Tonight at a dinner party with most excellent friends Jason brought up mention of my blog: “How’s the deadline….? Whenever your blog goes silent for a time I know you must be scrambling for a deadline…”
I’m doing a major reworking of the Bloodangel sequel (now titled Lord of Bones) which is due in to my editor Aug 15 (to be published in July ’08, and I know now just how quickly that comes up, no matter how far off it seems at the present moment, especially since all major revision has to be done by October, which is when the thing goes in for copyediting. But I digress).
“I’ve heard about your blog!” Said rather darkly by K, the chic, lithe, dewy-skinned blonde who just graduated from the Sorbonne and relocated to LA. Her boyfriend, Randall, has been a notable friend of ours long enough to have popped up in this blog many a time.
Someone asked her, “What have you heard?”
“Just that…it’s very true to life.”
Someone else pointed out that she hasn’t been in it yet, although it’s just a matter of time.
“Don’t worry, she changes all the names,” one guy said wryly. “Everyone gets their own initial. For example, he –” pointing dramatically to my husband “– is known as E. So you’ll probably be K.”
“That’s not the case with Randall,” I said. “He gets a complete pseudonym. He chose it himself.” Randall has achieved a shocking level of success in a highly visible industry and has gotten familiar with pseudonyms in a way his parents (also at the dinner) could never have anticipated when they were raising him like any other ‘normal’ kid.
K. looked at me: “But you said the other day that a friend of yours recognized him in your blog.”
“That wasn’t my blog,” I said without thinking, “that was my book.”
Shrieks around the table.
“Wait,” I said, “that’s not as bad as it sounds.” Looking at Randall: “I’m 115 pages into a novel — not the Bloodangel sequel, this other thing I’ve had to put aside for a bit — and yes, I based a character somewhat on you — and recently gave the pages to a friend for her opinion –”
“And this person who only knows me a little bit still recognized me in it,” Randall said.
And right away I saw the problem: Randall’s character is a recurring one who acts as a kind of link between the two main characters, so he’s onstage enough (more than I expected) to become a definite presence for the reader but not enough to become fullblown, fullblooded in the character’s own right. If I had to go into this character’s head, create a detailed backstory and psychology and POV to filter his experiences through, he would morph through the writing into a true individual with a life all his own (albeit fictional) and his resemblance to Randall would lessen and maybe even disappear. But as it is, he gets painted in relatively broad strokes, a few vital details. Which means he stays a great deal like the man across the table from me, and anyone who knows him in real life will spot him in the book as easily as my friend did. This is something I need to be careful about.
Because I realize my writing is entering a new kind of territory — as it starts to transmogrify bits and pieces of my life from the last five years or so. In the past I’ve moved around so much that the people who inspired — always very loosely, but still — certain characters were no longer in my life when the writing got finished, or at least not enough to actually read something that went unpublished anyway.
I said to Randall, “Your character doesn’t do anything scandalous.”
“But then what’s the point?”
“Yeah,” someone added emphatically.
“Since I can’t do it in real life, can’t I at least do it in fiction…?”
A fair enough question. I made a mental note.
Talk turned to the movie Thank You For Smoking and I mentioned my sighting this morning of (no pseudonym needed here) Aaron Eckhart, standing in line at the same Coffee Bean in which I’d spotted the Veronica Mars guy the other day. I’ve seen Eckhart before when he was between roles and had put on enough weight to take the edge off his looks, downgrading him to merely another nice-looking man. Today, this was not the case. Although I’ve never found him all that hot onscreen, I was kind of stunned and could not stop myself from staring…at least until I noticed the news scrolling the screen above his head, about the 550 pound squid washing up on a beach in Tasmania.
Something about that moment struck me as so very LA.
And as the dinner party pondered this pithy profundity, Randall said, “I saw Matthew McConaughey the other day…”
Since Randall knows a lot of famous people and has good stories about some of them — which he can deliver with a rather startling talent for impressions and mimicry — we looked at him and waited.
“…standing in front of a bunch of calamari.”