echo words...

laughingwolf said...

i know blue mountain is the most expensive coffee in the world, though i've never tried it

nothing wrong with braun, it's 'brown' in german

as for the 'intimate encounter', i immediately thought he'd smacked his face into it, humping it was not on the radar

i seem to have lost you as a follower of my blog, lam, one of 6 i lost :(

Katie Reus said...

That's what first drafts are for :) I'm half in love with Word's find feature. I have a few crutch/echo words that my CP diligently points out.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Marilyn...kind words...thank you :)

Barbara...I hadn't even considered tobacco. Eww..not a first impression I want for my hero.

Pam and Sue L...rum would make the most sense. So good to see you both.

Charles...I'm guessing you never had one, then...haha

walkingman...finally! Someone who knows what Jamaican Blue Mountain is.

Vesper...thank you. It does feel like a huge weight off my shoulders, if only for awhile.

laughingwolf...then I'm glad I changed it b/c he definitely can't afford pricey coffee. Nice to see your mind is clear of the gutter ;) true. Thanks for stopping by :)

Kim Lenox said...

I just love this story. I've only read the first pages, but I can't wait until you sell it. I want to read the rest!