“Creativity is a continual surprise.”
Ray Bradbury

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Day Three: Friends Don't Let Friends Wear Vampire Dresses
Thu 2011-11-03 20:22:52 (in context)
  • 6,060 words (if poetry, lines) long

So I'm auditioning an Idea. In my head. An Idea about how this novel is going to be structured. I think each chapter will be a different story, maybe a fairy tale retelling or maybe not, in which a purchase from the magic shop sparks adventure and disaster and heroism and tragedy. And each will also feature a conversation between the shop keeper and someone who's tracked her down (or him, or otherwise; gender is as fluid as species, and needs to be, for a shop keeper who can open shop doors on any world) and wants to know about her (or his, etc.) role in all this.

And I'm thinking that, like Dream of the Endless through the long narrative of The Sandman, the shop keeper's idea of her (we'll say "her" for convenience's sake) responsibilities toward her customers and her agency in their stories will subtly change over her millenia. But she doesn't realize it. As far as she's concerned, everything she tells each chapter's interrogator is true and has been true throughout her career.

Thing is, if I want this novel to ultimately be about her, it can't be because some THING happened to suddenly thrust her front and center into a story. She's been doing this magic shop thing for uncounted years. She's practically a deity. What aspect of the vampire dress story could possibly be special enough to spur her into sudden action? It makes more sense for me that her urge to assert her own will over story events is an urge that grows on her gradually over many, many hundreds of thousands of years.

In trying out that structural Idea, I'm free to keep noodling along the story of the vampire dress. Because I need to see that chapter through, right? And in this chapter, the shop keeper sends two people after Martha to try to stave off disaster. One is Cathy, one of the three young women Martha was simultaneously envious of and shamed by in the shop before she tried on the dress. Cathy gets the spotlight for today's excerpt. She's wearing an item of clothing that the shop keeper gave her. It's also enchanted, but I'm not sure in what way. It allows her to see through the glamour that the vampire dress casts, that's for certain, but I'm still figuring out the rest.

The second person the shop keeper sends is her interrogator -- yesterday's "you" character. That whole bit about her words not being a free gift? Well. Her words also were part of her merchandise, also a magical item. Again, I'm not sure how that all fits in, but I like the idea that anything you take with you out that shop's door has the power to direct Story.

"And that gorgeous collar you're wearing?" Rachel stabbed an enthusiastic finger at Cathy's throat, oblivious to the way her friend pulled back sharply from the weapon-like digit, tipped as it was with a long, sharp, red-hued nail. Rachel had always been fastidious about her nails. "It matches perfectly, all old-fashioned and stuff. Did your cousin really wear that, too?"

"It's so elegant," put in Jacqueline.

Cathy blushed and admitted that it had been a gift, and that she was indeed lucky that it matched the dress, but then black lace is black lace when you get right down to it. She fidgeted with the single black teardrop hanging from the choker's center.

"Oh, look--" Jacqueline interrupted Cathy's stammerings and pointed toward the entrance. "It's Mr. Willingham. Oh, that's so sad -- you heard about him right?"

"Is that him?" Cathy recalled the newspaper item covering the protests in Northside. "He's the one who's daughter went missing?"

"Yeah, that's him. Martha Willingham. She was just two years behind our class at Withervine. Classmates saw her leaving campus and heard her say to a friend she was going to Old Town. No one saw her since." Jacqueline continued with the unnecessary details, recounting the news story they'd all read in a melodramatic voice, clearly relishing the tragedy. Cathy thought her enjoyment in poor taste.

Rachel sniffed. "What's he doing here, then? He's so distraught over his daughter he's got to organize half of the Withervine neighborhood to protest, what's he doing at a party?"

"Maybe he hopes she'll turn up here," said Cathy. She wasn't sure what to think of the whole thing, really, but Rachel was always so judgmental. Cathy couldn't help jumping to the defense of anyone Rachel started ranting about. It was an unthinking reflex, and it sometimes got her into trouble, especially when Rachel actually had the right of it. But it was hard to let Rachel's condemnations go unanswered. "Or maybe he's coming to realize she's gone for good, like the police have, and he's trying to cheer himself up. If I'd lost a daughter, and some bigwig was offering me a chance to drink myself into oblivion on their dime, I'd take it."

"You wouldn't." Jacqueline laughed. "Have you ever been drunk?"

Cathy admitted she hadn't. "But I've also never lost a child under mysterious circumstances, either."