Sunday, May 23, 2010

Extracurricular Activities

Since I'm figuring I'll be hearing from my editor and/or about my agent pretty soon about Blood Wounds, and since the alternative was moving things out of my entertainment center, in preparation for the arrival of the new entertainment center which will hold my shiny new TV set in a couple of weeks, I spent this morning rereading Blood Wounds.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say it's fabulous and my editor and/or agent had better agree with this assessment.

Actually, I don't think anything I'm about to write is a spoiler, since I'm committed to not revealing hardly anything about the plot until I absolutely have to, but I am going to write a bit about the book, so those of you who hate knowing anything and intend to read the book when it comes out a year and a half from now and might remember what I've written today, consider yourselves forewarned.

My heroine, Willa, a junior in high school, has two stepsisters, Brooke, who's a year older than she is, and Alyssa who is two years younger. Alyssa is a nationally ranked junior tennis player. Willa sings in her school choir. But Brooke's interests have changed from first draft to today.

Brooke and Alyssa's father is a sports reporter, and I wanted his daughters to be athletic, (which, now that I think about it is pretty funny because the couple of sports reporters I've known haven't been athletic at all, unless talking is a sport in which case sign me up for the Olympics). Anyway, I pictured their father, Jack, as being sufficiently athletic that it would be a connection between him and his daughters if they were too.

In the first draft, the first hundred or so pages which my editor and agent read last fall, Brooke played softball. She also played the violin, mentored, and was active in Special Olympics. Brooke was one of those golden girls who everyone legitimately loves. And I needed the Special Olympics for part of the never to be disclosed plot.

But when I got back to writing, Brooke became thornier and less lovable. I was a little taken aback, but I let Brooke say what she wanted, even if it wasn't very nice, because it provided more conflict, which is a good thing in a plot.

The problem was the thornier Brooke became, the less the Special Olympics part of the subplot became plausible. So I changed things. There are two big bad things that happen in Blood Wounds, the second of which had involved (peripherally) the Special Olympics. So I rewrote the first hundred pages to alter the second big bad thing. It's still big and bad and the most essential part of its big baddedness remained the same, but there was no need for the Special Olympics anymore. Which meant Brooke didn't have to be so do-goodish.

And once Brooke stopped being so do-goodish, she switched sports from softball to lacrosse. It's amazing how a simple change in sports reflects so much about character and class. Lacrosse is a far more elite sport than softball. Even the sound, the hard "c" is classier than the "s" in softball.

Since Brooke was no longer involved in Special Olympics, she had more time. I let her keep playing the violin, but I gave her dressage for a hobby.

Blood Wounds has always been a book about family, with money running through the action. But just by changing what Brooke does for fun made the focus on money that much stronger. She now has an elite sport and an expensive hobby. Of course, so does tennis playing Alyssa, but with Alyssa, it's more like a job, or at least an apprenticeship.

Blood Wounds is Willa's book. There are three occasions where we see Willa singing, and her pleasure at being in the choir is an integral part of the story. We never see Brooke playing lacrosse or riding her horse or Alyssa playing tennis.

But the choices of those activities are reflective, if not of their characters, then of their characters' place in the world. A place that Willa knows intimately but isn't a part of. And that sense of being a part of yet not truly belonging is a great deal of what Blood Wounds is about.

Now I just hope my editor and/or agent see it that way also!


mary sue said...

I have been patiently waiting for This World We Live In to be available for the Kindle reader, but I am giving up hope. Is it going to be available anytime soon? I purchase and download all of my books on Amaon as do most of my friends. It is difficult to go back to paper books when you are used to reading on the Kindle.

Susan said...

Great thoughts here about what a person chooses to feel their off-hours defines not only who they are, but what they value. What they may grow into. Who they care about.

Can't wait for that year and a half to come around quickly!

Nina said...

Wow! I didn't have a feeling one way or another about the book from its title. Now I do and I can't wait! Thanks for the insight.

Glen said...

Hello there.

Perhaps it is different where you are, Sue, but on Long Island, the vast majority of girls who play sports, play lacrosse. It is not elite at all, as a matter of fact, they are, to turn a cliche, a dime a dozen. Maybe that's because the native americans who thought up the game generations ago lived here, but I thought you might want to know. Your arguement wouldn't ring true in my section of the world; although the name does sound better, especially when they abbreviate it as LAX.

By the way, I also have a comment about your previous post. Most librarians are civil servants and, bad attitude or not, when it comes to lay-offs, senior stays, junior goes.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to Mary Sue and Susan and Nina and Glen (such easy names)-

Mary Sue, I doubt This World We Live In will be available on Kindle anytime soon. With both LAWKI and d&g, they entered Kindleland the same time they went into paperback, and since TW just got published in hardcover April 1 its paperback publication date will be sometime in 2011 (my guess is fall).

Glen, I grew up on Long Island, and to the rest of the world, Long Island is elite by definition. Same as Connecticut. We both know that isn't necessarily so, but it is the image, so saying lacrosse is played all over LI doesn't exactly contradict my point.

Besides, dressage is an upperclass feeling sport (although I know of people who aren't wealthy and still do it).

Jane Bryant Quinn wasn't talking about civil servants, but private sector jobs. And I have never ever met a librarian with a bad attitude. Never. And that includes one of my high school librarians who was rumored to be sipping from the wrong bottle on the job.

Susan and Nina, thank you! Let's hope my editor likes the changes.

Glen said...

I'm elite? How do you like that? Now I have to practice holding my pinkie finger out at the right angle during high tea.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Ah Glen, you and everyone else who reads this blog are the elite of the elite. The elitiest, so to speak.

The classic 1923 edition of Emily Post says one should never drink tea or anything else for that matter with the pinky at a right angle.

So put your pinky in place, when you enjoy your high tea!