After no less than twelve independent critiques, some anonymous, some not, I have reached the conclusion that one of my "little darlings" (favorite lines, as we writers refer to them) must be buried at sea, never to wash up on the shores of my manuscript again. But as with all things in our lives that have always been there, like family or a genetic deformity, it is hard. So, so hard. A proper burial needs words. From the most recent draft of The Night Caller :
“’Bout time you started hearing things, Mr. Hughes,” Evan mumbled to himself. “At least Howard got laid.”
*Seven pages later in a phone conversation between my main character, Evan, and a mysterious, alluring woman he's trying to impress....
“What’s your name?” Evan said.
“Like the flower?”
No, like in livered, ass. Hughes would’ve had a better line. Something that would have made Jane Russell strip to her torpedo bra.
While I've gone out of my way prior to these lines to establish that Hughes is not my main character's last name and that he is undoubtedly suffering from agoraphobia, these lines have given pause to over half the cold readers. Yes, some had no idea who Howard Hughes was, which explains the problematic reference. Others thought a young, strapping male in his late twenties would not know this cultural reference, even though Howard Hughes died three years after I, too, was born. But I digress. Not everyone could have seen the motion picture The Aviator-oh wait, wasn't it an Oscar nominee? But these are literary folks. Probably not a television set among them. Some simply thought it made my character seem like an old man because it was from a different generational point of reference.
Goodbye, dear Hughes. You and your sexed-up cultural references have been fun.