Monday, August 22, 2011

Casting a Darling Out to Sea

We are on Thriller Island, after all.

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.
Since the beginning, I held steadfast in my Hughes references.  He was, after all, the most famous agorophobic cup of crazy, then or now. But fiction isn't about me, it's about story. Quite simply, anything that pulls my reader away from the story must go. The people have spoken, and I have finally heard them.
Goodbye, dear Hughes. You and your sexed-up cultural references have been fun.


the walking man said...

Alas poor Howard, we never knew ye.

the walking man said...

I didn't realize I was this far behind in reading your posts Laura...*shrug* sorry.

Good luck with your full time writer life.

Charles Gramlich said...

I am a contrarian to the extent that as soon as someone becomes a celebrity I tend to start ignoring everything about them. I don't know why I'm that way.

L.A. Mitchell said...

@WM...perfectly okay :) I read you on Google Reader and forget to click through and comment so we're even :P

@Charles...Let's home when I reach Katheryn Stockett level of sales, you change your mind :)