Thursday, August 15, 2013

Lucy Gets Changed

I like how this ends things. If I re-wrote it, I might try to end it differently. Maybe there's a better way to end it (I think there is.) My spoileriffic thoughts are at the end. Table of contents here.

* * *

I saw Sam sitting with Kenny in the lobby as I came out of an empty room on the first floor. Kenny had been kind enough to run to the car and bring me my emergency bag, and the concierge was perfectly happy to get a sobbing, vomit-covered girl out of the lobby of his hotel during check-in. Or maybe he was genuinely being nice. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

I brought the key to the desk and thanked the man there. I decided that I didn’t want to go back to the event. Mainly because I had caused a fight, but I used the excuse that jeans and a t-shirt with a puppy on it was not proper formal attire. Even if it was a rather regal looking puppy. Maybe if it were a penguin, I could say I was wearing a suit. Or if it were the penguins from Mary Poppins with the little bow ties. But, I don’t think women wear bow ties.

I dropped into the space between Kenny and Sam, the obligatory “close but not too close” space that two guys always have between themselves whenever possible, and said hello.

“Where’s Christine?”

“Talking with Peter,” Kenny said. “And Peter’s wife.”

I looked to Sam, who just nodded in agreement. “Where’s Susan?”

“Someone cut in,” Sam said. “I think they’re regretting that choice about now.”

“She did have pointy heels. Well, not herself, but her shoes.”

I nodded. Speaking of shoes, my emergency bag will need to acquire spare shoes. I had extra socks, but no shoes. Walking sock-footed seemed better than walking on my dress shoes.

“Well, thank you Sam, for everything. Here’s your jacket back.”

“Kenny, drop it off when you drop yours off. I think I’m done for the night,” Sam said. “I think if we just never talk to Peter or Mr. Dawes again, they’ll forget we ruined Peter’s life and still give us the money.”

Kenny shook his head. “You keep on keeping on with that silly idea Sam.”

“Well, this is a mess,” I said leaning back in the chair and putting my socks (they were baby blue) on the lobby coffee table. I waved to Christine as she was storming out of the ballroom. She saw me and started to come over.

“She looks like she’s taking this awfully well,” Kenny said. “Maybe I should —”

“She’s not taking it that well,” Sam said. “Come on Kenny, let’s give her some privacy. Talk to you later Lucy.”

“Bye Sam,” I said. He and Kenny pulled themselves to their feet. They gave each other some meaningful look, and Sam just shook his head with a smile.

“Sit, both of you,” Christine said. I once elaborated on her commanding style, and I said she barked commands. She asked if I was calling her a bitch, so I stuck with just saying she told me to do things from then on.

“They were just going.”

“Now they’re just sitting,” She said. They did; men always listened to Christine. Men rarely listened to me. I wasn’t sure if it was because she was compact, cute, and therefore able to insinuate her way into their minds, or if she was just scary.

“Evening Christine,” Kenny said, in a chipper, British sort of way.

“How long did you know?”

Kenny and Sam glanced over me, each nodding for the other one to answer. Finally Sam said: “We never met his wife till tonight.”

“We were more worried about his drug habit,” Kenny said.

“I still think we might be wrong about that,” Sam said.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It never came up?” Sam offered.

“I tried working it into conversations, but you know, it really is hard to just squeeze in: ‘Hey, your boyfriend is married,’” Kenny said. “Always seemed the wrong time.”

“There is no right time!” I said.

“That’s kind of my point,” Kenny said. Sam shook his head.

“We were just heading out,” He said, standing back up, and clearing room for Christine to sit with me. She sat down, crossing her legs and furiously kicking the air.

“If any of my future boyfriends hide their wives, I want you to tell me. Right away.”

“I’m not married, by the way,” Kenny said. Sam grabbed his arm, rushed an apology, and took him out the front.

“I like them,” Christine said after they were out of ear shot. “We should hang out more. You could learn to loosen up some.”

“They held an improv puppet show,” I said. “That’s not loosening up, that’s just being crazy.”

“They didn’t end the night covered in vomit.”

“That was different, and you know it Christine,” I said. I waited for a bit as we sat in the lobby. Christine looked at the ceiling, kicking her foot.

“Come on, let me take you home,” I said. “Your ride just walked out the door, and I need to get home and change. I’ve got a night job after all.”


I know some people would be happier with an ending that ended with Lucy and Sam together, and maybe pairing the spares with Christine and Kenny, but that felt cheap. Sam's whole character arc is to learn to try and improve himself and stop chasing women, and Lucy needs to learn to stand on her own. It defeats the whole point of their character arcs for them to end the story with Sam winning the girl and Lucy trading her new independent self-image for a relationship. This isn't to say relationships are, inherently, bad for independence, but in a piece of literature, it just seems cheap. "Oh, good little lady, you learned to stand up for yourself. Here's a boyfriend."

That's not the only reason I don't like the idea of ending with them together. It just feels too pat, especially for anyone who wanted Kenny/Christine together. Christine is in no place to go gallivanting off with some nearly complete stranger. Even worse, if Kenny ends up in a relationship and Sam doesn't, it kind of makes the reader go: "Wait, wasn't Sam supposed to learn chasing women isn't the most important thing? If so, why does his slacker friend get the girl in the end?" It just wouldn't work for literature. Even worse: If I ever revisited these characters, it locks us into a bad place narratively. In short, this ending is nice and ambiguous without ending in a complete status quo (one way where it differs from a sitcom.)

I tried to do four major things with this writing project. I tried to capture the feel of a sitcom (specifically more classic sitcoms from the 80s/90s as opposed to the more modern ones.) To do that, I tried to rely on more smart jokes, and keeping the shocking/dirty humor focused and witty. On that part, I think I failed in some ways. The problem is that farce is hard to write. Physical comedy is hard to write. I had some ideas that I thought "This would be funny," but the written execution failed. Some scenes work really well, that are fairly conversation heavy, but even then, I feel like I let the plot get too complex and drag on.

The second thing I tried to do was work on flexing my ability to "voice" characters. To that end, I feel like Lucy and Sam feel like two different voices. They have some similarities (which is deliberate on my part, to try and make readers connect them mentally.) On that end, I worked on making little tweaks to their inner monologues to help make them seem real. Likewise, I tried to flesh out their supporting cast so that Kenny and Christine, at least, had distinct personalities. Here again, I think I failed pretty hard on the supporting characters. Lucy, though, is a joy to write, and I feel like her voice really crystalized near the mid-point. Sam, on the other hand, came into his own as well, but I feel like it was a bit shakier with him.

The third thing was that I wanted to try and write a piece of modern fiction that didn't have a catch of super naturalness. I'm not a fan of writing modern fiction, but there is a story space there I can explore. I'm not sure how well I did it, but I did it.

Finally, just like other stories, I'm working on developing realistic characters, especially female characters. People are always supposed to write what they know, and I feel like my female characters rarely feel like real female characters. They often seem like women written by a man trying to make them seem like women. Since I'm not a woman, I have no real way to know if I pulled this off. I know Lucy has a voice; I know that I had fun writing her. But, I have no idea if she comes across as a real person.

P.S.: I'm pretty sure this piece of writing passes the Bechdel Test, but if you disagree, let me know.

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