Well, Erin is going to kill me for mentioning this. As my latest project, The Night Girl clawed its way past the halfway mark in its three-year-long writing process, she made noises about not overtaking her own latest project with a three-year-long writing process, a Slavic-flavoured fantasy featuring magic, shadows and talking cats entitled Plain Kate. Earlier today, The Night Girl shot from 36000 words to 37250, passing her own work which is holding pace at 36600 words.
And she should take some of the credit for launching my story ahead of hers. Because it was one of her ideas that spawned the latest bout of writing, after I complained that the story’s plot didn’t seem to be all it could be. Her idea adds something to the piece, and makes me feel happier about the whole thing. But now I have to do something nice for her to make up for making her story look slow (even though it’s been going at roughly the speed as The Night Girl and has a stronger plot).
That’s our writing relationship: friendly rivals, who use each other to challenge each other to do better, but also help out any way we can. And we’ve co-authored some good stuff as well.
I’m pleased to report that The Night Girl is developing a soundtrack. In earlier posts I talked about how the music I happen to be listening to while writing sometimes influences that writing, or gets incorporated into my writing as part of the story’s soundtrack album. This happens to varying degrees. Fathom Five has over a dozen specific songs, primarily by Jorane, which goes on in the background of specific scenes (at least, in my head) like a movie. The Unwritten Girl doesn’t have this as much, although I do find myself playing Pink Floyd a lot when thinking about this story. And The Young City, being a period piece, hasn’t really found its soundtrack.
Although The Young City does not appear to have suffered from the lack of any soundtrack, I take the fact that The Night Girl is gaining a soundtrack as a good sign, as it means that the story is coalescing enough in my head for me to ‘see’ the story, and if I can see the story, I have a better chance of being able to write that story.
As with the other soundtracks, the influence is coming from a number of sources. These include Murray Gold’s soundtrack for the Doctor Who revival, a techno-percussion piece called Atom Bomb by a group named Fluke (which appeared in the House soundtrack) and, of all people, Kate Bush.
In the Doctor Who soundtrack, there are particular pieces which call to mind characters in the story; in particular, Perpetua and Earthenhouse. The two main characters deserve strong and separate themes, and as a result I think of Perpetua when the segments The Face of Boe and Madame de Pompedour plays. The piano speaks to her character, I think, which I think of as somewhat thin and tender, while having considerable depth. On the other hand, Earthenhouse has the voice of a cello, and so his theme is best articulated by the strings of The Impossible Planet. And the two elements come together perfectly in the Doomsday track.
As for Kate Bush, some of her songs seem appropriate to the themes The Night Girl is exploring, from the obvious-from-its-title How to be Invisible (from Aerial) to the more obscure Never be Mine (which works as an anthem for Perpetua with the lyrics “this where I want to be / this is what I need / this is where I want to be / but I know that this will never be mine”. Rounding out this type of song is the Beatles Eleanor Rigby, which I see playing over sped-up images of commuters walking to and fro in Toronto’s Underground City.
These songs will play in my car as I take Vivian up to her mom for her lunch. That’s when I do a lot of thinking about these stories.
The following sample describes Perpetua’s search for a new apartment. No soundtrack here, yet, but I still have a clear picture of what’s going on in this scene.
A few days later, Perpetua bought a newspaper and started a serious search for new apartments.
She sat in the underground city’s food court, newspaper in her hand, circling advertisements. In the corridor, the tide of people was just beginning to turn. She ignored the local news station on the plasma screens behind her, showing a live feed from an opening ceremony. The line across the bottom of the screen announced: “Scarborough Rejoices: Sheppard Subway Open for Business.”
She didn’t look up when Fergus plunked down the mocha caramel beside her. “Thanks.”
“That’ll be four-fifty,” he said.
She looked at him over the rim of the newspaper, and raised an eyebrow.
“C’mon,” he said, “You can afford it, now; share the wealth.” Then he glanced at the paper. “Or maybe you can’t. Job hunting again?”
“Apartment hunting.” Perpetua opened her purse paused at the unfamiliar site of folded bills. Her mouth quirked up and she tossed down a five dollar bill. “Keep the change.”
“Thanks!” He pocketed it. “So, how’s the search going?”
“Searching? Easier than job hunting. All I have to do is imagining that I’m the one doing the interviewing; these apartments are coming to work for me.” She set down the paper. “The problem is, there aren’t many qualified candidates.”
“Story of our lives,” said Fergus.
On the plasma screens behind them, the mayor of Toronto finished his speech. “Who’s the best mayor of Toronto?” shouted Lord Melman. “Thaaaat’s me!”
Perpetua circled the last ad and stood up. She looked at the streaming crowds and nodded to herself. She felt… good. To be able to buy coffee, to be able to look for a new apartment. She felt like an adult.
“Thanks for the coffee,” she said, picking it up. “I gotta go and check some of these out.” She walked away, halted, then turned back. “Hey, give me your number.”
“Bluh?” he said.
“Your number?” she repeated. “The digits I dial on my phone when I want to reach you? You know, that device that rings when you’re in the shower and sends my voice mysteriously though the air to your ear?”
“Oh, the phone!” Fergus grinned. “Mostly it’s telemarketers’ voices coming mysteriously through the air to my ear.”
“Hey, two weeks ago, that described me.”
Fergus looked around for paper, and grew more frantic when he couldn’t find any. Finally, he grabbed an empty coffee cup and wrote it on the side with a soft black pencil. He handed it to her.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling. “I’ll be in tou—” She grimaced. No job interview speak! She waved. “I’ll see you later.”
As Perpetua had suspected, there were as many codewords in apartment hunting as there were in job hunting. For instance, consider the term “nice and cozy”.
“Here we are,” said the manager. “Nice and cozy.”
“So, this is the kitchen,” said Perpetua, one hand pressed up against the counter and the other against the stove.
“Yes, and the bathroom too,” said the manager, lifting up the lid of a toilet Perpetua had taken for a garbage can. “If you’ll back up, I’ll show you the fold-up sink and shower.”
“Thanks,” said Perpetua. “I’ll be in touch.”
Shared accommodation meant immunity to mace.
Perpetua kept one hand in her rucksack, fingering her can of mace, as the pale, oily manager leered at her, showing missing teeth. “You know,” he said, gangling a mass of keys the size of his fist, “I have master keys that open every door in this complex, so if you ever need me, I can be right over.”
“Um…” she swallowed. “I’ll be in touch.”
When he asked where he could reach her at, she gave him the number of the main desk of the police department’s 52 Division.
A fixer-upper meant leave while you still had all four limbs intact.
Perpetua looked around a spacious living room, nodding appreciatively. Then her eyes fell on a brown spot on the cream-coloured wall. She frowned and stepped forward. Reaching out, she touched the spot, and jumped back as the drywall fell in. A hole gaped. Cracks appeared, stretching under her feet and across the ceiling before finally coming to a rest. She stood a moment, arms out, ready to dive to safety if she had to.
When she was sure she was safe, relatively speaking, she looked around, but the manager had moved into the next room. She shoved a potted plant in front of the spot, looked to see whether it camouflaged things enough. More cracks appeared, and she beat a hasty retreat.
Close to amenities meant too close.
“You’re just twenty minutes from downtown by GO Train,” the manager shouted.
“What?” Perpetua yelled.
Behind them, the window showed a changing landscape of speeding freight cars.
It all reminded her disturbingly of looking for work.
Comments, as always, welcome!