Tag: writing style

Jane Doe: inspecting writing style

Jane Doe: inspecting writing style

I said I was going to show examples of what I meant by “mood whiplash” and multiple POVs in my fiction.  I’ve selected the opening piece of Jane Doe and then two whole chapters that, I think, illustrate the kind of difference of mood I’m talking about.  The first part (“His Dead Eyes”) is first person, it’s dark and stark.  It’s nightmarish.  The second part (“The All-Night Laundromat”) is told in third person and is lighter, a little irreverent, and then moves back to the dark.  The third part (“The Boyfriend Inquisition”) is a few chapters after the laundromat scene and is silly, light, and totally different in feel from the first two.

These are first draft chapters I’m sharing so they are still quite rough.  I am trusting you all to consider this before judging on detail.  What I’m really looking at, for my own sake and possibly for your interest, is writing style.  I want to know if my writing style (multiple points of view as well as mixing both light and dark moods in the same story) can really work or am I doomed?

I’m putting them here, side by side, to see how it feels moving from one piece to the next.

There’s a lot of text in this post.  It’s a lot to take in.  If you’re interested in actually reading it you may want to print it out.  I won’t be giving such large examples for the Cricket and Grey style post.

If any of you happen to read all of this, please feel free to tell me what your thoughts are.  Is it difficult to or jarring to read a story with such different moods and changing pov?  Do you wish there was less contrast in between the light and dark?  Do you wish I would commit to either a light or dark atmosphere, and if so which do you like better?  Do you wish I would commit to one POV, and if so which do you like better?

His Dead Eyes

His dead eyes, like mousetraps, snap the neck of my hope, snap the neck of my youth, and steal fluid from me until I am as dry and as brittle as an autumn leaf, the last one falling from the empty cold branches. There is no light in them, there is nothing at all in them. They suck and they suck up life, absorbing everything: babies, mothers, acid, Pall Malls by the carton, and me. There is no reflection in death. There is no reflection in evil. There is no reflection of me, anywhere.

Those eyes, never seeing, was better. Never seeing or turning or watching but to say “Pick up the shit, whatever the fuck your name is little nobody!” Never registering on that dull cornea, never appearing in his conscienceless consciousness, where empty river beds cramp with broken glass, where birds hang from trees like effigies of joy, bleeding feathers onto the hot cracked rocks of hell that is the furniture of his mind.

Never seeing was better. Never seeing was living still. Was not dying before hearing my own name said with love, not spat on the floor like chum, inviting the sharks in to feast. Thirteen years of trying to uncover what action, what flicker of haste, what ill timed motion set all to flames and caught the dead eyes, drawing them onto my skin, drawing them onto my body where they waited and sucked and sucked and sucked the life out of the air I breathed and I still cannot find it, this speck of time, this infinitesimal motion which brought me down like a nestless sparrow from the free blue to the waiting ice.

Every night those eyes find me where I hide. There is no sheltering cove, no den of fur and twigs in which to camouflage my broken limbs. Before I close my eyes, holding my splintered bones close to me, they are already looking, turning slowly from the dark where they wait to suck the light from my rooms. I feel them reaching for my skin and I am a thousand snakes coiled to strike but I have no power. I have nothing, because I am no one.

I am a Jane Doe in my own life.


Yet, like the tiniest grain of wheat, there is nourishment in hope, however spare it may be. Someday there will be an answer to the winter hush of my spirit and my bones will heal. I will untie the effigies from their strings and I will lay them tenderly to rest in the soil of my own choosing, where those dead eyes cannot follow to spoil this gorgeous rest.

Then I will know my own name.

I will remove the tag from my toe.

Walk out of the morgue, into the light.

The All-Night Laundromat

Some city nights vibrate with visceral tension, and if you’re paying attention, you can almost feel it like a damp fog, getting under every one’s skin. These are nights when it is best to batten down the hatches, rest your shotgun across your knee, and wait for Armageddon to pass. However, if you must go out into the streets on one of these nights when the natives are looking for an excuse to cut into your comfort like it was butter for their crack-toast, then there is one place you should avoid: Laundromats in questionable neighborhoods. Never do your laundry on one of these combustible evenings in a Laundromat in a bad neighborhood because it’s a magnet for bullets and knives, for sweat and stale doughnuts. This is the place stiffs are discovered in the cold sober light of dawn with the first flush of morning washers. This is the place where you will find notes to the damned and scrawled threats on the walls in garish dripping spray paint.

This is not the kind of place where the sap of young dreams rises to the surface of life to be drunk delicately and nurtured. This is the kind of place where old whores come to clean their pilled up g-strings and to cleanse the micro skirts they wear to showcase their ass cheeks on the corner just outside of where they do this ritual washing. Living, whoring, washing, all on the same block. Life can feel small sometimes when our dreams have shrunk to fit this miserable little Formica covered palace of pay-per-wash detergent boxes with giant (always broken and therefore useless) change machines. This is no place for the ill prepared, or the still milky youths who have moved from mama’s house to find themselves, and their starry dreams, right here on O’Farrell Street. There are no dreams here. Only fossilized broken condoms near the front door, and the gutted frame of what you thought life was going to be.

Into this bleak atmosphere of desperation, on just such a night as I have described, Jane Bauer walked boldly into exactly the Laundromat I told you never to venture into on a night when there is a thick taste of violence in the air. She is not a milky youth, though she is fairly young still, not having reached thirty years of age yet, but you would not guess from looking at her fair clear skin, her dark glossy shoulder length hair, or at her robust tall form that she is a broken person. A person with more contradictions of experience and beliefs you will not find. Everything about Jane is a contradiction. She is broken though you would be hard pressed to find another woman more fiercely independent. She is funny and light and joyful, yet at the same time she carries with her a thousand pounds of sorrow and fear that lap at her light, dimming it in power surges that last for days.

This tall bottle of contradictions with the keen green eyes of a person accustomed to watching came into the All-Night-No-Fuss-Laundromat on O’Farrell Street because she was out of clean underwear. Jane Bauer is not a girl willing to wear dirty underwear. She could feel the thick tension in the city air on this night and it made her alert, her skin alive with warning. Yet she must do her laundry. It is not agreeable to be caught waiting out Armageddon in filthy panties no matter how many shotguns you have to rest on your knees. Jane hates the word “panties”. She hears it a lot where she works, at the underwear factory. She is the shipping manager for the factory and all day long she packs up tiny panties, panties with no crotches sometimes, cheap flimsies, bras and teddies, filmy nothings favored particularly by women with breast “enhancements” and frosty hair. There is going to come a moment when the irony of Jane’s job is going to sock you in the teeth, but that moment isn’t now.

Sometimes these charged nights when no one should be wandering the streets at all are the only nights on which lives that would normally never intersect may cross each other like a streak of stars, blinding, brief, and beautiful. This is one of those nights.

At the very moment that Jane is loading her dirty clothes into a giant washing machine and feeding it ten pounds of quarters, a very tall man in an especially well cut grey wool overcoat and a worker’s cap is walking up O’Farrell Street in the direction of the All-Night-No-Fuss Laundromat because he has just gotten off of work and is cooling the sweat from his day, which has already been full of flashing lights, blood, and the evidence that this is one of those days when it is best to stay home. Isaac is a paramedic, a very good man to have around in emergencies, hands built to receive the most desperate bodies. He is egregiously handsome. Women have been known to rip open their shirts for him in public. But he is not a man who enjoys such shameless displays of breastitude. Well, not overly much, anyway.

There are two more lives that will meet at this intersection of disparate paths in just a few minutes from right now. A pimp and his whore are busy counting her $20 bills earned from alley blow jobs and there is a question about the amount, a slight discrepancy of expectation as often blooms between pimps and their girls. The bricks are being laid for their Friday night as they raise their voices, pace up and down the corner; ugly words begin to flow like the ooze of old sores coming loose in the fray. Everything is fast tonight, in slow motion. Try to understand how slowly everything moves in reverse.

Jane is waiting, watching the street ramping up its thumping party vibe from inside the mausoleum quiet of the empty Laundromat. These are the kinds of moments when we tend to notice the burn marks in the old linoleum from dropped cigarettes- little orange melted craters in the floor, and the flickering florescent lights, casting a sickly green cast onto all the ancient dirty white folding tables and dented machines. Jane is simply waiting for her washing to be done.

The pimp and his whore have graduated from the little fight to the accumulating clouds of aggravation expected to explode regularly on a Friday night. They are enacting their drama publicly, with muscles snapping, jaws gnashing, and pushing has begun. They trip from the corner towards the All-Night-No-Fuss-Laundromat, the pimp getting ugly, letting the crack fueled rage loose on the whore’s stringy body, she is slightly running from him, yet still attempting to placate and absolve.

Isaac is passing Jones Street. He is beginning to feel the blood of the day loosen its grip from his mind. He is taking deep breaths of Friday night air, aware that it is fraught with fight. He is trying to think about mundane things like eating quietly with his Grandmother; heading home to the blessings of good books and long drinks of cold beer.

Jane is standing by the washer near the front door when their three bodies collide: the pimp and the woman crash through the door like an explosion of gasoline; Jane turns to the noise but it has already hit her before she can react to this writhing scratching pushing tangle of charged flesh, hurtling into her, knocking her backwards, the bodies keep moving, following her as she hits the wall; they hit it on top of her and she feels elbows smash painfully into her ribs and the smell is intense- sex and death and pollen- the wind is knocked out of her but she’s pinned to the wall by the weight of these bodies and then, just as suddenly as the bodies pinned her they rolled off in a fresh turn of fight on the wall not ten inches from where she’s left standing.  The pimp’s hard hands are clamped around the whore’s neck.

Jane and the woman are facing each other, Jane sees her eyes looking back at her rather than at him, and they implore, they wish and they seek but Jane can’t move, she can’t actually feel her body anymore. She can no longer tell what is real, what is imagined, if she’s awake or in her other life where it’s all stark grief and dust curls into open mouths. The woman’s skin is turning and the eyes are popping, the man- Jane cannot look at him, she cannot see him, cannot allow herself to see him because she has seen his fingers and already knows what’s in his eyes because she’s seen it in men before and the woman is going to die not ten inches from where Jane stands against the wall, not breathing.

When Isaac passes the picture window of the All-Night-No-Fuss Laundromat he sees a man killing a woman. Without thought, without noise, he has crossed the Laundromat and grabs the pimp by the collar, prying his tight fingers from the woman’s neck and shoving the pimp to the floor like a goddamn super hero who does this kind of thing all night long in capes and gauntlets. He is already phoning 911. The woman, now getting her color back is already leaning down to her man saying “I’m sorry baby, I’m so sorry baby” and no one will ever know whether she’s sorry he didn’t kill her or sorry he was thrown to the ground or sorry she didn’t give enough blow jobs today to score them a dime bag tonight. She sees Isaac’s phone out and tells him not to call the cops.

Jane is the accidental body that is finally falling, a long long way down from where she so recently stood, she is falling and it doesn’t matter to her that her head is catching on the corner of the folding table in front of her. Nothing really matters where she is now, because she is already gone. Isaac, who has been shaking his head at the two drug addicts who will kill each other on some other Friday night when the city fever is running high, has not turned around in time to see that Jane is going to fall, he has had no time to register this extra witness to the unfolding violence. He can do nothing, every super hero’s worst day, she is sprawled on the floor, face down, and her head is beginning to leak out onto the pocked floor, a very small pool of dark red, inching closer and closer to a hard grey lump of old gum near her face.

Isaac has already called the paramedics, he does what he can while he waits, a job he performs all day long, he gently checks for broken bones, checks for other wounds and checks her pulse, then he looks for something to staunch her bleeding. Never once moving the body. He removes his coat and lays it across her sprawled form to help with the shock, then he removes his shirt to fold up and hold against the open gash on Jane’s temple, which is beginning to bleed more steadily. There they sit for what feels like a hundred years of bleeding; Isaac is cold in his undershirt, but he doesn’t move because he would never leave a person to bleed to death. He doesn’t question. He has no thoughts right now. Checks pulse, scans the Laundromat, sees that they are completely alone, and off in the distance, cutting the city fugue into ribbons of light is the sound of approaching mercy.


There are voices to answer, lights rushing in and a thickening of pain. Hey, they say, can you hear me? Can you see me? Can you speak? And it is to her and yet not to her. She feels faces move in like shadows on a wall of blurred color. She has no mouth. Isaac, have you checked for identification? We have a Jane Doe, mid to late twenties, with a head wound, BP’s low, staunch it, staunch it!, how’d this happen? Hello? Can you hear me?

She would like them to stop talking, stop touching her ribs where there is an explosion of white light against the curtain of her head every time those fingers crush into her, and there is so little air she feels as though she might be happiest here in the watery underworld where girls like her go to die.

This is better than those eyes again. Better than all the rushing pictures, the out of focus memories, let them slide away down the muddy riverbanks and let there be no more of this pain. Vaguely feeling hands shift her weight, which is foreign to her, foreign to them. She has heard Jane Doe before, from this same watery place where voices are slow and miles up to the surface, she has been called Jane Doe before.

She hears: “I’m sorry.” She hears it close and it is quiet around the words like a lullaby just for her, a slow burning piano sonata just for her. “I’m sorry.” Close to her skin like a blanket. But whatever for? Who is sorry for what? It comes closer now but not because it comes closer to her but because she is rising like a corpse from the bottom of the lake up to where the faces hover and she emerges from the water but without sound. It seems she cannot work all at once. Nothing can work all at once. When her eyes focus on the faces looking down at her she can not hear them, not even muffled, there is only the most profound silence and she’s not scared because she knows this silence.

They are mouthing things she cannot hear and she watches them with the calm of a person who’s already said everything that will ever need to be said. The calm of the half-dead. Uniforms lean in and out and when they lean out she can see the ceiling moving above her. There is one face left for a moment which she evaluates calmly. Hazel eyes. Pale with dark hair like hers. Taller than people are supposed to be. He is watching her too and she thinks he sees her where she is, so far away from all of them. Impossible. She feels everything shift and shimmer and then the man’s face is looking at one of the uniforms and is mouthing something that looks loud and urgent but it doesn’t matter where she is. She is warm and she is tucking herself away now.

She says, “I am Jane Doe” and she is unconscious again.


It is deeper here. Like a memory within a memory.

Does anyone know who the victim is? Has anyone found identification? There must be something. Does she live here? Where is the smell of urine coming from? Oh. And the blood? Do we know if there is any other wound? Someone check with the neighbors. OK. Can’t see her features well under those contusions. Take pictures before we move her. Quickly. There are flashes and searches for identity. None is found.

We’ve got a Jane Doe in her early teens, unconscious, one eye swollen shut, a patch of hair missing from her scalp, bruising to her abdomen, a possible broken rib, raped, left lying unconscious on the floor. We’re taking her to Marin General. Someone find out who she belongs to.

I have been called Jane Doe before.

I’d like to follow the water.

I’d like to follow the water to the snow.

The Boyfriend Inquisition

While Isaac walked the couple of blocks to the Cafe des Croissants to meet a stranger named “Tim” who seemed to be Jane’s watchdog friend, he wondered why he had agreed to come. What shade of fool was he to agree to meet a person who required him to bring picture ID, proof of address, and his worker’s badge just to tell him if Jane had been run over by a Muni bus? All he wanted to know was if she hadn’t called because something dreadful had happened to her? This “Tim” character had suggested they meet up and if Isaac could prove that he was some kind of legitimate human being and not the next Ted Bundy (yes, these people seemed quite obsessed with serial killers, as though they were in constant danger from them) he would tell Isaac what he wanted to know. This was part madness, ridiculous paranoia, and also intriguing.

Isaac let his curiosity win. It was a gorgeous late spring morning and the cafe was close to his house. He was wearing his usual casual but stylish clothes, his hair was perhaps a little disheveled, and his old fashioned sneakers were a little bit frayed, but over all he was as handsome as always and when Tim saw him approaching he couldn’t help but dismiss him as the guy he was waiting for. Isaac was nothing like Poor George, Jane’s first real boyfriend. This guy just wasn’t the same make or class. Tim had an appreciative eye for lads and this one was pretty exquisite. Not Jane’s man, for sure. He would be looking for someone dumpier, possibly wall eyed, with a slightly sloped posture. This might sound unkind unless you were privileged enough to judge the slew of boyfriends Jane had tried to be enthusiastic about.

There was Charles The Blond who had platinum hair and wore out-dated glasses, the kind that serial killers wear, and he always had a saggy air about him. In spite of this general air of sagginess, he was surprisingly despotic in the expectations he had of his girlfriends. His idea was that girlfriends should always kiss a man when he picks her up at the muni stop where they are meeting and takes very unkindly to any application of lipstick which might render this slurpy greeting less agreeable. He declared that Jane should always want to hang out with him on Friday nights because that’s apparently an expected night for girlfriends and boyfriends to sit close to each other on sad patchy couches watching something meant to inspire a little make out session.

It was fortunate for everyone, especially Jane, that he wimped out on Jane’s issues before Tim or Luca was forced to kill the sucker because later on they found out the dude had gotten crabs from somewhere and the blaring question was undoubtedly “What woman out there with crabs was willing to sleep with Charles The Blond?” Both Tim and Luca had prayed that their own sweet Jane wasn’t serious about trying to see it through with him. Their relief at his departure was thick and joyous.

While Tim was lost in his thoughts about Jane’s past boyfriends Isaac had figured out that Tim must be the person he was looking for and broke into Tim’s reverie with a polite tap on his shoulder and introduced himself. They shook hands and Tim, trying hard not to drop his jaw, motioned to the seat across from him and invited Isaac to sit down. This was a promising turn of luck for his Jane, except that he was obviously suspicious about his degree of handsomeness and apparent ease, a known trait in some serial killers and other creeps. Isaac asked when Tim would like to satisfy himself with his “papers” and Tim said, quite seriously, that it would be best to have a look right away. Isaac couldn’t tell if Tim was being completely serious about this whole ID thing or not, part of him felt it was an elaborate joke in which Jane’s friend got to eye him head to toe, which was exactly what it was, but he admitted it was possible that Tim was a bit loose headed and didn’t know how inappropriate this was.

Either way, Isaac didn’t particularly care. He had the capacity to go with the flow, to see where things might lead, to unearth adventure in the quotidian. If he had been otherwise he would not have had such a wonderful evening with Jane, who was also apparently a little unhinged, but charming. Perhaps he had unearthed a small society of harmless eccentrics. His life outside of work was quiet enough that it could use a dose of the unusual, of the unexpected. It was in this spirit that he solemnly presented his driver’s license, his ambulance driver’s license, his station badge, and a letter that had been sent to him at his home address with his name on it. He laid them out carefully and waited to see what Tim would have to say.

Tim appreciated the sangfroid with which this stranger allowed him to peruse the details of his life that Tim had no right to ask for and it amused Tim that Isaac had completely followed his lead in going through this deadpan pantomime of ridiculous paranoia. Dude must lead a very dull life, Tim thought, to be game enough to go through an inquisition all for a girl he had met once. It piqued Tim’s curiosity, a curiosity completely shared by Isaac.

Tim pushed all the official identification back to Isaac across the table. “OK, he said.” and they looked at each other. “She’s not dead.” he assured Isaac, with a studied serious expression which made Isaac burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry!” he apologized trying to force his face into it’s previous serious mode.

“What you really want to know is why Jane hasn’t called you back.” Tim said, changing from his charade of boyfriend inquisitor to his casual easy going self. “Seriously? I can’t understand it myself now that I have met you and, uh, see that you are an upstanding gentleman with an excellent job who is obviously good in emergencies. Chick magnet I imagine!” and he winked at Isaac who didn’t know where to look or what to do because people under seventy just don’t wink at each other any more. Especially men to other men.

“Yes. That’s it completely.” He admitted and felt lame. Lame because he didn’t want to have to explain the things he was thinking or expose himself as an eager beau. No one wants to be thought overly eager in the pursuit of love because it doesn’t get less cool than that, unless you’re Poor George and you just don’t get it.

“You have to promise me you’re not going to tell Jane that I searched you for proper identification.” Tim said. “She’d kill me. In fact, if you could not tell her we met up, that would be even better.”

“Sure. So are you really close to her?” Isaac asked.

“We’ve been friends since third grade.  My parents unofficially adopted her when she was thirteen. So, yeah.” Tim reminded himself silently not to run off at the mouth just because this guy was so good looking he couldn’t stop thinking slightly dirty thoughts which distracted him from what he was actually saying. Luca wouldn’t feel betrayed, provided Tim gave no details. Still, this was potentially Jane’s man and he owed it to her not to give too much away. Isaac was taking this in and trying to decide how ethical it would be to ask for any details about Jane. It felt slightly stalkerish and improper to pump her close friend for any information. On the other hand, this red headed freckled freak of a man who obviously liked to play deep games might be able to give him an idea if he should just drop this or not.

While Isaac was busy debating stalking ethics, Tim was remembering another manly gem who had asked Jane out. Roger Kinkytail (not his real last name). In a stunning miscalculation of taste Jane agreed to date this very handsome, postureful male specimen who seemed practically normal, except for having the unfortunate name of Roger, which in some circles elicits visions of nekid activities of an explicit nature. Much like the name “Randy” evokes unfortunate visions of horny teens. That and Roger’s vision of unifying Jane, Tim, and Luca in a “cosmic” communion of flesh and fantasy in which the four of them would reach Nirvana through a rich romp in a busy bed. No amount of handsome could erase the horror from any of their minds and Jane was left wondering what signals she had put out to attract such a piece of work as Roger. Tim and Luca consoled her as best they could with offers to set her up with Luca’s heterosexual cousin Mack which generous offer Jane limply waved away, declaring that she was not ever going to date again and instead was going to become the best spinster she possibly could. Petticoats and all.

Tim knew that Isaac was dying for details. He could smell Isaac’s keenness like a fox on the scent of something spicy and personal. So he was trying to figure out what he could tell this tall fellow with the dark hair, pale skin, and dark brown eyes.
“Dude,” Tim began “It’s a little unethical for me to tell you anything about my best friend until I know if she’s even really interested in you and also until I find out if you have a crazy wife tucked away in an attic in Idaho or something.”

“Have you and Jane had a lot of experiences with people that store wives in attics?” he asked curiously.

Tim laughed quietly. “No.” and he appeared to have something else to say yet the hesitation hung out there between them while Tim tried to figure out what the hell he was doing. Perhaps it was Toothsome Barry who had filled Tim with genuine despair for Jane’s future in loving and which made him now so reckless. Reckless with her heart, a place he had no right to meddle. He had no right to encourage this gorgeous tall dark eyed eager (yes, Tim sees through Isaac’s veneer of coolness) man who seems solid and free of sagginess, extra wives, and tricky lusts.

Toothsome Barry left Tim with a foul feeling in his chest just from having to look at Barry’s capacious mouth. It seemed like terrible proof that Jane was going through the motions only to reassure the people who loved her that she really cared about dating; proof that she didn’t have her eyes open. Of all things, to have agreed to date a man with as many long teeth as Barry had was uncharacteristic of Jane who had a fastidiousness concerning mouths that didn’t allow for horsey, dirty, dark brown, creaky, or mossy teeth. Tim had to admit that he had never witnessed Jane kissing this paragon of mouth hygiene gone wrong and it’s also true that she often closed her eyes while looking in his direction, which, honestly, wasn’t much anyway.

Here Tim was looking at a deliciousness who seemed already a little uncomfortably hot under the collar for his own sweet Jane and he couldn’t bear to think of Jane deciding not to see him just because she had only gone out with losers before and figured this one would turn out to be the same. He was grappling with a feeling about this one, feeling a new hope, and unabashedly, for the first time in his life he felt the bow of cupid thrust in his hand and it was irresistible, it was a temptation too great. It was Jane’s damnable lack of self confidence which had landed her so many limp duds. Tim didn’t think her previous forced forays into love were proof of anything. She had always been his magnificent savior, his champion, and the greatest platonic love he had ever had. She was his treasure and these slithery toothsome people she kept dragging home to prove that she was normal irritated Tim beyond belief because not a single one of them deserved her.

Here was a promising specimen with good posture, an estimable job, and obviously a sense of humor (and some curiosity) or he would never have agreed to Tim’s suggestion to come bringing all manner of identification. Jane would certainly kill him if she could see him right now. He shivered a little at the thought because she had a preternatural sight. He could walk away right now, say nothing, give no hoped for encouragement of courtship to this amazon of a man, which (let’s be honest) would be insane, or he could throw a crumb or two in the path of love; be the bow that hits the bulls eye. If he didn’t take a hand, the chances were pretty great that Jane would let him slip away.

“The thing about Jane,” he began carefully “is that she doesn’t have a lot of trust in people.” and at Isaac’s curious look he stopped.

“I’m thinking she’s not the only one!” Isaac said, grinning.

“Yes, well, I have to be careful. She’s my oldest friend. She’s like a sister. Some dude calls me up to ask questions about her- I have to be sure he’s not-”

“The next Ted Bundy. I know. I just think it’s funny you saying she isn’t trustful. And what is it with you two being obsessed with Ted Bundy? There are a lot of other serial killers out there too.”

“Yes, but he’s the only one famous for luring his victims with his handsomeness. Anyway, my guess is that Jane is too timid to call you back. I think she probably wants to but can’t get herself to pick up the phone.” he explained reasonably.

“What should I do? I suppose it isn’t appropriate for me to ask you that.” he said, shrugging his shoulders a little and taking a sip of his forgotten coffee.

“I think you should drop by her work and see her in person. I can’t give you her home address, that would be highly inappropriate, but she works with a lot of very alert muscled men who will not hesitate to beat the shit out of you if you do anything threatening, so I feel comfortable giving her work address to you. I think if you talk to her in person she’ll have a hard time saying no to whatever you propose to her. I mean, provided it isn’t creepy or anything.”

“Won’t she be suspicious that I found out where she works?” he asked.

“Definitely. But you can just say there’s a mole in her life. She’ll be so distracted by you standing right there in front of her she won’t really pay close attention. I mean, if you do it right.” he said impishly. “Once she really thinks about it she’ll know it was me but by then it won’t matter.”

“You’re a strange man, you know?” he said.

Tim wrote down an address on one of the cafe napkins and slid it across the table to Isaac who took it, folded it up neatly and put it into one of his pants pockets.

“Why are you doing this for me?” he asked Tim. “Why not just tell me to shove it on the phone?”

“Toothsome Barry is why.” he said getting up. They shook hands and Tim strolled back towards his apartment with a huge smile on his face and a sudden acute desire to grapple a little with his own dark haired man. Life just might be about to get a whole lot better for us all, he thought to himself. If he knew how to whistle he would have whistled a jaunty tune all the way home.

Isaac watched this stocky fiery man walking away down the street with an air of someone who has a pot of gold stashed in their underwear drawer

He had definitely uncovered a den of eccentrics.

Writing Style

I haven’t taken a photograph in almost a month.  I’m running out of images to use and they are getting less and less related to the actual posts they accompany.

I have spent a week considering what my writing style is.  My sister asked me if it’s important that it have a label.  I absolutely think that when you get to the point, as a writer, that you are determined to get your work in print, you must know what your style is in order to sell it.  No one will be impressed if you say “My style is undefinable”.  It is the great vanity of creative people to believe their work defies all description or labeling.

I am told that having an enormous creative crisis at this point in my project is perfectly normal.  I finished writing the second draft and promptly realized I am a total hack writer with no definable style and no consistency or true gift.  Nothing but a loser and a waste of time.  It’s been pretty spectacular.  I’ve actually been crying about it when no one’s looking.

I realize that I’m letting you know just how pathetic I’ve been behaving over this.  I’ve just been writing in such a vacuum and I am the only one to read my book and judge if the efforts have been worthwhile and I am not able to judge this.  It’s like asking me to say if I made a good enough child, to judge if I might have been better off sticking with cats.

Here’s what really worries me: if I’m to judge by Cricket and Grey what my writing style is I have to say it has multiple personality disorder.  I needed to write in both first and third person.  I struggled with that for a long time when I first started writing it.  It was agonizing until I simply accepted that I needed to write in both perspectives and got on with it.

It’s about seeing in and seeing out.

Do I need both because I’m not skilled enough to pick one and make it work?  Good question.

The other thing is that the style is both light and playful like a Georgette Heyer novel and then shifts to a grainy disturbing darkness full of nightmare and evil and gritty naked truth.

It’s like trying to blend Pride and Prejudice with The Road.

Doesn’t it seem like these are two completely incompatible styles?  So how can my style be a mix of the two?

Yet it is.  Alternating constantly between the two, rather than blending.

Everyone kept saying to step away from the second draft for a while.  My friend Angela suggested I work on some other writing project while letting the second draft breath.  So finally I opened up and dusted off the Jane Doe book I’d shoved under the bed.

There it was again.  First person and third person.  Only I never agonized over it with Jane Doe because I went on instinct alone.  No planning, no outlines, and no plot work (which explains how I got to 108, 000 words and couldn’t possibly end it and had to stash it somewhere to sleep for a while), I went with my instinct.  I just wrote like a maniac.  I wrote those hundred thousand words in less than three months.  It took me over a year to do the same with Cricket and Grey.

I spent much of yesterday rereading Jane Doe.  I was surprised by how much I like it.  How worthy the bones of it are.  The plot is a disaster and huge aspects of it need reworking but there is work there I can be proud of.

My style is as steady in it’s duality as my own personality is.  It also permeates my life, my blog writing, and my head.  To recognize it offered at least the relief of finally seeing that I do have a style.

What haunts me now is how on earth my style will ever get published?  When you pick up a book you expect to be carried along in a smooth and seamless narrative that sustains a specific mood.  There is no part of The Road that is irreverent or playful or light hearted.  Likewise there is no part of Pride and Prejudice that falters from the light social satirical mood, there are no cannibals or serial killers lurking in the bushes at Longbourn and even if there were they’d be fodder for satire as well.

My style is an unblended mix of dark and light.  Harsh and gentle.

My style is likely to give you mood whiplash.

There is the breezy irreverent mood that skims through you like a pretty little boat and then just as you’re relaxed into this kind and quirky place I take you down to hell where your eyes are gouged out by my personal demons, where I rip you to pieces with knives and there is a lot of blood.

Who the hell wants to take that trip for 300 pages?

Aside from me, I mean.  It’s the only trip I know and I’m comfortable with extreme contrasts.  It’s the only trip I’m capable of taking anyone on.  I do it all the time in my blog.  There is the visceral rich writing that is thick with images and stark with violence and then there’s all the joking about penises and Republicans.  My blog is all high contrasts.  There are two moods, two personalities in constant alternation.

Inside versus outside.

Exactly like what I show the world versus the hell in my head.

Exactly how I make light of absolutely everything and just as everyone is enjoying the breezy conversation I dump your heart full of anger, abuse, pessimism, death, and hopelessness.

I do it fast.  I never know exactly when the mood will switch but I doubt there’s a friend alive who hasn’t kind of wished I wouldn’t do that.

My writing style is:

1.  Dual points of view in the same story/piece.

2.  Alternates constantly between rich and dark with breezy and sweet.

3.  Violence is a constant theme.

I still don’t know how to succinctly label the style as I don’t think there’s a whole lot of precedence for it.  There may be a really good reason for that.  Which is what terrifies me.

Having writing crisis’ serve a purpose.  I see what my style is very clearly now.  I just have to convince myself that I can write well enough to make it work, to make people want to go on my trip.

In truth I am completely overwhelmed by how much work it takes to make a novel good enough to print.  I keep telling myself it doesn’t have to be a work of fucking art because I want to be a career novelist, not necessarily a nobel prize winner.  I just want to write.  It doesn’t have to be the most amazing thing ever.  I don’t have to put every single thing I’ve got into one story.

But I do.  It is unacceptable to me to write anything mediocre.  It is unacceptable to me to write anything less than the best I have in me.

How many years will it take me to make Cricket and Grey good enough?

How long will my family, friends, and other responsibilities wait for me to be completely present again?  Writing a worthy novel takes so much more out of you than you ever think it can.  It’s exhilarating and draining simultaneously.

If I was already published, if I already had a novel out there that was reasonably successful I know my family would not grow too impatient, but how long can they sustain patience for this endless project with no results, no reward, no success.

My writer friend Angela asked me if I’d still be writing novels even if I never got published.  I said yes.  I can’t stop this trip now.  I bought the ticket when I was ten and I’m not getting off now that I finally caught the damn train.  But if I never got published I would feel sad if I looked back and found I’d made a sacrifice of my family just to write for myself.  My garden is full of blackberry and choked with quack-grass for this writing.  You can’t write gently here and there, snatching a spare moment when one presents itself if you want to make a story come to life.  It requires you to bury yourself in it, spend shocking amounts of time ignoring absolutely everything else around you.

So if I’m not good enough to get published then it would be really nice to know that now and spare the rest of my life such criminal neglect.

My gut tells me I’m good enough.  My gut tells me that even if I’m an uncomfortable writer to read, even if my style of writing gives readers mood whiplash, it’s at least honest.  It’s the interior and the exterior in one place.  It is the reality: we require efforts at buoyancy and light in order to swallow the swords of hell without dying.  My gut tells me that my style might not be comfortable but it reflects a truth that people will understand because it reflects the order of the universe:

Dark and Light.  Yin and Yang.  Good and Evil.  Virgin and Whore.  God and Satan.  Life and Death.  Summer and Winter.  Men and Women.  Black and White.  Private and Public.  Innocence and Guilt.  Ugly and Beautiful.  Night and Day.  Truth and Lies.

I will find a way to describe this style in one small sentence or phrase.

For my own process I am going to publish a few excerpts from both Jane Doe and from Cricket and Grey that illustrate this style.  If anyone wants to weigh in and describe how they perceive my writing style I welcome it, however, this is an exercise for myself mostly so that I may concentrate on distilling my understanding of my own style so that I can go to a book agent and say “When you read my book THIS is what you’re getting.”

I have to thank all my family and friends who have patiently been coaching me out of this awful crisis.  I have been sinking pretty far this week.  Part of this is no doubt compounded by the cough and the sore throat and the stupid calf muscle.  Being sick is not easy on a crisis already in progress.

I am climbing out of my hole.

There’s much work to be done.