Monday, January 15, 2007

Geography of the Mind


The Geography Lesson by Pietro Longhi,
oil on canvas, 1750.
Galleria Querini Stampalia, Venice.

In changing a POV, some scenes are expanded, others dropped.
When I found this one expanding, I got giddy, so what you read may be more in my personal voice than the POV of the main character.
Remember, this is raw, rough draft.

I sliced through the crowd in the airport concourse like an assassin.
It may have been the stacatto stomp of my kick-ass boots or just the expression on my face, but the people parted like a curtain.
We recognized each other at the same moment.
When our eyes met, I crossed mine. I couldn't help it. Just to let him know he'd been made.
Points for me, because I had never met Inspector Steve LaViolette, of the National Security Branch, in person.
My photo, I assumed, was on file and I was dressed comme un corbeau as I warned him.
Our previous contacts, cordial as they were - he had even sent condolences - had all been by phone or fax.
I angled toward the lounge area and a free double seat, parked my suitcase and dropped my carry-on. A woman towing two kids gave me a dirty look.
LaViolette was shorter than I expected and lacked the moustache I imagined from his habit of calling me ma Dame, but one could not miss the eyes, the bland expression, or the posture.
The minion, standing a step behind him, fitted the standard profile perfectly: young, tall, fit, neat, crisp hair-cut, nice suit under a classic trenchcoat. He also wore the sort of self-satisfied, God's gift, male smirk that made me want to punch him in the mouth. He stood out like a muscle man at a tea party. I decided I would tell him that.
I extracted a note pad and pen from the side pocket of my carry-on, left the compartment un-zipped, nudged the case sideways with my foot and sat back.
The minion ambled toward me, ostensibly scanning newspaper headlines.
I supposed he was my contact, the trainee Steve had insisted was to pass me something regarding their "person of interest."
This whole ridiculous business was total "silly buggers."

50 comments:

anna said...

oh gosh Bernita i hate to tell you this buttttt.. this is so very wonderful!
she is so alive and feisty: i like it way better.
For what it's worth this really makes me want to continue

Erik Ivan James said...

First Draft?
Better than most people's 5th 'n 9th drafts!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Anna...but please, please, no "feisty!"
Makes me think I've lost something of her intended character right at the beginning.

C'mon, Erik!
It hasn't been edited for senses, colour, sound, repetitions of word or sentence structure,passives, sufficient action - all those things.

Bailey Stewart said...

You've caught my attention, which is way more than a lot of books have lately. I'm intrigued and amused - keep going.

kmfrontain said...

I like her. Feisty ain't bad, and the other parts of her character can come out later. She was feisty in the third person rendition as well, crossing her eyes and putting down the minion.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Bailey.

Maybe it's just I have a personal aversion to that word, Karen!
And I don't want to stereotyped her at the beginning by making her too truculent.
But "alive" now,that Anna used - that's a good thing.
She not at all an in-your-face character, thought not a doormat.

Ric said...

For what it's worth - yuk.

I very much like the other version better. This doesn't come across well for me. No woman would describe her clothing as "Kick ass boots". Doesn't work.

Someone, Miss Snark perhaps, pointed out that first person is very hard to do - especially for new writers.

Anyway. You wanted our two cents worth.

Bernita said...

I'm inclined to agree with the "yuk," Ric.
Except that women DO refer to their boots as "kick-ass."
Thank you.
The Minor Annals are in first, too.
Oh well.

kmfrontain said...

No offence, to Rik, but don't take his word for it, Bernita. There's nothing innately wrong with your first person rendition. This industry is full of opinion and you've already had more than one that found the first person rendition just fine to read.

Ric said...

Oddly, the Minor Annals work very well in first, Bernita. Perhaps because they are recalling events rather than being immediately involved.

"I walked into the fancy bar wearing my shit kicking clompers."

Can't see anyone saying that.

Scott said...

My wife and I went to the museum of fine arts to see paintings such as the one you posted. It's fascinating to me how much talent has come and gone in this world.

I liked your writing, the expressions and such. I tripped on the "had even sent condolences" sentence, but I'm not the best reader.

MissWrite said...

It was a fun passage to read on its own, but seems to conflict a little with your style in other places. More 'chick lit' feeling. Not that it's a bad thing. I like Chick lit. I did like her attitude, and found myself smiling at her while reading.

Bernita said...

Perhaps one of the reasons I'm not pleased with it, Karen, is that I have the other version so firmly in my head.

"my shit kicking clompers."
That's a good line, especially for a character trying to keep up a facade of confidence.
But I didn't say that, Ric, I said "kick-ass boots."
I sometimes call my boots "kick-ass boots." I doubt that I'm unique.

I can see an objection on the basis of the phrase being an over-used cliche, but not on the basis that "no woman" would ever describe her boots that way.
And not after reading - more than once - shoes described as "oh f-me shoes."
I still snicker over that, especially after seeing a pair in a waiting room.

Bernita said...

Thank goodness for museums, Scott.
Why would you trip over that line?

That's what I fear, Tami, that I would slip into the chick-lit tone - which is so easy to emulate.

anna said...

Oh for Pete sake! YUK!
c'mon. This version is wonderful.
I think we must keep in mind we have to write for a very demanding public. most people just wanna be entertained. This 1st person version is very entertaining. It sparkles with personality. as for feisty take your pick of synonyms -aggresive, spirited, energetic aggressive or go-getting. Personally I think she is very spirited.

Buffy said...

This "He also wore the sort of self-satisfied, God's gift, male smirk that made me want to punch him in the mouth..." was one of the best lines I've ever read.

You couldn't have described him better. I know exactly what you mean.

I don't think the rewrite makes her look so fiesty as 'no nonsense' and 'dont even try to get it by me'.

if that makes any sense at all....

Buffy said...

p.s.
I've got a pair of kick ass boots myself. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

I like this, Bernita, but not as much as the 3rd person with LaViolette. (I still don't like the name, but where's that leather bar in NB, cuz I might drive there someday and report back to you.)

I can tell this isn't as polished as your last offering, but it is still very good.

The reason I like the other better is because through an observer's eye we see so much more about her; whereas in this piece we learn more about the "minion" who isn't as important to the story.

I even think we infer her personal thoughts more from Steve's viewpoint that from directly hearing them.

But that is my opinion and you are the author so you get to make these decisions.

Bernita said...

Glad you like it, Anna!
"Spirited" maybe is better, but only when she's challenged or annoyed.

Hee, Buffy!
They do something for the ego and the psyche, don't they?
Thank you. Glad that came across, at least. The young twerp!
She is hyped for this trip and irritated with what she considers unnecessary smoke and mirrors.

writtenwyrdd said...

Women will indeed discuss their clothing in "battle terms," guys. It's a girl thing.

I wouldn't doubt a woman coined the term "atomic bra" in the 50s, lol.

And FWIW, I always call those vibram-soled boots waffle stompers. Shit kickers were the pointy-toed cowboy boots (before Tony Lamas became a household word); and Packs were the felt-lined, fleece edged waterproof winter boots you pulled on and off at the door in Vermont.

I have also heard teh term nosebleeders for really high stiletto heeled shoes.

J.H. Bográn said...

I must confess I didn't read the 3rd person POV, so my opinion would by unbiased by it. ;-)
I did like the feistiness, and as you honestly put on top, quite giddy!
Yes, first POV is the hardest to do, or so I've been told by my editor, my friend, my critique partner, etc, ect, etc!
But this one works and I'm hooked to see the rest. Will go and read the rest of the blog to see the 3rd person pov rendition now!

Bernita said...

One of the reasons for picking the name, Written, was I might want to work in a historical in-joke about the "Fruit Machine" somewhere along the line.
I feel the same way about the third for this, but I'm still not sure if it's just sheer laziness on my part. A change would require a new book, with the present one operating as an outline.
The Minion does much though to reflect her attitudes in both versions.

Bernita said...

Indeed we do, Written.
Where do they think the term "stilettos" comes from?

Thank you, JH. Nice icon, btw!

writtenwyrdd said...

Heh. I missed that one, Bernita!

I know it might be a horrible thing to contemplate, but if (just on the outside chance, now) the book isn't grabbed the instant an agent sees a copy, you might consider 3rd person.

Or just write the next one in 3rd for the experience.

Both are good. But only you get to decide which tells the story in your head.

Bernita said...

"...you might consider 3rd person."
Puzzled, Written.
The book is complete, written in third.

Gabriele C. said...

I'm with Ric, I like the third POV version better. The way Damie thinks about herself - well, there may be women who think of their boots as kick-ass but it threw me out of the story.

The Minor Annals are a different style, and they work fine in first.

But in the end, it's your decision and you should make it according to what you feel comfortable with, not with what an ever shifting market may prefer.

Kate Thornton said...

Bernita, I love the first person version. It is sparkly and alive and I like this pace & style.

This excerpt makes me want to read more. And more!

Bernita said...

She's very proud of her kick-ass boots, Gabriele!
I prefer the third, but as I said, that might be because I've worked on it. One should not have a closed mind about such things.

Eeek, Kate!
Think I was hoping most of you would dislike it!
But thank you.

raine said...

It's a tough call, Bernita, lol!

But I still prefer the third person version. It has a bit more subtlety, a little air or mystery that appeals to me personally as a reader.

But I'd be hard-pressed to say which an agent might prefer. The first person version is more aggresssive, more attention-grabbing, perhaps.

Your call. I don't envy you!

Gabriele C. said...

To play the advocatus diaboli here, I love the impact a line like this has:

-- Tres chic, he thought, but she walks like a warrior. --

That's short and to the point and we learn a lot about Damie in a few words. A personal voice. The first person version makes this Just Another Chick Lit thingie:

-- I sliced through the crowd in the airport concourse like an assassin. It may have been the stacatto stomp of my kick-ass boots or just the expression on my face, but the people parted like a curtain. We recognized each other at the same moment. --

We've had enough of these already.

I don't mind first person POV but when I look at some books I liked, they're more epic (Cross Stitch, Kushiel's Dart), or with a male POV (Wishart's Ovid from the POV of the Roman sleuth) or epic and male (Cornwell's Arthur and Saxon books). The only one that can be compared with Damie to some extent is S.L. Viehl's Stardoc, it's SciFi and a series, but even Cherijo doesn't observe herself the way Damie does. Maybe it's your very art with words that makes these passages problematic - 'I sliced through the crowd like an assassin' is a great image, only not one that works in first person.

spyscribbler said...

Please forgive my language, but ... holy shit, Bernita. This is ten million times better. And I didn't think yesterday's opening could use, er, ten million times betterness, but ... wow.

This is totally awesome. As they say, listen to your instincts. I take back what I said about leaving it in third person. This is awesome! I would totally buy that in a second, whether I knew you or not.

I love your opening line, too. Very vivid. I already like this character. She's smart, vivid, and feisty.

Bernita said...

That's exactly the problem, Raine.
Which one would an agent be more likely to prefer.

Fair enough, Gabriele,thank you - but remember, Damie is a mature woman, capable of just that sort of observation, of being amused people and by herself.

Bernita said...

That should be "by people" in the previous.

Holy shit, Spy!
You're no help!
One can't exactly say to an agent, "Look, I'll write it in first, if you want...Here's a sample!"

writtenwyrdd said...

I could have sworn you were saying it was in first person, Bernita. My bad!

Bernita said...

Not at all, Written, perhaps I was not clear.
The excerpt posted yesterday is the beginning of the original - in third.
Today, I tried as an exercise to re-do the opening scene in first person.

ivan said...

Aw c'mon Ric,
Bernita seems to be finding her voice, and I like it.
The other way, seemed to me, boilerplate, boilerplate, formula.

Bernita said...

Probably the charge of "boilerplate" and "formula" could be more fairly leveled against this passage than the other.
Bit I know you are fond of "I" Ivan.

spyscribbler said...

LOLOL ... sorry! But if the third person isn't making your phone ring, I'd definitely suggest switching it into first person before sending it out. Definitely! It's like night and day, and I liked the third person version.

Your first person version pops, it really does.

Robyn said...

Let's face it, Bernita, you could write anything and it would be good.

There's a real energy to the first person, but I prefer the third person better. Probably because I liked your previous entries in the hero's POV and I don't want you to cut those out!

Bernita said...

It seems I must seriously consider it, Spy!

If only that were true, Robyn!
Thank you. Losing John's POV one of the big reasons for reluctance.

Tattieheid said...

Hi Bernita,

I've been lurking for a while but decided to stick my nose in. I like your writing because it has that touch of poetic magic about it. It paints a picture for me and that's something I find missing in a lot of novels these days.

I read this version first (no pun intended) and instantly fell in love with Damie. Fresh, with attitude, vitality and a wonderful sense of comic theatre. For a first draft it is bloody good. I have to wonder just how spectacular this opening would become once you polished it.

In the 3rd person opening your writing painted a different picture. Again, well written and effective with that quality I would expect from you, but I got more of a sense of LaViolette than Damie and didn't make the same connection with her. Perhaps becuse I had just read this version. That doesn't mean I wouldn't fall for her as the story progressed but I suspect it would be more of a subtle experience.

Both versions are good. God knows how you decide.

Which is better? The love at first sight version that bursts into passion, flames for a while and then has a habit of fizzling out because that kind of intensity is hard to maintain?
Or the slow, subtle attraction that builds into something deeper, passionate and intense; yet is a sustainable journey of discovery and delight?

Personally, I would stick with the completed version and query the hell out of it. If it didn't sell I would rewrite in 1st POV and try again a year down the line. It's certainly too good to end up in a box under the bed.

I'm in Scotland (UK) and "Kick ass boots" is an expression that's used over here by both sexes. It's not at the cliche stage over here yet though.:)

For a shy wee lad I've gone on a bit. I'll shut up now.

spyscribbler said...

Bernita and Robyn, if there's some great parts in another character's POV, you might want to look at Barry Eisler's last book, The Last Assassin did a fine job of mostly first POV, with a little bit of one character's third POV.

It worked well. Just something to consider, in case it might work for you!

ORION said...

Ignore ric!!!! REALLY!
This is GREAT!

cyn said...

wow! dawdle a bit over the long weekend and look what i've missed! i gobbled up your recent entries on novel synopsis, first page and rewrite in first person. your rough draft is my thrice polished one. ha! i feel the two different versions carry very different tones. in the end, it is the type of mood and story you want to tell. i think it would become a different novel possibly, in your heroine's own voice? and for the love of zeus, keep querying! and thank you so much for sharing your baby with us. =)

cyn said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cyn said...

wow! dawdle a bit over the long weekend and look what i've missed! i gobbled up your recent entries on novel synopsis, first page and rewrite in first person. your rough draft is my thrice polished one. ha! i feel the two different versions carry very different tones. in the end, it is the type of mood and story you want to tell. i think it would become a different novel possibly, in your heroine's own voice? and for the love of zeus, keep querying! and thank you so much for sharing your baby with us. =)

December Quinn said...

Add me to the "I'm torn" list, because this is seriously great. Damie comes across so clearly--no-nonsense, with a sense of humor and low tolerance for fools.

Bernita said...

Tattieheid, I am so glad you decided to de-lurk.
I relate to your user id!
Thank you very much for your kind words and your assessment.
And there are NO restriction on post "word-count" on this blog. I value your opinions.

Pat, thank you! I was hoping you would stop by.

Thank you, Spy. I'm not sure a "first novel" would be allowed the same latitude though.

Cyn, December, thank you both.
Like Tattieheid and Raine, you've nailed my basic problem.
The eternal subjective question is often not "what" - but "which."

Scott from Oregon said...

When I put your eloquence in a box called "genre writing" I feel a bit sad.

You don't belong in those boxes. You belong in a dream...

Bernita said...

Thank you, Scott.
Marketing is all about boxes.