Creating A Sense of Intimacy–Or Not

Sometimes the tiny revisions help more than you think.

I was revising a cozy scene, and I removed several instances of the man’s name and replaced it with “he” or “him”. I don’t know when I first started doing this, but I have found that a scene is more intimate if you refrain from using names. As long as there are only two people, you only need use each name once, at the beginning of the scene.

Think about it–in real life, how often do you actually say the name of your spouse, sibling, or good friend? Maybe to get their attention, but while in conversation? And you don’t think of them by their names, either. You are beyond names.

I really noticed this kind of thing when I did some contest judging a few months ago. Several intimate scenes were ruined when the hero and heroine said or thought the other’s name too often.

And the opposite holds true as well. To create a sense of estrangement, use names. As soon as you bring in a third person, you have to use names, anyway.

Here’s the intimate scene, between brother and sister:

Adele watched as he stared at her. She refrained from shaking her head. Mike had a way of walking about in a haze of his own making. She reached over, clasped his hand and pulled him onto the couch next to her.

“Talk to me,” she said.

He didn’t say anything. She thought about leaving him alone, but he was always pretty good about letting her know when he needed his space. He wanted her there. She waited.

At length, he tried to speak, but only ended up clearing his throat awkwardly. She rose, went into the kitchen and brought back a glass of water. She handed it to him, and sat down again as he drank.

“First off, I gotta tell you that there’s a few things you don’t know. Things that happened between Mrs. Watkins and me.”

She frowned in outrage. “What! She’s your employee! She—”

“For God’s sake—that’s not it, either. Christ! What must you think of me?”

“Well, look at the way you made it sound!”

“Well hold on and just listen for a moment.”

She subsided.

And between a nosy boss and his subordinate:

Briggs escorted Peterson in twenty minutes later. He looked nervous. “Good evening, sir,” Peterson said.

“Good evening, Peterson.” Haley said as he lit a cigarette. He didn’t offer one. Briggs took his post by the door. Peterson looked at him nervously. Haley said, “Your first name is Bradley, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Brad is fine.”

“Of course it is. So how goes things with Eliza?”

“Um, just fine. Sir.”

“Do you like her?”

“Sure. What’s not to like?”

“I can think of many things.”

“Huh?” he gulped. “Sir?”

“You seem to have a problem with that, don’t you?”

“With what?”

“With basic courtesy. Calling your superior ‘sir’ for instance.”

Peterson looked pained. “I’m sorry about that, sir. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Were your parents deadbeats?”

“Well … yes sir. Pretty much.”

Any intimacy was gone anyway because Briggs was present, but I did use names a little more often than strictly necessary.

This is just one of the tiny changes I keep in mind as I revise. What did you think? Did I succeed in creating a sense of intimacy, and a sense of estrangement?

Dratted, Overcrowded Brain

Today, I got a nice email from Zillow. Why, you ask, would Zillow send me a nice email? Because of this post. They asked that I embed a link in it, and even though the link was rather real-estate-y and this is not a real estate blog, I did what they asked. Because they asked so nicely. Who knows? Maybe the cool architecture will inspire one of you to move to St. Augustine one day.

Lesson learned: It never hurts to ask.

Anyway, when I reviewed the post, I realized I had never written a promised follow-up. Even though I took the trip to St. Augustine and drove down the streets I mentioned. (In my Jeep. With the top down, of course.)

I keep doing that. Forgetting stuff I say I’ll do. I guess I need to come up with a reminder system. So I am going to brush off my old Google Calendar account–the one where I used to keep track of debuts–and have it send me reminders. Because apparently, this brain is overcrowded.

In fact, I think I’d better write a procedure for writing up blog posts. Because I evidently need all the help I can get.

(Nah. Cause if I do, I’m sure to forget I wrote the dratted thing.)

Visiting Old Friends – Fantasy and Science Fiction Blogs of Yore

With my impending return to the world of book blogging. I looked in on some old blogging friends. Here is what I found:

  • Old Bat’s Belfry – Mulluane recently restarted her blogging engines, so I knew her site would be active, and it is. I’ll have to read through her site to find an epic fantasy to read; I’m hankering for one. It’s been a while.
  • Grasping for the Wind – This site, run by John Ottinger, is currently not being updated. I am not surprised; I know he has a young and growing family. Let’s hope he returns to the blogging world soon. In the meantime, I let his blogroll help refresh my memory about other old friends, because we frequented the same blogs.
  • A Dribble of Ink – Aidan Moher has been nominated for a Hugo for best Fanzine with this longterm site, which has been around ever since the Fantasy Debut days. Congrats, Aidan!
  • Debuts & Reviews – I’m blushing. This used to be the name of this site. Thanks, John!
  • Fantasy Cafe – This site has been at a new domain for a while now. Seems to be still going strong, and is still stylish and beautiful. Good job, Kristen.
  • Fantasy Literature – I also knew this site was still in business. It has gotten a major facelift with a streamlined new look. That can’t have been easy–I know this site existed since before blogging, so modernizing it must have been quite a job.
  • Graeme’s SFF – Graeme is back! I thought his site would still be dead, but he had a new(ish) post with a pointer to his new blog, and he is keeping it up to date.
  • Neth Space – Hmm … Ken Neth’s has not posted since March. Life must have intruded, somehow. Hope he’s back, soon. His blog looks the same as ever!
  • GavReads – Gav Reads is still online and active. He apparently had a hiatus and rejoined the blogging world just last month. There must be something in the water.
  • Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist – Pat’s site is modernized and quite attractive, and still quite active.
  • Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff – still full of stuff! I checked out his recent books in the mail and several look intriguing.
  • The Speculative Scotsman – The Scotsman was just taking off as I was winding down, but his blog is active and looks great.
  • The Book Smugglers – Ana and Thea seem to be hard at work, as usual, producing a great site. They were nominated for the Hugo Fanzine award as well.
  • The World in the Satin Bag – Shaun was also nominated for a Hugo, but in the “Fancast” category for his podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show. Congrats, Shaun!

Well, I’ve exhausted John’s blogroll, and this was a good first pass. In a future post, I’ll check out newer sites that I have never visited before.