Monday, January 10, 2011

He Said. She Says. I Sneeze.

I have the sniffles. I am just sick enough that if I still went to school, my mother would keep me home. Instead, I'm keeping myself at home, although tomorrow I'd better be well enough to move myself out of the house, since the last I heard it was going to snow again on Wednesday.

I'm still doing rewrites on Hart, as opposed to doing actual writes, which might constitute work. People with sniffles don't have to work, because sneezing and blowing our noses is very energy consuming.

One day last week, pre-sniffles but possibly during the tiny snow storm we got, I invented a whole new medicine to be used exclusively by characters in Hart. Well, at the time, it was only going to be used by one character, my poor beleaguered heroine. I gave the medicine a name (this is the kind of stuff I love doing when I'm writing, working out names for completely made up medicines), and even gave it an additional side effect, although it's really more like two effects and no sides.

I know there are those of you here who are very sensitive to spoilers, which I think in this case is even sillier, since I'm talking about a book that has no beginning and no end, just a lot of middle I keep rewriting. It's not like the publishing industry is knocking on my door, begging to see what I've got.

But I love all of you, even those of you who are spoiler sensitive, so I'll only say about this medicine that it affects memory. But because my heroine takes it, and her memory is affected, I had to change the book from past tense to present.

At some point, early on, I had considered writing Hart in the present tense, which is a tense I rarely use. But since the book is first person, if my heroine can't remember certain things, she can't write about those things in a past tense voice. That's pure gothic romantic psychological thriller logic.

Now my favorite verb is "said." My characters go around saiding all the time. So I figured I'd take advantage of the cleverness of computers and tell my document to change all "said"s to "says," a true time saver.

It almost worked great. But it definitely had a negative impact on some of the dialogue:

"I love you," he says.

"I love you too," I says.

Sounds a little Ma and Pa Kettle.

So I still have to go around editing those says, but it's still something of a time saver.

Last night, in between sniffles and Philadelphia Eagles missed field goals, I changed the ending the book, to make better use of the medicine part of the plot, and also because I had a really good image that I wanted to exploit. Between sneezes and waking up at 3 AM, I worked out a new ending (so it's a good thing I never wrote the original one). My concern had been that the ending I had, while nice and dramatique, left my poor beleaguered heroine kind of passive, and even in a book as crazy as this one, I do believe main characters should act and not just be acted upon.

But at 3 AM, I figured out what she could do that would leave her in control of her own destiny. I love it. My book is no longer a gothic psychological romantic horror novel. It's a gothic psychological romantic horror noir novel.

Now if I could only stop sniffling long enough to actually write it!


susancolebank said...

I'm loving this book, Susan! And the noir part? So awesomely awesome!

I hate present tense, but if done well (Suzanne Collins) it has its merits. And it sounds like the situation you're in (aka, heroine's memory loss) is making it merit-able. :o)

Feel better!
-Other Susan

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to susancolebank-

I'm not big on present tense either, but it does provide some interesting variations to my same old he said/I said.

My new favorite is, I tell her. As in, "It's sunny outside," I tell her.

I would never write, "It's sunny outside," I told her.

Speaking of telling, I'm about to tell my agent what the plot of this book is. I'm aiming for three sentences or less!

Elaine Marie Alphin said...

Good luck transforming the plot of this one into three sentences, Sue! It sounds like great fun - I love memory issues, and have several unreliable narrators because of it. I can't wait to meet Hart!

The present tense can be really effective (especially with unreliable narrators who can't remember things quite right. And I love the idea of your new noir ending - funny the way these things can just appear in our un-medicated memory-challenged writers' minds just when we need them! And the first ending we come up with for a book is often not the best, whether we're taking medications or not.

Hope your sniffles stop soon!

Anonymous said...

Set the climax of Hart in a psychiatrist's office in a run-down section of Brooklyn in the 1930's and then, even if it is present tense, it will be past tense.


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Happy Snow Day to Elaine Marie Alphin and Glen (hiding behind Anonymous)-

I'm changing tenses. I'm changing names (Glory's last name had been Burnett, in honor of Yankee pitcher AJ Burnett, but mostly because Glory Burnett works as a name, but now she's Glory Simone). I'm changing plot. I'm having a fine old time, although at some point I suppose I really should write the beginning of the book and maybe even the ending!

ETA: My word verification is "graysoni." That's so sexy, I tried it out with Glory as a possible last name.

Anonymous said...

You're killing me, Susan. :-) (You know who I am.) Another big :-)