Blurbs & Stumpers

by jkatejohnston

2 November 2014

Dear Max,

Instead of finishing my book, I decided to write some blurbs for it:

  • Rumpolina of the Bailey. In America. With snacks.
  • Love and Work, Crime and Piecrust: Johnston hits the Big Themes in her fiction debut.
  • There’s something wrong with the beginning, but once Johnston gets used to the awful fact that she’s writing fiction, it’s not bad. It does succeed at one thing that was important to the author: giving a sense of the affection that lawyers have for the law.
  • If this book is supposed to be about a trial, why is everyone always eating? Don’t they have work to do?
  • True Crime? (not really) Hardboiled Detective Fiction? (lightly poached) Legal Thriller? (without the suspense) Literary Fiction? (gag me) Chick Lit? (too many rapes). But, even though it’s hard to tell what sort of book it is, it’s pretty fun to read.

You know I love writing problems, and, speaking of too many rapes, writing violence is a huge problem, which I solve by not doing it. I just leave that part out. It’s all in the past, so all I have to include is the fact that it happened, and the very little that I have to include is in the dry language of police reports. Still, there’s still something uneasy-making about it. When I did criminal defense in real life, I never had any problem with the violence. I wasn’t responsible for it. But what I write, I’m responsible for. Ew.

More writing problems:

Just because it happened in real life, doesn’t mean you can use it. How many times do I have to learn that? Real life has no taste, no sense of proportion, clichés and cuteness abound, stereotype is rife, people say perfect, off-the-cuff things that instantly become lines you write them down.

This brought on because I told one of Enzo’s pals that I like his red hair because it makes him easy to spot on the playground, and he said, “If you ever see a gleam of light shining, that’s me.” And I wanted to use that. I gave the kid in my book red hair so that I could use that. And now I don’t think I can. Well, I may brazen it out. (I have an awful feeling that I’ve written all this before.)

Another example: the real-life Jill is my lawyer pal Karol, and she has a Harley. So I gave Jill in the book a Harley. And I’m not sure I can. It seems like too easy a way to signal: she may be old and a lawyer, but she’s still cool. I might have to make it a Ducati.

And here’s a real stumper: With a first-person narrator, how do you tell the parts that the narrator wasn’t around for? In a brilliant stroke, I got myself remanded to custody for contempt of court (in the book, in the book). Now Jill has to solve the case while I’m in jail. But, I’m not there to see and hear how she does it, so how do I tell it? Gee.

 

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