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Tuesday, 18 October 2022

Exhuming the presumed dead

I started my novel Breaking Out in 1972 (In the USA) and finished it, after a long break, in the UK in 1975. Aeons ago, when many of you were still at school. I am now rediscovering it and revising it. Here's a revised paragraph; am I on a fool's errand?

Of course her hair was the backstop: an indecent luxury, a feature that should have become extinct under the Revolutionary guillotine. Earlier in her life it had been a source of great smugness; now Wendy guarded herself from indulgence by recalling a horror movie in the fifties. In which a female vampire had aged into prehistory within fifty seconds - the face turning to pumice, then ash, while the hair remained black and luxuriant. Now, killing time in the salon,Wendy searched her face for traces of erosion, deciding, despite a default pessimism, the surface was still intact. However, as she leaned back away from the mirror, the cape fell away from her right hand - slightly puffy, telescopically wrinkled, the fingers shouting 48 going on 49. Blinking quickly she readjusted the cape.


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    1. I find this interesting that here 48-49 is at Hag's Door for this character. Perhaps, something more age appropriate than a hand as a 'tell' for her not aging well. Smoker?--lines above the lip, too much sun---squint lines around the eyes---one of the reasons celebrities live in sun glasses, inactivity-that paunch that starts early. Better yet she glances in the window reflection---and they both see her hunched shoulders, she straightens and then curves right back? All could be shown in one line.

  2. Sandi: I agree that the evidence of ageing could usefully be more pungent and I appreciate your suggestions. But there were two significant omissions in what I posted. First the story is set in the early sixties when life expectancy was a good deal shorter than it is now; thus 48 - 49 (on the threshold of 50) would perhaps have been closer to Hag's Door.

    More important, this para occurs very early on in the MS (page 4 to be exact) and the nature of the plot requires Wendy to be plausible when the echtstory unfolds. Its bare bones are that of Colette's short novel Le Blé en Herbe (seductive older woman seduces teenage youth) and I need to suggest that Wendy will eventually seem physically attractive to a callow youth. In a previous post I explain that Wendy's appearance (and only her appearance) resembles a woman who actually existed at the time of writing, providing a sort of template that allows me to visualise her in various scenes, a number of which occur before the arrival of the callow youth. Thus I cannot make her seem too decrepit since this would jar with the template as well as the exigencies of the plot.

    Nevertheless, as I say, I appreciate any help with rewriting this 45-year-old MS. Other passages will follow and if you feel you'd like to by all means comment accordingly

    1. I had forgotten the time frame...yes, photos of my great aunts in 1958 (their ages in the 50's) are quite jolting compared to a 50 year old today---white braided hair knotted on top of their heads, too much rouge, heavy glasses and old lady shoes. Perhaps it is the 'telescopically' wrinkled that throws me a bit. There were plenty of 'cougars' portrayed in films during the 50-60's, and polished and preserved always came to mind with those ladies, but that was the US? Always interesting to read your work, looking forward to more. SM

    2. Sandi: I appreciate your comments, both this one and the other about death. They encourage dialogue and they are proof that you've read and - more importantly - understood my 300-word posts. Not always the case due to my elliptical style.

      I did do a fairly recent post (See September 30, "When Breaking Out was born") which explained some of the novel's origins and my mindset at the time. Only one person responded and he - a sort of maverick ex-blogger and a great friend - limited himself to a mere four words. Unfortunately I tied this in with the difficulties I faced in converting the typed MS into a computerised text file that I could edit. A techie matter of no great interest.

      It may be of some use to you. But God forbid I suggest you should read it.