Day 9: Emoting

 

Austin Mystery Writers met tonight.

I was prepared. I bought frozen stuffed peppers Sunday evening and at 4:40 this afternoon turned the oven on to 350. David took it from there.

Frozen stuffed peppers is our Tuesday night default. David is the default preparer of frozen dinners and cleaner-upper of kitchen. For all this I am grateful.

I wasn’t prepared for the blog, of course. That slipped up on me. I’ve given myself thirty minutes to write and post.

The AMW meeting was productive. CP and I exchanged manuscripts–sounds a lot like fourth grade: “Exchange papers with the person across the aisle and we’ll check our answers”–and read and discussed them.

We spent most of the time talking about what wasn’t on the page: real plots and false plots, what our characters want, how to increase suspense, plot points and midpoints.

For at least the tenth time, we hashed out my structural dilemma.

Originally, I had a perfectly good plot. Then I decided to make a major change. I’m now dealing with fallout.

Periodically I say, “I can’t make this version work.”

CP shows me how I can make this version work.

I repeat, “No, I just can’t make it work.”

CP says, “Okay, then, go back to the way it was. Kill Mr. X.”

And I say, “But I don’t want to kill Mr. X. I want to kill Mrs. Y.”

That’s a classic strategy: I argue that I cant until my partner agrees with me. Then I argue that I can.

My mother and I spent most of the 1984-85 school  year engaged in that conversation. I was working at a university as an assistant instructor while writing my thesis. I was to receive my M.A. in August and then return a couple of weeks later as a full-time lecturer.

The catch was that by early July my thesis had to be approved, typed, signed, copied, and submitted for binding.

No thesis = no M.A. = no lectureship = no income.

Hence the weekly discussion:

K (wailing):  I’ll never finish my thesis in time to graduate.

M (in the soothing tone that was both patronizing and irksome):  Oh, you’ll get it finished.

K (louder wailing): No, I won’t. And if I don’t finish, I won’t have a job next year.

M (dropping the soothing tone and sounding frighteningly reasonable): Well, if you don’t think you can finish the thesis, maybe you should start looking for another high school job.

K (hysterical, offended wailing): You don’t think I can finish it! I’m going to finish it! I have to finish it!

Somewhere along the line, I think about March, my mother stopped bothering with words and began substituting, “Um-hmmmm.” Having heard predictions of academic doom since my freshman year (“I failed my biology test. No, really, I failed this one.”), she said her lines mostly to appease me. She knew I had to vent.

I suspect CP, like my mother, has figured out her role in the drama.

Image of Elisabet Ney’s Lady Macbeth by cliff1066, used under terms of Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.