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Here we go again...

As most of you know, I have a paranormal romance in the works. It has been going by fits and starts, for a while it felt like it had ran aground, recently it began obsessing me again nagging at some things that didn't work well. Today I found myself rewriting a couple of scenes, one of witch included some rather draining research. I hate when I start editing before having a full first draft, but it seems I cannot help doing it.

And, since I am going to do it anyway, I thought of having my strange modus operandi work to my advantage : I'll start posting Black Fox  (horrid temporary title) once a week, comments and discussion will influence the development of the story.

Hope to have you on board,

Chapter 1

I had been fighting my way through the Ten Courts of Hell for the last two days and it suited me fine, I was just approaching the throne of King Yama when the doorbell rang.

Please, just go away, please, I thought, wishing the message to go through, but the visitor was nothing if not persistent; at the third ring I gave up, saved my work and went to the door grumbling under my breath.  “ Thank you, but I don’t need anything… Oh, sorry Lucia!” I back-tracked recognizing my next-door neighbor. Smiling brilliantly she waved a couple of paper rectangles under my nose: “ Well, it’s a pity, but if you are really, really sure…I’ll just have to find someone else to come with me to Hu Xiaowen’s concert”.

It took me a moment to recognize the name: “ What?”  brilliant repartee Viola, you definitely have a way with words “ How did you manage it? The tickets have been sold out for months! …  Wait, isn’t the concert on Thursday?”

“ The concert is, but the dress rehearsal is tonight, and my cousin, who, as you should remember by now, is in the orchestra, has managed to get me two tickets. I’m sorry you aren’t interested”  She sighed, striking a dramatic pose “ What shall I do with the extra one at this point? And poor Paolo went through so much trouble…”.

I waved her in, laughing.  “Come in before we get an audience. Give me ten minutes to get ready, I wouldn’t miss this for the world”. 

I have always loved dress rehearsals even more than the actual concerts. For starters they are much more relaxed things: the public is limited, a number of tickets are given to the musicians themselves for friends and family members, others go out to music schools, critics and theatre sponsors.  Moreover, the audience at dress rehearsals is there for the music, not to see and to be seen as too often happens at opening nights, that also means that one doesn’t have to undergo the high-heels-evening-dress torture of more formal events.

A quarter of an hour later we were on our way, most people were still at work, no risk of turning a ten minute drive into an half-hour queue. “What is it that has you turned hermit this time, Viola?” asked Lucia while I turned into the theatre’s boulevard, “Classic literature,  literary fiction, historical novel?” her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper “ science-fiction or fantasy?” .

“ A book-snob…I’m spending my time with a book-snob!” I ribbed her, “ It’s a fantasy novel by a new Taiwanese writer, actually a series of interlocking  tales within a frame-story, and it’s magnificent. The language is wonderful too: rich and beautiful without being flowery or pretentious. It took a while to get the right register, I hope I’m doing justice to the original”.

“ I know you are, you care too much about your work for it to be otherwise. Forget that rubbish: traduttore, traditore, a good translator is as much of an artist as the author is”.  

I felt myself blush, I’ve never been able to accept compliments with poise, no matter the source. An empty parking lot saved me from having to answer: “There! And it’s a free one, no blue lines”.

Bene, it must be our lucky day, no need to go looking for the parking meter then. Do you think they hide them on purpose, to fine you while you are looking for one?”, as I backed the car into the white-lined space she snapped her safety belt open. “Come, we are just on time!” .

NOTE: edited as per suggestions. Thank you!



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 8th, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Writing "one of witch" in regards to a choice in a paranormal story is of course, intentional, a clever English pun on your part. Don't let anyone try to get you to admit differently.

But I suspect more Americans (at least) have heard the famous "traduttore, traitore" phrase than will know what blue lines in a parking lot mean.

I also see that you are doing what I always recommend to my Italian friends writing in English: stay specifically within one well-known, defined culture; for example, from the people's names and the description of the parking lot here, it is clear that you intend this story to be set in Italy even though we see them thinking and speaking English. A good trick, if you can do it, is to have the characters have just enough of the original language rhythms underneath their English to let the reader sense that we're reading a "translation" of their thoughts.

But, back to the cultural confusion... I had one Italian friend write a story where the father of the family was home for lunch, the main family meal of the day; an older child was studying for her A-level exams; a younger sibling was in middle school and after school going off to see Santa Claus downtown. And I was left wondering, "what country is this story set in?"
Dec. 8th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the laugh, brother! And yes, of course it was an intentional pun ;-)

I keep second-guessing myself about what might be familar or need to be explaned to an American reader, it feels like a tough balancing act between having the setting in a recognizable, full-fleshed place and culture (I detest the bland and mish/mash ones, the place is as much a character as... well, characters)and writing something that would read as lingo to international readers. Suggestions are really welcome, and invaluable. :)

Very good point about the language, I'll keep it in mind and see if I manage to pull it off.
Dec. 9th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)
See, I didn't pick up that it was set in Italy at all...! Blue lines, I didn't know enough to have any context for, I didn't even catch that until you mentioned it. And I went to school with a Lucia (and an Ohiana and an Anika and a Karamia), so names like that don't necessarily mean that I'm somewhere specific. I guess depending on where you are in America you grow up assuming that people are going to have names from wildly different cultures.

But I did know the "traduttore, traitore" reference. And even if I hadn't, these days my e-book reader will let me highlight foreign words and get translations. I don't even have to know the language beforehand, it detects it for me. :)
Dec. 9th, 2012 08:51 am (UTC)
Hmmm, I thought "it's a free one, no blue lines" would give enough context to understand that blue-lined parking lots aren't free, just a bit of local color...

Does it feel like a stumbling block or someting one sort of glosses over reading?
Dec. 9th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
I just glossed over it, and I did get it from context... what I didn't get was that it implied we were in Italy!
Dec. 9th, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
Ah, ok. :)
I didn't want to spell it out for readers just at the beginning, maybe I could play with location in chapter titles, hmmm.

By the way, later on there is some Chinese, at the moment it is transcribed, but your comment on ereaders made me realize that writing the characters could be the best way, thank you. :)

Boy, don't I envy your 'writing novels is fun' experience! To me writing is like pulling teeth, and not writing once I get an idea is a constant itch.
Dec. 9th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
Interesting, thanks!

Just a note: I may not have been reading attentively, but I when I read "A quarter of an hour later we were on our way," I pictured them walking out the door, and I imagined the ensuing conversation to have happened immediately, so it was a bit jarring to find them suddenly locking the car.
Dec. 9th, 2012 09:10 am (UTC)
My pleasure! :)

Looks like I'm back to my old habit of being too concise, good to know, " needs more words" is something I like better than the opposite.
Dec. 9th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
Writing set in a non-standard setting (i. e. for a book written in English, but not in the contemporary UK or US) requires what Jo Walton (maybe others, but I heard it first from her) calls "incluing" -- fitting clues into the text to clue your readers in to what's going on.

You could have a bit of conversation where one character says the Italian "traddutore" line and the other repeats it in English, hence no need for a footnote. You could have a character admire the deep blue Venetian sky. You could add just a few more words to the parking lot scene, on the order of "It's not the money, I just hate having to hunt down the parking meter to pay for the blue-lined spots" or something like that. It's the same art that goes into explaining how your zombies (or whatever) work without having to resort to the dreaded "as you know, Bob..."

As I suggested before, having an unexpected rhythm to the speech or the narration is another way to accomplish this -- Cordwainer Smith was an expert at it.

I grew up a midwestern US kid reading books by E. Nesbit and Arthur Ransome set in a culture very different from mine (England of 50 to 100 years earlier) and I learned to really enjoy playing this game as a reader. Others hate it.
Dec. 9th, 2012 12:51 pm (UTC)
And I also see that where I misspelled "traditore" in my first post I misspelled "traduttore" in this one! Oh, well...
Dec. 9th, 2012 01:09 pm (UTC)
And again I'm in your debt.

Yes, 'incluing' is what I was (and am) am aiming for (even not knowing the word for it before). I'll definitely need help with it, though, since, not having lived in the USA, I have a very hazy idea of what would need to be clued in.

Now I'm off to hunt down something by Cordwainer Smith to study speech rhythm...

I must be crazy to attempt to write this thing directly in English...

Edited to correct spelling.

Edited at 2012-12-09 05:03 pm (UTC)
Dec. 9th, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC)
And Jo's post on "incluing" can be found at http://papersky.livejournal.com/324603.html
Dec. 9th, 2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
Thanks again! :)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )


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