In which The Queen shares her adventures of finding supplies in the days of Chingona Virus, and offers us some writing tips based upon current publisher advice.
Yup, still going to work every day, still trying to figure out optimum time to score toilet paper and other supplies to minimize risk of death, disease and infection.
People are still panic-buying all kinds of stuff. My market is completely out of Vitamin C. Any brand, any size, gone. Now look, keeping healthy is fine, even recommended during a pandemic. But hording Vitamin C to make sure you will always have enough is ridiculous and selfish. And really, this virus doesn’t respond to Vitamin C like a prevention or a cure. And if you take it on an empty stomach, or as a food substitute, you are in for some serious gastric discomfort that might scare you into a hospital visit, which will do you much more harm than good right now.
So, because Some People have taken all the Vitamin C pills, I’ve been reduced to buying and consuming Gummy Vitamin Cs like I’m a kindergartener. Thanks.
And I tried ordering my favorite wine online (because I’m out, naturally), from every site I could think of without success. I even went to the vineyard itself. They won’t deliver to my house unless I join the Wine Club. That’s where they “hand select” some 6 bottles of Random Wine, and send them every 3 months. What do I do after week one of Wine Club? Wait panting by the door for a month and a half? Do I have to go to the Dark Web for wine? This is bullshit.
And now we are on to Killing Time and Taking Care. With our homes. For me, it’s Weed Time, or as I’m now calling it: The Next Plague. I made the mistake of going to Home Depot last week for my favorite herbicide (it lasts for a year!). I’d ordered a week before (because this is how long things take to arrive anywhere because people are Online Ordering All the Things). I didn’t go on a Saturday, ‘cause that’s just suicidal in the best of times. Which this is not. I did what I have done before and ordered and paid online to pick up at the store when it arrived, thinking this was the least risky to me and others. Miscalculation. When I’ve ordered this way before to be delivered at the store, there was a “locker” system where you go to a special designated line and cashier to get a numerical combo to access the bank of lockers near the entrance and you can then run off with your pre-purchase.
This time was different. A masked man at the entrance told me to go to the Young Girl Under the Tree and she would take my printed receipt and run into the store to get it for me! He was wrong. Unless you had selected “curb-side” delivery at purchase-point online you (me) would be out of luck. By the time I was corrected, the line to enter the store was 20 people long, and not spaced out in Social Distancing. The store was/is limiting the number of people inside the store at one time. Goody. And smart on the one hand. But on the other hand (and two feet), it’s not. As I stood apart from the guy in front of me, the asshole behind me grumbled that I was doing that. When I got to the door, after another 10 minutes, the masked man questioned me again and I had to tell him that he shouldn’t tell people to go to the Girl Under the Tree unless they had pre-selected that curb-side option. I was then allowed to enter and stopped 2 feet inside the door to the Pick Up section. Where the 4 of us standing there on different colored, spaced out arrows on the floor, were made to wait about 20 more minutes, while Everyone who entered the door passed by us, and breathed on us. Even the guy who brought his toddler (you know those small people who touch everything and then put their fingers in their mouths?) and promptly let go of her hand once they got inside the door, letting her free-range the aisles, ‘cause everyplace is a playground!
The counter woman was nice, speaking behind a new, spit-guard window mounted crooked in front of her cash register. I got my Weed Killer, thanked her and was able to exit through the garden, which was effing packed with people buying effing flowers, like we’re all on Vacation and Home Improvement. Even though I had my receipt out, no bag, one item, I was still stopped by a masked employee and questioned for a several seconds while people in the jammed check-out lines on two sides, breathed on me.
This was all bad enough, and some free-for-nothing advise: No one who is older and/or has underlying health issues (and you know who you are), should be going to Costco or Walmart during the time of Chingona Virus. There are too many people going there for you to be safe. People are driving from all over the valley, then standing in line outside for a couple hours waiting to get in, and you are not even getting a sample-snack-on-a-stick these days while you wait. Yeah, it’s cheaper in those places, but really, saving a few bucks for a year’s supply of anything is not saving you the risk of Chingona right now.
I will now order online from Home Depot (because I do need more weed killer and pond cleaner, sludge eradicator) and use the “Deliver to your home for free when you order $45 or more,” option. Until at least June.
And I keep writing. Reading about writing is also writing and brought me to a favorite book: Writing with Emotion, Tension & Conflict by Cheryl St. John. It goes on the tract of showing not telling and letting your readers fill in the emotion without you pointing it out to them. ‘Cause they hate that.
This also dovetails with something shocking that I heard and read from several editors recently: don’t do that sequel thing anymore where you have your protagonist mull over or put together what just happened in the scene before. The protagonist uses this mulling over to plan out new or next action. It’s “outdated.” Yeah, I know. It’s been the format of most mysteries and thrillers Forever. But we are being cautioned that modern readers don’t want to put up with that anymore. So says Donald Maas in Writing the Breakout Novel. And he knows everything.
Instead, deepen dilemmas and increase tension with interior monologues, that don’t plan the next move. Show the conflicts of spirit. Use exposition to do this. Use the mixed feelings sparingly. But use them. She is bigger than her circumstances and you will show that throughout your story. But don’t follow your girl throughout the day. Her day is not that interesting, especially while she’s thinking about shit, rehashing what just happened, what we already know and just saw. This lowers the tension, and you don’t want to do that, no matter what kind of story you are writing. The space between confrontations and other high moments should not be a low swampland of remembrance and wallowing.
Show the inner conflicts through incidents, anecdotes or news that are more complex. Add depths and layers showing her/our human frailties, and fears. This bonds your readers to your characters. You sustain that interest through constant development and escalation of your girl and her emotional problems.
Do more like John Grisham: hold back on revealing too much of your protagonist until later in your novel. Disguise motives. Hold back information. It doesn’t Set You Up, it just makes your story fall down.
It helps if your inherent story has tension already, you know like presenting a dead body.
Motives shouldn’t be obvious especially at the beginning. Maybe the circumstances are not even appealing. Drop hints that your girl is not all the way bad. Or good. Somebody loves her. Somebody doesn’t. Make your prose plain enough, but direct. Don’t spend so much time setting the scene. Each character has a purpose, that’s the scene. Don’t reveal where the money is between the characters. Let that secret marinate. Unfolding secrets and this rising conflict will dictate the scene order. This ratchets up the tension on a whole-book macro level in a micro page. And isn’t that what you want to do?
Keep writing and re-writing. Take a break. Walk around the house. Make a list of shit that needs to be done. And a list of scenes that need to be written. Take a drink of something. And for an update on my personal needs met: I found a new favorite wine at the smaller grocery store! It comes in a can. Yeah, it’s come to that. It’s from the same vineyard Beringer Main & Vine as my fav, and it’s a white wine spritzer! It has white wine, spritz, Blood Orange (not just some navel or something), and MANGO! And it comes in a little four-pack so you don’t look like some sad, lonely drinker but like a Party Person! I have what I need for now.
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