Posts Tagged ‘question’

What is an Emotional Throughline?

Way back in September, Joe Iriarte, asked a question on one of my process posts for writing Glamour in Glass.

Hey Mary–I know that this is primarily a blog about whatever happens to be going on in your life, and not about teaching writing, but could you possibly tell a little bit about what you mean by “emotional throughline”? I googled the phrase, both as three words and as two, and found lots of sites where people talk knowingly about emotional throughlines, but not a real good definition or a how-to.

“Throughline” is really an acting term that was coined by Constantin Stanislavski. The idea is that actors should know what their objective is in any scene as well as the line of thought which led from one objective to the next.

In acting you’ll sometimes hear people say that acting is reacting, meaning that no one ever does anything without a reason, this includes emotions. Even chemically induced paranoia comes with a perception of reasons for the paranoia.

If it were possible to chart a character’s emotions through the course of a story the emotional throughline would be the line that connected all the points. Characters go flat when they jump from one emotion to another without any intervening thoughts or reactions.

I’m not saying that you can’t go from happy to angry in a single scene, but something has to happen to cause that shift. That progression is the emotion throughline which propels a character through the story.

Heading upstate

Rob and I are embarking on a four-hour motorcycle trip. I’ve got my cellphone, but coverage is spotty.
I will be without internet access until Monday. So, while I’m gone, here’s a question for you.

If you could have your ideal retreat, what would it include?

Me? Clean, cool, quiet. Wi-fi, plenty of outlets, good food and a massage therapist.

Police Procedure question

I’m stymied by police procedure. I’ve posted a query at Ask-A-Cop, too, but figure you guys are smart and might be able to help.

(If you’re in the pool of people reading this or about to read this for me, you’re about to get some serious spoilers, so skip this post)

I’m writing an urban fantasy novel. I know procedures change depending on district, but since I don’t specify the city we can fudge a bit. Think of a city around the size of Raleigh, N.C.

These are the plot elements that the police would know about.

My main character, Grace, is a prominent and respected trial lawyer.(specializing in women’s issues). On Wednesday, she is jogging and calls in to report gunshots and screams coming from a house.

At the moment, I have three squad cars responding plus an ambulance. One of the officers, Regec, sees Grace, recognizes her and asks if she can shed light on the situation. Reasonable?

When the police approach the house, a man exits and then dies with no visible marks. A rottweiler gets out, from the house, and attacks Grace, biting her.

At the moment, Regec shoots the dog. Reasonable?

Only one other person was in the house, a woman, locked in the attic. The man’s fingerprints were on the gun, not the woman’s.

Would someone official (ambulance or police) take Grace to the hospital, or would she have to get there on her own?

That afternoon, she arrives home and discovers that her house has been broken into. Since she has Regec’s card, she calls her wanting a familiar face. Would Regec be able to respond? (Assuming she’s in the right precinct, of course)

The next day, the police are called to Grace’s office. They are told that, while interviewing a client, the client’s two-year old child got sucked into the ceiling and vanished. (The child had Hobbson’s Syndrome, a condition which Grace had as a child and she is the only person known to have recovered from it.) The client, a hysterical woman, also insists that this happened and blames Grace. There’s no sign of the child, but a giant gaping hole in the acoustical tiles in the ceiling. No visible way out. The client wants them to charge Grace with kidnapping. They don’t.

NEXT — later that afternoon, while lunching with the D.A., Grace gets a phone call and learns that her husband (who had been out of town) had caught an earlier flight and had been home when her home had been broken into. A shoe had been found at the scene, which Grace recognizes as his.

NEXT — That night, the police get a phone call from Grace’s parents that they arrived at her house and that it had been trashed. Thoroughly. She and her daughter are missing.

NEXT — There’s a rash of missing children, all with Hobbson’s Syndrome.

NEXT — In the wee hours of the following morning, the police receive a call about a woman trespassing. The man placing the complaint is a doctor who specializes in children with Hobbson’s Syndrome.

They arrive and the woman is Grace. She’s dirty and bruised. She tells them that she doesn’t know how she got there. She also says that there’s a boy in the woods.

How are the police likely to respond at this point?

They find the boy. He’s about nine years old but barely verbal. Naked, except for a torn shirt, dirty and bruised. He points at the doctor and says, “He stole me.” He is also on the list of missing Hobbson’s Syndrome children.

What would the police do?

What I need is for Blessenger to wind up arrested and Grace given a ride out of there. I can manipulate the scene and add other evidence now or in an earlier scene if that would help. I would LOVE to have Regec on the scene, but I think it isn’t believable — let me know if there’s a way to get her there.

I’m sorry this is so ridiculously long. I couldn’t think of a way to condense it.

Bonus points: How do officers on the scene refer to one another? “Hey Lou?”

Teenage wardrobe question

All right. I’ve sent this question to a couple of teens that I know, but I figure the wider the spectrum the more chance I have to not screw up. Please — if you are an adult, only answer if you have a teenager handy as a reference guide or if you can provide a handy link to a resource with actual teens.

I need to dress the teenager in my current WIP. Normally, I only make passing reference to clothing, but in this case I need to know exactly what she’s wearing.

Cassandra is sixteen and I have no idea what she’d wear to school in early October (N.C, Tenn, or anything up through PA is fine. No mountains.) She’d run in the art crowd, but plans to be a veterinarian. She’s a serious reader. Very smart. She does not like fantasy because she has an actual fairy godmother and the books never, ever get it right. Loves the Bronte sisters and Asimov. Her parents are upper middle class, but she’s been a latch-key kid for years, so is used to dressing herself.

Her mother is always on her to “gussie herself up” so I’m looking for the casual, rebellious end of the clothing spectrum but also with a desire to fit in. So no Goth, no Steampunk.

One specific need, plot-wise. I need footwear that is unsuitable for riding a horse, but that it’s not unbelievable for her to have worn while running through the woods.

Any ideas? I just have no idea what she’d wear. ZERO.

Kids these days. Why when I was a girl…

Edited to add: I just realized that I am an idiot. At the point when she is running through the woods, she has just escaped an intruder at their house. They don’t wear shoes at home (Dad sells Japanese antiques, adopted the no-shoes rule at home). She’d be in stocking feet. Now I need to go back and rewrite the running through the woods scene…

The question still stands for the rest of the clothing though. Thanks!

Horse and math question

Oh, my horsey friends, please double-check my book learning.

I’m figuring that Character A will take about 2 and a half hours to cover four miles on a deer path through a heavily wooded area. She’s got about fifty very short characters with her, so isn’t walking at top speed.

Returning, she’s mounted on a horse. Is it reasonable to think that she could cover the same distance in about forty-five minutes? If she were in a hurry, (and she is) how fast could she safely go? This is a path with which she is familiar, but a new horse.

Many thanks!

And just in case someone else finds them useful, here is a site with Horse Speed in MPH and one with The Average Walking Pace for humans.

Creating terms

In the fantasy story I’m working on, my main characters are islanders faced with a more technologically advanced invader. These invaders bring things which you and I would know the words for, but which my islanders don’t. In the scene in question, I have this.

Rising above the helmets of the warriors were ranks of bows and pikes. In the midst of them, towering gray animals, like horses swollen to the size of whales, with a swollen snaking vine growing from the center of their head and wicked tusks jutting from their mouths. Each whale-horse glimmered with scales of green lacquered steel. The black huts on their backs brushed the overarching trees.

So, would you be annoyed if, for the battle scene in question, I use the phrase “whale-horse” instead of elephant?

You thought Mothra was funny…

I dropped the moth off today and they loved it. As I was leaving they were having trouble with one of the other effects in the show. A key plot element revolves around a young man who has, um, trouble with his manhood becoming alert when he isn’t expecting it to do so. The member in question was difficult to control… funny how common that is.

So, I’m going back down to deal with the erectile disfunction. My job is so very, very strange.

You have to imagine me and the director, also a woman, kneeling in front of the young man who is wearing this prosthesis and discussing the concern at hand. It swings to the left. He’s getting some chafing. It gets bound up in his pants. All the while, we are manipulating the existing prop trying to see if we can fix it or if we need to start fresh.

Should I get a NYC phone number?

So that’s the question du jour. Should I get a New York number for my cellphone or keep my Oregon number? I can keep the Oregon number active, so that’s not an issue.

The question is about getting work. I feel like the area code on the phone is becoming a sort of non-issue these days as more and more people switch to cells. On the other hand, it does instantly label me as an out-of-towner.

So what do you think? Switch to a 646 number or stay with the 503?

Edited to add: Thanks for the comments everyone. I decided that the continuity was probably worth more than the “local” number. Especially since I realized that I can just forward my 646 Skype number to my cellphone. It’s the best of both worlds. So, the 503 number stays.

Typewriter question

Since I have all of these new folks stopping by to look at the typewriter mod, maybe one of you will have an idea of how to do the other nifty thing I want. I want a USB carriage return. You know? I mean, how perfect would that be to be able to plug that in for those occasions when I need a hard return.

On the whole, I must say that having this at Readercon is very strange. I had it out today because I needed to print out the story for my reading, and people stopped with a double-take, pointing, because they had seen it on BoingBoing. (For my regular readers, be patient, the surge in traffic will die down shortly.)

Typewritten stories

We picked up the last of our typewriters (portable Smith-Corona with black pebbled finish) from the repair shop today. It has a smooth and lovely action. I typed a letter to celebrate. I think that, once we are in New York, I want to write a couple of short stories on our typewriters.

I was thinking about doing some sort of contest and giving the winner an original typewritten story. You know, you’d get the actual original manuscript–after I made a copy, of course. It just seems like, if I’m going to type it that the manuscript itself should be part of the package.

So the question is: What nifty contest can I host?

What gender is the Easter Bunny?

Okay. So I recognize that in the light of everything going on, this is a very trivial question, but it rocked my world today. I was trying to tell Rob this convoluted story about Norwescon and Easter. During the course of which, I said, “And I got to tell one of my favorite bad jokes. ‘Why does the Easter Bunny hide his eggs?'”

“Is the Easter Bunny a boy?”

I stared at him goggle-eyed. “Peter Cottontail?”

He shrugged and shook his head. At this point the joke was totally blown. We spent the next five minutes with me trying to supply evidence that the Easter Bunny is, in fact, male. He insists that he always thought the Bunny was girl.


Safe arrival in Paradise

Our flight out was utterly uneventful. We both napped some. Rob read the NY Times. I wrote and got about 2000 words in.

And then we waited for our baggage to arrive. The staff seemed to be engaged in a slow motion Laurel and Hardy film, which anywhere else would have involved much running around trying to fix the multiple baggage carousels as they broke. But this is paradise, so they ambled from the first carousel to die. Then they ambled away. Sometime later, without an announcement the carousel next to us began revolving and lo! our flight number was now on the sign above it. En masse the passengers flocked to the new carousel. Four bags emerged.

It stopped.

The staff ambled back. They examined. Pondered. Then ambled away. We waited and then felt some relief when the buzzer over the carousel began to make its noise and flash. But as the minutes passed and nothing happened there was some question of whether they would move us to a different carousel.

The staff ambled back. One of them disappeared into the nether regions of the machinery, which would have given Hardy his cue to turn the belt back on, sending Laurel scrambling. In this case, we waited until he slowly emerged and ambled away. The buzzer began, slowly, and then built tempo like a diesel engine turning over on a cold day. It kept going for about a minute before the carousel started moving again this time with an added high squeal.

But no bags. The staff ambled back, stopped the machine and disappeared. Sometime later the buzzer began again, slowly revving up, and then it started to fail, doing half-buzzes or flickering. When the belt finally started moving again, bags came out packed tightly together, piled on top of one another. Rob’s bag tumbled down the ramp and slid toward us. And the carousel stopped again.

We waited for the staff to amble back. Once they arrived, they began manually extracting the bags from the conveyor. Mine was not far down the stack and so we were able to make our escape. I don’t know how much longer the other people had to wait.

Rob and I ambled outside to meet momk, who greeted us with leis.

What else can’t you do?

Tonight we went into the studio to record Chapter Two of the secret project. At one point, the narration refers to one of the characters whistling. When we paused, Rob said, “Are you going to whistle?”

“No. I can’t whistle,” I replied.

A moment of silence passed with Rob’s mouth hanging slightly open. “Are you my wife?”

“Yes. But I can’t whistle.”

“Really? How did I not know that? Not at all?” He then whistled a scale. Bastard.

“Not reliably. I can make a sound, but not with any consistency. Inhaling. I can whistle on the inhale, but not blowing”

This seemed to fascinate Rob, while I felt a sort of delighted dread. Then I tried to show him what little whistling I could do, which tonight amounted to the sound of wind on the moor. Not a whistle, but not simply breath. I have no idea why whistling would have come up before, but Rob is apparently quite excited by the fact that I’m incapable of whistling. When we finished recording the chapter, he leapt up and came into the booth to ask more questions. This is the source of the delight and the dread. I have intrigued my husband by revealing a new aspect of myself, and new aspects are a precious commodity when you have known someone for seven years, but it’s something I’m bad at.

How about you? Is there something about you that your significant other learned after you’d been together long enough that it seemed as if the surprises were mostly over? Or, for that matter, what surprising thing are you bad at?