Writing Process: No More “Charlie’s Angels”

I am back to killing my babies. Today I had to delete a pet scene from Anori which recalled my father’s secret passion for Charlie’s Angels:

“My father’s other guilty pleasure, Tommy, along with the crackers and vodka, was Charlie’s Angels.” She turned around and smiled brightly at the others. “He would never admit it, but he loved the titillation, a knife against their throats, lovely breasts on the verge of exposure.”

“Can’t say I was ever against those girls,” Fitz admitted.

“He would fall asleep before the show was over and then wake up and snap, ‘Who put on this poppycock? What is this nonsense?’ He’d switch the channel before the crime was solved.” Lai looked back and forth between them, her eyes small and dark. “I never found out who did what.”

“Or more importantly who this Charlie fella really was,” Fitz added.

“Exactly.”

“Christ, it was that guy from Dallas, the oil guy. Everyone knows that.”

“John Forsythe,” Dee sighed.

“But that ain’t the point, is it now?” Fitz added.

“What’s the point then? The girls running about in their underwear, Farrah Fawcett and her big hair?”

“Dare to dream,” Lai replied. “Molestation will be your return.”

Scene Expunged: Writing Process

It’s hard easy to delete a scene that works. It can take a long time to accept. That’s why it’s called “killing the babies.” I liked this scene because it gave background to who Dee was before the novel and underscored her sense of isolation. I edited and rewrote it several times before finally realizing – and then accepting – that it just wasn’t needed.

She went back to her old club. It was an automatic thing. She gave the address to the cab driver and half expected the place to be closed. It wasn’t. She climbed three floors up, above the DJs and the stage to where the air ducts cast crucifix-like shadows against the ceiling and the giant holograms of naked dancers, and looked down at the scattered audience in the pink and green lights, the flow of heads and arms reflected in the plexiglass floor and walls, the girls, gorgeously brown, grazing their arms and breasts against the men who, clutching their drinks, leaned back and followed them up the stairs.

 “Elle.” A hand came from behind, brilliant blue nails clutching her wrist. “What the fuck?”

Dee couldn’t remember the woman’s name, just that they had worked together, been naked, had orgasmed in tandem.

“I haven’t seen you in fucking years.” Her skin sparkled with rainbow translucence, like an abalone shell, her lips dark red, her green eyes highlighted by painted glowing lines.

“Here I am.”

“I heard you were with Nico, right? Didn’t you go out to Iceland or something?”

“Greenland.”

“I saw what happened. Holy shit. I mean what the fuck, right?”

“I’ve been out there for more than a year.” Dee said the words for no reason; she just wanted to leave. “I’m this kickass biologist now.”

“I did a shoot in Turks and Caicos. You been there? That sand is so fucking…”

“You look like some perfect angel.” A bull of a man arrived, a tattoo of the buildings on his bicep, and she wanted nothing else. She needed his hardness, his arms and tendons, his need, his pelvis rotating like a machine.

Only Half a Scene: Writing Process

I wanted a scene that demonstrated the military might of The Anori Project as Dee and the others collected animal specimens from around the world. And so I had a squad of soldiers save the scientists in Libya:

There were lights on the horizon, vehicles, and then a sudden pressure in her head, like she had descended thousands of feet, and then it reverberated out and was in the ground, dust rising up. She felt her knees buckle as she slumped against the wall. The militiamen moved quickly past her and inside the house.

Lt. Graham heaved Dee up by the bicep and pressed his boot onto Jamal’s neck.

“What is this?” Dee demanded.

“Fence has been breached,” Graham told Dee. “This one has a crew out there looking for something more.”

Jamal tilted his head, searching the street past the SUVs. “Where is this fence?”

“Magnets.” Graham opened the door of the middle SUV and pushed Dee and Robi in. “Payload secured.”

Regrettably it comes across as trite and requires far more exposition to work which interferes with the pacing of everything else. So it’s been left on the cutting room floor.

Pandemic Accomplishments: Eleven Months In

A pandemic isn’t a bad thing for a writer – health assumed. The waiting and silence works well for honing character and narrative; at least that’s what I tell myself. And so, yes, I’ve done some writing, although not as much as I should have.

After a devastating experience with an editor, I am now halfway through a long, hard draft of Anori. Other projects – Baller, Wave That Flag & Mina – are simmering.

The blogging has been consistent not only in the number of posts (over 140) but in the content, finding focus on the writing process, especially my past writing attempts.

I’ve got new knees – and six months of PT under my belt along with some extra weight. (Is that an accomplishment?) I’ve read a number of books and seen many films of varying quality. And I got a job that will last until the summer.

The chilly yet picturesque setting of my present residence in Newport, Rhode Island.

Finally, I’ve reached Level 2564 of Fishdom, although that interest is waning at last.

The McPhedran Way – A Typical (Bad) Day in My Writing Process

6:30 am Play Fishdom and Words With Friends. No thoughts on writing.

8:30 am Play Fishdom. Read emails, watch YouTube videos and search for “inspiration” by porn surfing. A general malaise dominates thinking.

11:00 am Half think about writing but retreat from that, afraid to start.

12:30 pm Lunch. Watch random bits of film – anything from Battleship to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

2:00 pm Ride stationary bike and listen to intense music (Rage Against the Machine, Cheap Trick, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) in an attempt to get brain moving. Watch birds flying past, beds being changed in hotel rooms across the street and people working in adjoining business. Writing problems do not come to mind.

Entertaining things can occasionally be seen in Artezan Hotel.

3:00 pm Read more emails, watch more videos and porn. Snack.

4:30 pm Open the Anori document. Close it. Play Words with Friends and Fishdom.

8:00 pm Think about what I might do tomorrow

So it goes on a bad day. Which oddly enough can lead to a good day.

My Tendency to Overwrite

I push hard to get my point across and, to make that clear, write the thing again. I might write it in another way. Or maybe not. I repeat myself to make sure that my point is getting across. It is the point, as simple as that. And I have to make that clear.

Modified excerpt from Anori

This veers toward a tendency to overwrite, filling a cup well beyond its capacity, thus defeating the purpose. The trick is to find the right words and use only those.

Excerpt tightened up…but too much?

The right words. That’s the rub.

“Anori” Extract: A Father’s Death

I’ll tell you what I did when he died. Do you want to hear that misery? I took sleeping pills. I drank, like my father. I shut everything off. And then I was in Grand Central, waiting for the train. I had a beer. I was at the stand at Track 106. There’s a stand there. It’s called Bar Car. I had a can of Budweiser, a 16-ounce can.

I took that 16-ounce can to that old marble counter against the wall, with the brass railing, working guys talking about their wives and installers, checking their phones, and all of these people walking past, old men racing to catch their trains, little trolleys wheeled around with broken wheels, the tabloids arriving in stacks, the shoeshine girl staring out.

I had another beer, another 16-ounce can. I stood and watched. There was this crazed guy with a perfectly trimmed beard and then these lost ladies from Japan, a woman floating by, her portfolio tucked at her breast. I was completely still, drinking my beer. That was it, the moment I knew he wasn’t there. That’s when I understood, or I should say pretended to understand that he wasn’t coming back.

Writing Process: Too Much Talking

The writing process can be hard, especially in what is left behind. I had to remove another scene from Anori. The dialogue was strong but it didn’t move the story. And so…expunged.

The set-up: Dee has just arrived in Greenland (where the space ships are being launched) and has dinner with Val, one of the pilots, who confesses a dark moment from her past.

“Yeah, this, I don’t know, trapped in a prison from cradle to…what?” Dee laughed. “What do you die in?”

“Death bed, I guess.”

“Grave! Cradle to grave. Trapped in this existence.”

“Try not to think about it and then move on.”

“Better than thinking about being raped.”

Dee waited.

“It was someone I had known for years. The whole thing, I mean, the whole thing was such a nightmare. We were friends. He was laid back, a decent guy. And then, I don’t know, he just turned into this asshole Mr. Hyde.”

“He was drunk?”

Val shook her head violently like she was trying to not be drunk. “Everybody drank. I had too much. But not pass-out drunk, nothing like that. Just hanging out, relaxed. And then he was on me. He had me pinned, with my arm behind my back.” She half acted it out. “He was going to break my arm. I could feel it. He pushed me backward and tore my dress. He fucked me like that on the floor. I kept trying to move my arm but I couldn’t. he pushed down on that side of me like he had practiced it or something. It lasted two minutes, if that.”

Dee gripped her chopsticks tightly.

“He actually called me with this bullshit confession later, fucking crying on the phone. I don’t know why I listened. He wanted to stay friends. He kept saying that.” Val ground a chopstick into the wasabi. “I left my dress under the table in the living room floor. I came home and threw it there. I didn’t touch it. It sat balled up there for weeks. I couldn’t look at it. I would veer to the other side of the room when I walked through, all of that.”

“You don’t talk to people about any of this?” Dee asked.

“Why bother?”

Virile

The thing is that you are here, simply and wildly so, what the beat guys said, that raw repetitive thing. You think you belong here and you do. You came to this place and were ready for it or not at all. On the edge of knowing. That is all there could possibly be. Almost there. Virile. All of that in you. One long impossible note.

And you think there should be more – because in all of that might be ahead and has been seen by you, by you!, the sheer cliffs, the little kids, everything tiny, remembering a mistake, lost, incredibly, delightfully so, and not in a memory, not a precise known thing, cherished, forgotten, that thing so exquisite as it must be known, there, waiting – and it isn’t.

And so there is that, the king of the universe in the hallway, flames coming out like they should, no understanding for the what or why of it, that nightmare you slip into and live in, there, acting like you are half sleep and probably are. And how did you get to that? Meandering, fine and easy. That is what you say and almost think at the end of it.