07 November 2011

NaNoWriMo II: The 10K Club

Well, we're a fifth of the way through November so a fifth of the novel was supposed to be finished by the end of today (I'm writing this after midnight, so technically...yesterday). I haven't posted anything here about my progress but figured this was as good an occasion as any to pause and make note of the experience so far.

Firstly, I finished writing somewhere around 5:45 on Sunday afternoon. I could have kept going, except a friend of mine popped in on me and I went out with him. We wound up renting Batman: Year One from Wild and Wooly and he made some terrific ribs with mac and cheese for dinner. (I'm broke, but he was gracious enough to let me wash the dishes at least.) All that extraneous information aside, my final word count when we left stood at 10,397.

I've actually had a pretty good run so far. I got ahead the first night, clearing 2,000 words. In fact, I've stayed on top of this enough that I cleared 10,000 words for the first six days without even writing a single word on Thursday (3 November). I'm sure that sounds like boasting and I don't mean it to; I'm merely trying to allow myself a moment of feeling like I've been productive on this.

For those who may be wondering about the content itself, I'd rather not get into it too much but I can say that I've already introduced my principal three characters, established the particulars of how, when, where and why they will come together and I'm just about to get into that part of the story.

One of my writing influences is Ian Fleming. I'm not able to embellish stories about wartime espionage, of course, but the one thing I picked up from Fleming is to name specific, actual products. For instance, one of my characters begins the story treating himself to some bourbon and cigars. He chooses Knob Creek and Montecristos (#3, the torpedoes). Why? Because I hold them in high esteem. He rents an Inifinty G37 Convertible because it wasn't the obvious choice but I thought it looked good, got good mileage (important for driving round trip from St. Louis to Louisville) and he rents it from the Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Kirkland, Missouri because even though I don't think you can actually get that car from them, this Trekkie could not resist the combination of Enterprise and Kirkland.
A character in another scene is seen reading comic books. She's reading Batgirl. Why? Because I've enjoyed the first two issues of the current series and the lighthearted tone of the book seemed to suit the nature of this character to me.

Mostly, though, I have specified clothing. I've got an entire sequence in which one character buys a suit from Brooks Brothers. I hit their website to get information about their actual selection and prices at present, and I used their color description (charcoal, not black!). I wasn't sure how customers would know the name of Brooks Brothers employees, so I tweeted them to ask, explaining that I was setting a scene in my NaNoWriMo novel in one of their stores. They replied:
Indeed, we give our names. 
I hope they don't mind that I made their employee seem a little bit snobbish; it wasn't meant to disparage them at all, but rather I intended the scene as an homage to P.G. Wodehouse's terrific Jeeves stories--which I specifically reference in this passage. My character is tight on money, so I also hope they understand that I don't mean to portray them as outrageously expensive, either. I can't afford to shop there at present, of course--see paragraph two--but I recognize that they do, indeed, sell fine men's clothing and that such quality is not inexpensive. Anyway, he wound up purchasing a two-button Suiting Essentials jacket in charcoal, with pleat-front trousers from the same collection (also in charcoal).
Two-Button Suiting Essentials Jacket
Likewise, I dressed my lead female character earlier today in a tweed pantset from Danny & Nicole, sold at JC Penny. She co-owns a modest hotel with her husband, so I figured she would want to dress appropriately for her job, but that she would be practical and shop at a place like JC Penny instead of somewhere pricier. I think the pantset I selected looks nice; tasteful, but showcases curves. Most guys (and quite a lot of women) would look twice at someone wearing this well but it's not designed to beg for such attention.
Tweed Pantset by Danny & Nicole
Under her pantset, however, my character wants a boost of confidence so she's wearing a bra and panties from Victoria's Secret. Since I had gone to the trouble of researching the Brooks Brothers suit and the Danny & Nicole pantset, I risked being completely confused and went to the Victoria's Secret website. Thankfully, it was fairly easy to navigate and my friend arrived just in time to help me make the right choices. We determined she is sporting a Miraculous Multi-way Bra (gray floral lace) and Incredible Incredible hiphugger panties (black rose lace).

I agree with Fleming that naming actual products helps create a sense of reality within a story. You can actually go buy these things yourself, for one thing, and also there's the fact that they're a shorthand of sorts. You may not know the difference between the pleated and plain-front trousers from the Suiting Essentials line, but when you read about a guy buying a suit at Brooks Brothers and he's intimidated by the salesman and the prices, you either immediately identify with the guy or perhaps it tells you that he's not at all like you. Either way, it reveals something subtle about the character that hopefully helps him become someone recognizable as a person to you.

I don't namedrop every product, of course. For instance, my suit-buyer walks in wearing an old pair of Wranglers and a plain navy blue T-shirt. That's sufficient (it's also what I was wearing at that exact moment). Like Fleming, though, I believe that the point of entertainment is to offer the reader something identifiable, but somehow not necessarily part of their daily life. I realize that drinking Knob Creek, smoking Montecristos, driving an Infinity G37 Convertible and wearing a Suiting Essentials jacket and trousers may be commonplace for some people, but I suspect these would be infrequent indulgences for most of us.

More importantly, I think they're all attainable. You can buy these things for yourself, or perhaps you might have a different perception of these products than I do. Maybe you think Knob Creek is overrated; that my guy should instead be drinking Old Forrester Birthday Edition. In that case, though, you've still reacted to the character's choice in some way and by doing so, I hope you've unconsciously still established a new dimension to him. You did, after all, just disagree with him which means that he's someone developed enough for you to disagree with in the first place.

I realize I haven't really said anything about the story itself and I promise you, my characters do more than give me occasion to namedrop products! At present, however, I'd prefer to keep that stuff to myself. I'll reveal the content in the future when I've got a better sense of the story and I know enough to actually divulge. I assure you, I have not been compensated in any way whatsoever for these product selections; I made them entirely on my own (with the obvious exception of my friend helping me with the Victoria's Secret products) to serve my story rather than to promote anyone's merchandise.

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