What I’m Working On

Chats with Carol

Carol Williams, the brilliant and marvelous director of the W.I.F.Y.R. conference (can’t recommend enough) and author of many fabulous books is one of those folks with whom I could cheerfully share a six-hour car ride. And that’s saying something. Also, she invariably makes me blush.

Next year I’ll be returning to Utah, but in the meantime, C and I are chatting about writing / agenting, and where writers get their ideas. You should check it out.

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Everyone You Know is Getting Married (Lyrics)

Mornings are for writing novels, afternoons for work, and evenings are for writing musicals.

Lately I’ve been blowing off steam working on the 2012 New York Melodrama, which is kinda sorta about the MTA, except set in the old west.  Now that the song writing bit is winding down and the producing / casting / acting bit is winding up, my piano hours have been spent tinkering with a musical feature film. My concept is something like Reservoir Dogs, except a ten-year high school reunion… Anyway, the story is still coming together, and I’ve written two-and-a-half out of 12-or-so songs. It’s seriously undeveloped, but I wanted to share with y’all the first half of a song I’ve been tinkering with this week.

The Scene: Three female friends at their ten-year high school reunion find common ground in their frustrations over everyone they know getting married. They’re not jealous. Maybe two of them are already married. They’re just sick of other people’s weddings taking over their social lives (which, for those of you who are not yet twenty-seven, believe me, it feels that way sometimes). The girls exchange lines in the middle of the verse.

 

Everyone You Know is Getting Married: 

Everyone you know is getting married,

…In the summer!
…In the spring!
…In time for Christmas!

Save the date and be so kind to R.S.V.P.
Every weekend for the next five years will be,
Cordially appropriated in the name of matrimony

 

Everyone you know is getting married,

…In Orlando!
…On the Vineyard!
…At my mother’s…

Book your rooms and don’t forget to book them early.
Doesn’t matter if you can’t afford the flight,
We don’t mind if you’re confined to Greyhounds over night.

Everyone you know is getting married,
It’s a matrimonial blight!

 

Everyone you know is having babies,

…In the autumn!
…Oh you’re glowing!
…I’m enormous…

Ladies get together and we’ll plan a shower.
We’re so glad you’re passing on your DNA!
We’ll expect the labor pictures up on Facebook any day now.

Everyone you know is getting married,
And some with a bun on the way!

 

Dirty, Pretty Thing: Purple and Blue Language in Y.A.

I’m a sucker for purple prose. I’m not proud of it, but alliteration makes me swoon, as does a prettily described sunset or milkmaid. (Some favorite examples appear in Proust’s Swann’s Way, a five-hundred-page book about a cookie). But my love of flowery language is, I think, just another symptom of English Major-itis: the desire to write and read Great Works of Art as opposed to Stories. And though they’re often fun to write, beautiful descriptions are best avoided, *especially* in young adult literature. Teens read for plot, not for prose. My 13-year-old sister and other teens I’ve spoken to skip the “boring parts,” which are almost always the descriptions. Descriptions are the icing, and if you’ve ever eaten a jar of icing on its own, you know it only feels good at first.

On the other hand, teens love blue (profane or vulgar) language. (So do I.) It’s fun, funny, taboo, and often the way teenagers speak to one another. Raised by a mother who talks like a trucker, I have to check myself, when I speak and when I write, to ensure I don’t curse a…well, a blue streak. But fiction, and especially dialog, must be believable, which ironically is not always the same thing as true-to-life. At times “realistic’ teen dialog is so vulgar as to be distracting. And that’s the real problem with extreme language of any kind: it steals focus. I don’t want my readers thinking about my protagonist’s foul mouth when they should be thinking about her broken heart.

Today I struggled to tamp both purple and blue. In the scene I was working on, my protagonist and her boyfriend slip into the bushes for some hanky-panky. My first impulse was to pan away and describe the slowly spinning wheel of boyfriend’s bike as it glints in the sun. Yawn. Turning focus back to the kids, I found myself using the same blue language the characters themselves would have used to describe their actions, but the result was too graphic. I settled for skipping the play-by-play entirely and used suggestive post-romp details instead. This was the result:

They made it as far as Sweet Creek before a private path through the trees enticed them off the road. They let the bike fall with a crunch, the upended front wheel spinning freely. Twenty minutes later Cherry was brushing a mud stain from her slacks, and Lucas searched for his sock in the bushes.

            “You have leaves in your hair,” he said.

            “I have leaves everywhere.” She felt like a wild woods girl, a sprite. She wanted to climb into the nearest oak and fall asleep. She stretched, felt an ache above her solar plexus and winced.

YOU GUYS I’m so psyched to be sixty…

YOU GUYS. I’m so psyched to be sixty-seven pages through the first draft of a GIRL PARTS sequel. Of course stuff changes drastically from first draft to shelf, but just for fun, here’s a selection chosen at random:

At last she came to door 1. Like the others, it had no handle. It was meant for exiting, not entering the facility. But she’d never planned to get out that way. She’d followed the rain.