Write Hacks 1.1

by Jennifer Stevenson

croppedQuillShoe shop for your character.

If you’re like me you are writing a series with (say) seven brothers and you’re cooking up brides for them, one at a time. Or burning through a squad of firefighters, distracting them with girls. Or knocking up a series of Vestal Virgins, to the dismay of their high priestess, and marrying them off. In my case it’s been sex demons–first a series of slacker male sex demons, then a series of succubi, or, as I fondly call them, my Coed Demon Sluts.

The thing with setting up a big series like this is that you find the first two or three come easily. The fastest kitten in the litter gets born first. That firefighter-sex-demon-brother at the end of the row, the one with bad hair and attitude? You’ll get to him next book. Then “next book” eventually comes.

My Sluts have come to me pretty much spontaneously so far, thank goodness, leaping off the page with megaphones, This is who I am!” Until I got to the latest one.

This character is resistant. She thinks she’s a person, not a minion out of my imagination. She refuses to come to life. Now what do I do? Do I put her off and come up with a new one? (Tried that in the last series. Didn’t work well.) Skip her? (Uh, she’s already written into the first three books—you can’t rewrite her out of the series now!)

When the writing gets tough, the tough go shopping.

Skankwear for Beth

Skankwear for Beth

I got my hair cut recently at a snooty mall on Chicago’s North Shore. Afterward, knowing I was headed for skate practice and helmet-hair, I bought a whole pint of hazelnut gelato at the food court and then strolled through the mall, dressing my sluts in my head from the mall stores and driving the snooty, skinny North Shore shoppers wild because I was eating a pint of gelato right in front of them. This was fun on so many levels. And it helped solve my writing problem.

Tahari for Pog (2)

Pog would wear this without a bra–or a shirt

Beth, for example, will wear skanky tight spandex and cruelly high heels, because she gave up a 50-year-old housefrau’s body when her husband dumped her for…a skank who would wear these clothes.

mondays, wednesdays, fridays for Pog

Pog’s creepy-cute jailbait look

Pog alternates between Tahari skirt suits (hot newscaster), and Pastel Goth Princess (Ragstock) trying to look like jailbait who’s trying to look grown up enough to wear those fabulous creepy-cute mashups.

Armany for Jee

Armani for Jee

Jee feels naked without money all over her, so it’s all designer originals that only look good on the very tall.

Amanda…Amanda, now, is my current problem child. She’s a quiet, geeky tomboy, but her job is uh dating men after all, so how do we work this? Then I saw Abercrombie and Fitch store. YES! Those blah colors, the boxy khakis and bland plaids, the look that says athlete and functional and don’t forget in control without in any way being flashy or too buttoned-down.

engimatic Amanda

engimatic Amanda

How she pulls off the uh dating becomes the conflict, ooh, we love conflict. Now she’s coming into focus. If Amanda were a man she’d be wearing Burberry. In fact, there’s Burberry across the aisle. Let’s look there. Oh, yeah. Get her big bland beige Coach bags that hold lots of stuff. The running-shoe store is where Amanda busts out in color: sonic fuschia, fire-engine yellow, hazard orange.

Because of course after that, I bought them all shoes, accessories, handbags, and jewelry. And then the celebration: Victoria’s Secret. Really. Any business reason that sends you into Victoria’s Secret with half a pint of gelato (I’m eating fast) and an infinite budget can’t be wrong.

Could talk about the underwear for hours. But you should go look at it yourself. It’s very rewarding. From a writerly standpoint.

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Coed Demon Sluts. Coming in a pack to an ebookstore near you in 2016.

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Write Hacks 1.1 — 3 Comments

  1. This is a classic hack! The long discussions I have had with Susan Shwartz, about shopping for characters — she takes them to Saks and looks at shoes. I have taken mine shopping for pickup trucks, also bicycles and deck furniture. Some cultures display character with their prowess in war. We moderns shop!

  2. Deck furniture, Brenda? Really? Hm…

    What I LOVE about shopping for my sluts is, 1 they’re imaginary so the bill is always affordable and 2 they can modify their bodies at will, so they never have to ask themselves, “will it fit me?”

    Think about it. Shop for bras and underwear–especially bras–with complete abandon, because if you don’t fit it when you buy it, you can make yourself fit it once you get it home.

    Jeans shopping. Couldn’t we all write a book about THAT?

    • Chris Claremont has talked about when they were rebooting X-MEN for the comics. As you know, Bob, super-heroes can be awfully generic. The spandex, the cape, the POW. Claremont decided that the X-Men were going to be real people. So he went shopping. Because he is a guy, he didn’t go to Saks. He went to the newsstand and bought magazines. Jean Grey read GLAMOUR and COSMOPOLITAN (this was in the days before it was not all sex tips). He showed the dresses to John Byrne, so that she would be drawn dressed like a reader of those publications.