Monday, January 17, 2011

Becoming My Heroine Sometimes Requires An Underwear Change

When I watch America's funniest videos, I always laugh the hardest at the ones where someone or something jumps out and scares some unsuspecting soul. One of my favorites is when a group of school kids(8-12 years old) pass a snowman in a front yard, and the snowman jumps at them. Throwing their books in the air, they run like there's no tomorrow.

What does that say about me? That I have a sick sense of humor? Then there's the one where some young men run a mouse on a string across the floor in front of an unsuspecting frat brother who screams like a little girl and jumps on the counter. That one usually brings tears to my eyes. And Red Skelton and Mickey Rooney in the cave with Elliott the Dragon in Pete's Dragon can set me off just thinking about it.

In my latest WIP, I had an opportunity to include a scene like that, and I jumped all over it. The problem was I couldn't stop laughing. It felt like I was right there at the lake house with my characters. I decided to post the excerpt, although my guess is, although you might think it's cute, it won't have the same effect on you as it did me.

The set up is that my girl, Jordan, and her 70-ish friend, Lola, conspired to help a young girl who has just inherited a lake house from her grandfather. She thinks it's haunted, however, because she hears pounding sometimes. The plan is for Lola, who does tarot card readings, to convince this girl that she's talking to the ghost while Jordan blows the candle to make it flicker as part of the ghost’s response. The story starts just as Lola slams the table for effect.

Without warning, she slammed her hand on the table, nearly spilling the water in the center. "Speak to us now. We mean you no harm and only want to communicate with you to understand why you’re here."

The room was so quiet, Jordan was sure she could hear her own heart beating. She knew Lola was good at what she did, but this performance was Academy Award worthy. Despite being a true skeptic, she halfway believed Lola was actually talking to a dead person.

"There’s only one spirit here," Lola continued, turning to Sandy. "It's your grandfather, and he wants to know you'll be okay before he can leave this earth."

Tears formed in Sandy's eyes. "Tell him I'm fine. Tell him I miss him terribly."

"Tell him yourself. He's here with us now." Lola leaned closer. "If you want to speak to your granddaughter, give us a sign." She glanced up at Jordan nodding toward the flame again.

"It's him," Sandy exclaimed as the flame moved slightly when Jordan blew on it. "Oh, Grandpa, I miss you so much."

Jordan concentrated on the candle, her heart still racing from when Lola banged on the table. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a slight movement next to the fireplace, behind the drapes on the right, and she gasped.

When Lola shot her a reprimanding look, Jordan mouthed “Sorry.”

Sheesh! She was more than a little freaked out.

"Your granddaughter’s fine," Lola began, before turning to Sandy. "What was his first name?"


"Douglas, you can have peace now. Be gone..."

Just then the furnace kicked on, causing the drapes to flutter, and Jordan's nerves got the best of her. As she screamed, she watched in horror when one side of the drapes pulled away from the wall and headed directly toward her.

Jumping from the chair, she ran for the door, glancing back, only to see the other drape chasing them, too.

Lola nearly knocked her over, trying to reach the door before the drapes attacked. Sandy ran past both of them, screaming at the top of her lungs. She flung open the front door, and all three women poured out into the cool night air, nearly rolling down the steps.

Panic twisted Jordan's insides, and her silent scream was suffocating her. When she had almost made it to the car, she tripped over Lola's caftan, tumbling across the front lawn. Struggling to get up, she felt the drape touch her shoulder.

I have started using Dragon Naturally Speaking, a voice recognition program because not only does my typing suck, but I'm still recovering from hand surgery. Anyway, I talk - Dragon types. As I'm reading the dialogue, I can't stop laughing. Dragon keeps asking me to please say that again. By now I'm nearly wetting my pants imagining the drapes chasing them, and I holler "I can't. Wait a minute." Dragon keeps typing. Still laughing I holler "Quit typing, dammit". You know what Dragon typed. By the time I was able to get control of myself, I had about 10 lines of idiot commands typed.

The point I'm trying to make with all this is in that short period of time when I was dictating my scene, I was actually Jordan, in the room with my friends running from the drapes.I felt her fear, although she wasn't laughing.

So my question for you all is do you ever find yourself in that situation? Do you ever imagine yourself as your heroine? Does it help writing certain scenes?I would love to hear the dialogue that put you there.


Tonya Kappes said...

I do put myself in my protag's situations so I can get down some of the emotions.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

OMG Liz you crack me up! I love physical comedy like that and use it a lot! And I love becoming my characters.

Sounds like you've got another great book on your hands :-)

Anita Clenney said...

I love the excerpt, Liz. Very funny. I love humor in books, and I do put myself in the scene. The other night, I was writing a scene in my new mystery series and I was laughing so hard I couldn't see. I hope it's not something that only strikes me as funny.

Was the Dragon Naturally Speakihg easy to use? I bought it years ago and never tried it. It's in a drawer somewhere.

Liz Lipperman said...

Tonya, I can always count on you to comment first. What time do you wake up?

I usually put myself in my protag's place too, but it's usually for a deeply emotional scene. This is my first time with a funny scene, and it nearly did me in.

Thanks for being so loyal to M & M.

Liz Lipperman said...

Kari, I love your physical scenes. This is really my first attempt at it. I wanted to do the scene and knew I couldn't pull it off as serious.

Liz Lipperman said...

Anita, that's my worry, too. Sometimes when I'm laughing like crazy about something one of my friends did or something I saw on TV and I try to tell my hubby, I can't believe he doesn't think it's so funny. I guess it loses something in the translation.

As for Dragon, I love it. I have the Dragon 11, so I'm not sure if the earlier versions will be as good. I say try it. You have to learn to dictate for your story. Since I write so much dialogue, here's a typical sentence.

New line tab open quotes why did you hit me comma closed quotes she said period.

Get the picture?

Donnell said...

Liz, all I can say is you must've been soooo in your protagonist's head and having so much fun.

I can't say I've ever been so entrenched in a scene that I find myself laughing. I have been in a scene where I find myself quaking in my boots, does that count ;)

Poor Dragon Software, I can picture it smoking... saying what? what?

Tell us how that is working for you, and how's your poor hand?

Barbara White Daille said...

Liz - too funny! Although I have to add that I laughed just as much over your dilemma with Dragon. LOL

Physical humor is hard to write. You've done a great job.

I get into character more easily with emotional scenes, as you and Tonya (hi, Tonya!) mentioned.

Great post!


Liz Lipperman said...

Donnell, I was having fun all by myself in my office. As for the Dragon, I'm using it now. As I've said before, I love it.

It makes sense that you get more into your heroine in a tense emotional scene. You write romantic suspense. I'd love to read some lines of dialogue or anything to see what you're talking about.

As for my fingers, they're doing great, but I have to wear the splints for four weeks. Thanks for asking about them.

Liz Lipperman said...

Barbara, the dragon thing was pretty funny. You forget that you have the microphone on.

I guess this was probably my first time at attempting physical humor, which is probably why I got so tickled.

Thanks for stopping by.

Donnell said...

Liz, I got so into this scene ;)

“Mrs. Norris.”
She faced him. “Yes?”
“Why did you stay in CaƱon City?”
“I’m curious. Why not leave after you were paroled? Why stay in a place that, no doubt, must’ve caused you bad memories?”
Two red stains appeared on her cheeks and she lowered her lashes.
The damn file, Joe thought. It's true. For some crazy reason, he’d hoped she’d explain it away.
“I'm surprised you don't already know the answer to that, Lieutenant.”
“I’ve heard one side. I want your version.”
Her hip brushed a ruler resting on the edge of the desk. She managed to catch it before it fell. Her eyes flashed as she smacked it against her palm. “I don’t owe you an explanation, so I’m only going to say this once. Luke is a good kid. No matter what you think of me, he doesn’t deserve your wrath. And why I stayed is none of your business.”

Liz Lipperman said...

Ooh, your heroine sounds feisty, EXACTLY what you need for a romantic suspense. and I can see why you transformed into her for this scene.

For those who don't already know this, this is the story that was contracted by Belle Bridge Books. I can't wait to read it in its entirety. when is it being released?

Thanks for being brave and putting your work out there, Donnell.

Donnell said...

Thanks, Liz. It's being retitled ;) But I do have a release date. September 15, 2011. Thanks for letting me share! I think it's important to love our heroines. I know you love yours, and it brings it home to the reader. Congrats!!!

Clarissa Southwick said...

Liz, I do try to put myself in my protag's position. But usually it's more about fear than laughter. Thanks for a wonderful excerpt

Donna Cummings said...

That was fun! I can't wait to see what those drapes do next. LOL I also loved your wrestling match with the Dragon software.

My heroines tend to be a bit more adventurous than I am, so I'm glad they let me tag along--they have a lot of fun. :) They also have great taste in men. LOL

VR Barkowski said...

So funny, Liz! Great excerpt. In my last ms, I ended up making my female protag more cynical exactly because I couldn't relate to her as she was. Some of her scenes make me laugh, but it's her skewed inner thoughts that do it.

The protags in my current WIP are both men. And while their dialogue is often laugh at loud funny (and I do laugh) I can't write physical humor. Maybe it just doesn't fit into my stories?

Liz Lipperman said...

Donnell, you release 15 days before me. We ought to have a cyber debut party. Be sure and remind me again, so I can tell everyone who reads this blog.

Liz Lipperman said...

Clarissa, is it any wonder there's not much humor in your stories? Don't you write scary stuff?

My question is, are you frightened when you write? Do you already know the end result, or do you wing it?

Liz Lipperman said...

Donna, with your sense of humor, I am really surprised you don't write humorous stories.

And does the fact that you made it a point to tell us your heroines all have great taste in men mean that you don't??? LOL.

Donna Cummings said...

Liz, I *do* write humorous stories! Or at least I thought so until now. LOL

I have great taste in men too. It's just they seem to reside in my laptop, not my neck of the woods!

Liz Lipperman said...

VR, I can't wait to read your stuff. And I love that you turn cynical into laugh out loud funny. One of my favorite scenes was written by JA Konrath when his male cop digs into a bag of powdered sugar to convince the drug dealer it's actually cocaine. Seems the fat guy has been on Atkin's diet for a while and goes nuts when he gets a taste of the sugar. Ends up with it all over his face.I needed new underwear then, too. (At my age, it's a hazard!!)

Anyway, thanks for commenting.

Lindsay said...

That excerpt reminded me of the seance at the Crime Bake. Way cool. I've tried Dragon and once it's trained works really nice but since I write mostly at work or if home have background noise I rely on typing.
At times I'll stick some humor in, great after suspense scene to get the reader to relax or get the reader relaxed so I can hit them with suspense

Rochelle Staab said...

You're so damn funny, Liz. The seance scene is great - the drapes, I love the drapes! And the furnace! Great physical humor.

I like on-the-job experiences so I put myself in my protag's shoes as often as possible - if she's in a dark room, I turn off the lights; if she's driving and I can't picture the scene, I take the ride. Just wish I had her hunky boyfriend to act out some of their cute scenes instead of settling for the ...

Occasionally, if I'm stuck on dialog or can't find the emotion in a scene, I will call my friend Pat (chums since 8th grade) or write my genius CP and we chat out the possibilities in the most outrageous fashion possible. Always works.

Thanks for giving us a peek into your next novel, Liz. I adore your crazy cast of characters!

Liz Lipperman said...

Okay, I'm back from the beauty shop, so my newly coiffed self will answer the comments.

Donna, I thought you wrote contemporary romance and historicals. I guess you could also do funny with those.

I love your laptop dating service, BTW!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, the seance at Crime Bake is what inspired me to do this scene. Initially, I had planned a serious seance, which is why Rochelle enacted one for us. Then I saw the perfect opportunity to make it funny, and I went for it.

Your idea of funny, then serious works well.

Liz Lipperman said...

Rochelle, thanks to you, this scene got written. It's probably not exactly the way you had anticipated after doing the seance st Crime Bake, though.

I love love love the idea of turning off the lights and driving around when you want to really envision a scene. I have always said I suck at descriptive writing.

This would really help. I can't wait to your read your story, too.

petemorin said...

I have a scene in Small Fish where my MC is at the bedside of his ex-wife while she is dying. It's a real tear-jerker (CW will attest - it even got her!). I first wrote the scene on my laptop on a commuter train from Boston out to the suburbs. Across from me sat the proverbial little old lady, who couldn't help but notice my advanced state of despair as I wiped tears away and banged away. She reached forward pated my hand and said "everything will work out for the best."

Liz Lipperman said...

Ah, Pete, what a great story. I love tear jerkers. Christine reads a lot of stories, so to get her to cry, it has to be a good one. I can't wait to read Small Fish. It will happen, my friend.

And I love it that a man can write such s tender scene and be so touched by it himself.

Mary Martinez said...

I have done this many times. Not humorous scenes though, but scary ones.

I wish I could write humor but it always comes out flat.

You're great at the Humor Liz good luck!