Revising, verb

I just got the following email.

“I’m really curious, because you’re making the revision process sound like pure unmitigated hell in a blender. Why is it so rough?”

COME SIT BY ME AND I’LL TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT

It’s hard for a few reasons. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, that I’m not doing enough, that somehow I should have managed to emit a completely coherent novel on the first draft because I should be that good, and if I am not that good I am nothing.

That’s the most hellish reason. It is also the most inaccurate, and I’m trying to be harsh with it and gentle with myself on that basis. I have never revised a novel before, of course it’s going to take a while. Of course I am not good at it yet, I’m just starting!

The second reason is that progress feels slow. It’s hard to budget time when this is the part of the process where I stare into space, occasionally reaching out, groping blindly for a pen, to scribble something like the following:

“mash chs 11+12”
“Cater the hell out of this catastrophe?”
“ch 18 ends with that string of texts from E to C”
“ch 5 PARIS (remember to write this)”
“second BJ–redundant???”

Art isn’t easy.

Identifying problems and plot holes and ways the story needs to be made better is hard! Chapters 21, 23, and 28 have nothing in them! Literal nothing! They are blank voids, potholes in the land of plot! I made no notes to myself about what goes there, but I know something has to! Past Miranda had so much confidence in Future Miranda. It’s very sweet, the amount of faith she had in me. I kind of want to kick her now.

I’m not beating myself up for not writing a perfect novel in one go. Besides, the first draft is perfect. It got the story and the characters out of my head and onto the page, and that was exactly what it was supposed to do. Finding the gaps in my own writing is in its better moments really interesting. I am terrible at describing people. You could read the whole book and not know what hair color anybody has. And I swear to GOD if any more characters look any more heatedly at any other characters the sprinkler system in Buckingham Palace is going to go off. Does Buckingham Palace even have a sprinkler system? Do I need to know that? I don’t actually need to know that, but that’s twenty minutes of googling I didn’t know I had to do…

For those more mechanical problems I just put a flag on that page. I know I’ll come back to it and make the writing work. I know how to do that.

Fixing the bigger problems–the inconsistencies in how people behave, the places where I jumped the gun, chapters that only have 228 words in them–there are two of those, a second act that is introduced and resolved in basically three pages–is daunting. And, to use my friend’s delightfully descriptive phrase, it’s hell in a blender to understand that I can’t fix all the problems instantly, and that I don’t even know how to fix some of them yet. I know I will, but it takes time. I just finished disassembling the plot, making a catalog of everything that happens in the book, and now it’s time to go ahead and figure out how to put all the pieces back together again. Then it’ll be time to add in new pieces, and smooth out the whole thing.

And the thing is, when it isn’t making me scream internally, revising is about the most fun I think I know how to have. The sharp-eyed focused marathon of making it better is just as exciting as the sheer breathless sprint of creating it in the first place. There is a lot of satisfaction in making this book match the picture in my head, which itself has changed so much from the initial “The Plot So Far” document I wrote in an hour in Argo Tea back in August.

But it’s effort. It’s hard to quantify, or communicate about. It’s effort that feels like I’m an idiot, when in fact I’m thinking really hard and coming up with solutions and cackling madly. Maybe I should tweet those parts more often so you don’t worry I’m going to throw myself in the river or something.

It just seems less triumphant to tweet “OMG I lay on my back on the floor with my eyes closed for 45 minutes and now I totally know what to do about that longing look on the bridge in Paris in Chapter 5!#amrevising”*

Writing a book is like building a rope bridge across a chasm. The first draft is when you throw the guide ropes across to the other side and tie them off, and get all your cross-pieces in roughly the write order. Revising is when you inch out along the ropes to fit the cross-pieces, and discover that you don’t have enough pieces of wood, or that they’re the wrong size entirely, and realize that you don’t know how to build a bridge at all, and are probably a mollusk. But you have to do it anyway, so off you go.

Bridge_Astore
Now it’s off to write a timeline so I don’t accidentally have one character declare their undying love for another several pages before they meet.
*Still need to write Chapter 5.

The Price of Admission

Action movies. My loves. My dearest cinematic joys on this earth. The lingua franca of many of my relationships and friendships, my stock in trade. I don’t look forward to them, these days.Something inside me snapped. Good job, Hollywood! It only took fifteen years for you to break me. I still love going to the movies, but there are things I don’t want to watch any more.

I don’t want to see the one woman who speaks belittled. I don’t want to see her hurt. I don’t want to see her pressed up against a villain with a knife to her throat as he makes pronouncements or threatens her to get to Our Hero. I don’t want to see her smacked around or thrown into a wall or murdered for having sex with someone. (As direct cause/effect in the narrative, or as moral judgment of the meta-narrative, or even just because whatever the hell, there was a woman, and we need to show something about this dude, so… he hits her? Yeah? Good. Men who hit women are Bad Mans. Except when the good guy hits women, that’s because he needed her to shut up or needed to look tough or you know, just, whatever. Don’t be so sensitive. It’s just a movie.)

Of course we buy their love story. He's condescending, she's impatient. Match: made.

Of course we buy their love story. He’s condescending, she’s impatient. Match: made.

I saw Mission Impossible: The One With The Giant Plane Stunt a couple of weeks ago, and spent the whole movie waiting for Rebecca Ferguson’s character to be sexually assaulted. The entire two hours-plus of movie, and all I could think was “Does it happen now? Is it going to happen now? The pace has gotten a little slow here, are they going to put her in peril now? Maybe now?” It’s not a particularly nice place to be, guys. I was shocked when she walked off unraped. That’s where we are.

Tried to rewatch the first two Transporter movies the other night. Couldn’t get through either of them. These are movies I loved, these are movies I defended on the basis of their quality. I have the same reaction thinking about many of the action movies I’ve seen over the years. I have devoted precious brain space to thinking about how action stars are created and their careers and arcs maintained over multiple movies even when they aren’t in the same series. I have nursed crushes on the men who star in them. I’m not ashamed of this, exactly. It’s like the end of a mediocre relationship. I’m upset that I wasted so much time on something that didn’t deserve me.

Spoiler alert: they fuck.

Spoiler alert: they fuck.

The price of admission to an action movie is understanding that I’m going to be scared in a way my cis male movie-going companions are not going to be scared. I’m going to be anxious the whole time. The price of admission is knowing that I have to laugh when women are the visual butt (or bust) of the joke. That I have to go in with a hard heart and clenched jaw, because I know what’s coming for me.

Women in these movies are portrayed as either blocks of ice who know how to punch, and are punished accordingly, or as useless wads of dryer lint there to be stared at and laughed at if they try to do anything. Especially when it’s something that, if you squint, looks a lot like something the male protagonist would be applauded for doing. Sometimes they’re actually helpful and good for the plot and are made sympathetic. I worry the most for these women. Kate Mara’s character in Shooter, for example. She was great, and she was raped and tortured at the hands of the film’s villain. Unnecessarily. Gratuitously. The movie had already established him as beyond redemption. They just wanted to show a woman shaking and traumatized at the hands of her attacker. I think she maybe gets to shoot him in the chest? Maybe that’s how he dies? I don’t remember exactly, that movie in particular upset the hell out of me.

This is necessary. Instead of fridged, she's dishwashed. And by dishwashed, I mean raped.

This definitely seems necessary. Instead of fridged, she’s dishwashered. And by dishwashered, I mean raped.

And, for all that, I love these movies. I’m a biased observer for them. I’m an apologist. When the latest Jurassic Park movie yanks feminism and gender relationships back to a particularly poorly conceived Spencer Tracey/Katherine Hepburn movie, I want it not to be true. I want to think that I’m watching something subversive, that I’m in on the joke with the film’s creators, but I’m not. I’m on the outside, and I am meant to be on the outside. I’m going to be kept there with sexual assault and sexist jokes, with cinematography that highlights these meaningless secondary sexual characteristics on my chest (I’m looking at you, Joss Whedon) instead of my face.

Three movies, all put out in the last three years, have delighted me. I could watch them over and over again and never watch any others. Pacific RimJupiter Ascending, and Mad Max: Fury Road. Those movies understood my presence in the theater, two of them explicitly catering to it. They welcomed me. They gave me respect. Me. Not “women.” Not “feminism.” Not a generalization or an abstract socio-political construct or movement.

Me. My self.

Saving the world. Fully dressed. It could only happen in science fiction. (And yet, so rarely does.)

Saving the world. Fully dressed. It could only happen in science fiction. (And yet, so rarely does.)

All three are speculative. The levels of personal agency, narrative importance, and actual exploration of some facet of womanhood reached in the very occasional sci-fi movie are pretty much unheard-of in straight action movies. I can think of one that can squeak in on the very barest suggestion of a technicality, but really, if we still have to go back to Demi Moore shaving her hair off in a military drama from 1997 (in a film where the presupposed foregone conclusion of her brutal rape is used as a lesson for her teammates rather than herself) I’m comfortable calling misogynistic bullshit when I see it. Which is often.

There is some room for apologists like me to wiggle. MI:PLANE STUNT OMG DID YOU SEE WHAT HE DID is a case in point. The woman does not become Ethan Hunt’s sex prize du jour, she drives off into the sunset and what one assumes is an extremely lucrative retirement. There have been a few others lately that surprised me pleasantly with how much not-rape they contained. Most are still as trope-y as ever, woo the Crazy!Uterine!Killers clubmembers and the Mostly!Useless!But!Still!Fuckable girls and the Bitch-Who-Will-See-The-Error-Of-Her-Bitchy-Ways-And-Get-On-Board-With-Smooching-The-Minimally-Adequate-Hero bitches and the Why-Is-She-Even-Here-Oh-Right-We-Live-But-To-Die-So-That-Your-Rage-Might-Flourish ladies. You all know exactly who I’m talking about with all of these. I bet a rolodex of characters is spinning in your heads for each of those types.

But at least I die horribly, right? (The image title

But at least I die horribly, right?
(The image title, “one crazy woman,” was what this still from Transporter 2 downloaded as. I left it alone for reference and interest.)

So, sure, I’ll keep going. I’m interested in a couple of franchises and in the development of the genre as it careens here and there trying figure out what the hell it’s doing. I’ll be more critical of it more loudly, and if you don’t like it, blow it out your ear. There are still set pieces I like, car chases and explosions and gorgeous locales. But I’m not going to keep pretending, even for a minute, that these movies don’t have problems. Huge problems, and I don’t mean the laws of physics.

There’s a higher price for admission to every piece of media, when you’re not a white straight cis man. The price is not seeing yourself. The price is having to watch hackneyed, vicious portrayals of you and then having to defend why you didn’t absolutely love everything about said portrayal. If you can’t really accept that, we can’t really have a conversation. I’m not annoyed at you in particular for it, and I don’t need you to defend it to me. I already enjoy these movies enough to keep watching. But being entertained, even while I’m erased, isn’t a band-aid over the way they hurt me, and I’m not going to slap it on any more.

Avoidance Therapy

I’m avoiding writing.

I love writing. It’s part of me. I made up stories about the people who owned all the things in the catalogues when I was too little to write words. I scribbled nonsense squiggles in notebooks. (Some people, looking at my handwriting, would say that little has changed.)

But today, and for many days previous, I haven’t been doing it. Other things have gotten in the way, chewing up my brain power. Some of those things were good. Some were hard. Some were video games. Some were the way the cookie crumbles. All were not-writing.

Whenever I’m engaging in not-writing it is easier for me to cope with my fellow human beings in large doses, I resent having a day job considerably less, and I’m more likely to answer the question “How are you?” with “I’m fine,” instead of the less socially acceptable rundown of how things are going for a person I listen to who lives in my head. But, not-writing has diminishing returns. Over time, I feel wrung out, at the mercy of every little bump in the emotional road. It’s because I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m not centered when I’m not writing.

My balance isn’t centered in reality. It’s in imaginary places, or how I imagine real places might be. It’s centered in suburban New Jersey, in New York City, it’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. There are murders, most of the time. Sometimes there are starships. Sometimes there are murders on starships, something that has never been adequately explored in fiction. But all of it is just not here. A lot of other people are like me, but that doesn’t make me feel less alone in the doing of it.

I need the people in my head more than I need (most of the) real ones. They keep me sane. Making another world keeps me able to make sense of this one, and my place in it. Often, that place is consciously apart, in the role of observer rather than fully engaged experiencer. The only reason this is socially acceptable is because sometimes the people in my head are entertaining, and they never tell me to burn down real buildings.

There is nothing else for it, though. This is who I am, and what I’m made of. Stories, and underneath that layer of ambivalence, the tight-lipped joy of creation.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to do some time travel and make some magic with words. It’s the same magic that makes me love knitting and spinning. I’m taking something and making it something else, one stitch/word at a time.

Maybe I’ll avoid not-writing for a while instead.

Ask What I’m Writing

I learned this morning that, as a writer, I must be handled with care. Apparently, well-meaning curiosity from friends, family, and colleagues is enough to send me over the edge into a self-doubting spiral of agony and despair from which there is no escape. My goodness. I had no idea my mental state was so fragile.

Original Opinionator post here.

It should have occurred to me before now that my writing must be treated like a terminal illness—to speak of it would be gauche at best, simply too painful at worst. Everyone who loves me and is interested in me should ignore it. We should confine ourselves to speaking of the weather and new mattresses and television shows I have not seen because I have been spending all my time writing.

This guy wrote that to ask someone how their novel is going or what it’s about to is to risk losing their friendship. That writers will hate our friends who somehow, with one polite or interested question, force us to lay our very souls bare. That with such small provocation, our “Inner Critic” will rise up and strangle us.

Makes us seem like rather a wishy-washy, easily led lot, doesn’t it?

You have to be strong in order to write. You really do. Strong enough to follow the voices in your head where they lead you, strong enough in turn to take those voices and tell them where to go. Strong enough that one unhelpful or critical comment from one friend won’t derail you or make you fold in on yourself.

Also, what makes writing such a sacred activity? I have a friend who practices opera, a friend who trains to do an Iron Man, friends who are burlesque dancers and art models and video gamers and readers and LARPers, friends who watch baseball religiously and who sew and who knit and yes, who write. These are the things we love. These are the things that fill our minds, challenge us, and give us happiness. Why shouldn’t we be able to ask our friends about these things, and be asked about them in return?

My rule is that I can’t tell anyone anything about a story until I have written it down. But if someone asks at that point, I use my native intelligence informed by experience as a social animal to gauge their interest and respond accordingly. Why is this so hard? And, really. If I can’t pull together a two sentence description of my current project for widespread consumption, what am I doing?

I like that people are interested in what I’m doing, or at least that I do it. Writing is such a lonely endeavor during the craft of it that to have it acknowledged among the people I know is a surprising pleasure. Answering the occasional question isn’t going to kill me, because I am, in fact, in control of what I say. What a concept for a writer.

Big things.

How do you handle big life changes? Me, I start huge projects. Blankets, 15 x 15 cross-stitch samplers, books. In times of stress, I want to plug away at something. Make it work, bit by bit, see the whole emerging as I go. But projects like that I can abandon if I need to–unlike life, which I’m pretty much stuck with.

Someone said to Voltaire, “Life is hard.” Voltaire answered, “Compared with what?”

I’m going through some big changes now. I already have a blanket, a cross-stitch sampler, and a book on the go. I made a long list of Christmas gifts I want to make, and that took some of the edge off. This time, though, I have a feeling the big thing I need to work at bit by bit is my life. Everything else is… not a distraction, exactly. Just a method of coping, of creating more good things to put into the world.

 

CX LATER

I am deep in the throes of NaNoWriMo. It’s been a number of months since I had the time and the discipline to write every day, and I am wallowing in putting words on paper. You know the feeling of sitting down in a hot bath, or snuggling into a puffy white bed at the end of the day? That’s how it feels to be writing. Like looking over the most glorious vista you can imagine, drinking it in and knowing you’re part of it at the same time.

The draft I’m working on is pretty linear. I know I want to get the protagonist from known point A to known point K, and I know approximately how long that’s going to take in the timeline of the story. I also know where all the intermediate points are going to be, pretty much. That’s a lot of the bare bones of plottaken care of, which is unusual for me. My plot normally follows what’s happening emotionally with my characters, I fear I manipulate them terribly most of the time.

Not so, now. Now this draft is all about writing out the emotional journey that mirrors the physical one this character is taking. It’s a surprisingly nice way to work, I have to say. I know, Columbus discovers America. But each project is different. Most of the time, plotting beforehand is anathema to me because I will lose interest if I know what’s coming too far in advance. But for something like NaNoWriMo, where word count reigns supreme, structure is valuable. That remains one of the reasons I picked this novel to draft in the first place.

What is surprising me is how well I’m adapting my writing process to the organic structure of the story. It’s not boring me, it’s actually sparking realizations and epiphanies about what needs to happen next. The only downside to all of this is that sometimes things don’t fit because of the demands or the plot. And when they don’t fit, all I can do because of the word count demands is put CX LATER in brackets after the problem sentence and keep going. I don’t know what will have to bend in the end, the plot or the story, but I can’t worry about it now.

NaNo is here! NaNo is here!

NaNoWriMo started yesterday. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is National Novel Writing Month. It’s 50,000 words in the shape of a novel in 30 days. I don’t remember how many years it’s been going on, but NaNo is ubiquitous on the internet these days. Are you writing? Do you think you’re going to finish? What are you writing? Are you planning beforehand or aren’t you? Did you (sotto voce) start early?

My answers, in order: Yes, yes, novel-shaped back story for the novel I need to revise starting in December, I know the general contours of things, and I did in fact start 500 words early. Mea maxima culpa.

Here are my thoughts going into it:

  1. Novels are hard to write. I usually start at the beginning and walk to the end. I’m not doing that this time. This time, I am writing the history of a character I know already in novel form. Because of this, I feel more free in my head to skip around in the timeline. It’s the nature of memory, to be scattered. I can put it into an order in the end, or perhaps I won’t. There’s no good way to tell.
  2. What I will have at the end is 50,000 words. That’s not technically long enough to be a novel by my lights. I’m not going to worry that it be a novel. Enough that it looks like one at first glance. That maybe some day when it grows up big and strong, it will be. But what goes on the page this time isn’t still going to be there when I revise. The beauty and the strangeness of NaNo is that the point is just to throw things down and see what sticks.
  3. I’m really looking forward to seeing what sticks.

So, good luck to all of us! And how fortunate for me that my writing addiction is so productive.

The Fanfic Kerfuffle

Fanfiction, my people. Some authors like it. Some authors hate it. Some authors write it under assumed names. Some authors made their bones by writing it. It’s just there, a big part of my internet experience, nearly a ubiquitous presence since I liked Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and knew how to use a search engine. Not all fic is created equal. There’s the good stuff and the bad stuff, the dregs and the gems. It was fun, being able to have more of these characters you loved, written by people who loved it as much, if not way more, than you did. No one tried to publish it legitimately, as far as I know. Every piece of fic I ever read had a disclaimer on it saying something like, “Characters belong to the the brilliant X, I am only borrowing.” Even the ones that were written better than the source material. You’d think it’s a pretty innocuous thing. Sort of.

Some authors of note despise fanfiction, claiming it makes them “nauseated” to think of other people writing using their characters. Eww, yes, the proles, the plebian mass of unworthy ickies daring to sully your precious babies with their grimy fingers. Yeah, also known as some of your most passionate readers, you ungrateful loons. My god, you’d think these authors hadn’t gone out of their way to make their creative work available to the general public. Are we allowed to think about characters, then? Have feelings about them? Please, tell us what level of emotional involvement is okay with you.

Some authors claim that they have to disapprove of fic because it would hurt their market share otherwise. Um, no. Again, see the previous point about some of your most passionate readers. They want you to write more so they can read more, and they don’t do this for the money. They do it for love of the characters, the worlds, the ideas, and the point of fic is that they are not stealing what you did, putting it in their own books for sale. No. They are, for the most part, respectfully and with full attribution, borrowing lovingly, and putting it back when they’re done.

Other authors say that they don’t really see the point to it, and encourage people to write their own stories. This is the argument I have the most sympathy for, but that’s just because I never felt particularly passionate about writing fic in the first place. But. And this is a big but. Authors, you created your characters and your world. You own them, as far as they can be owned. But you gave them to us, and if we love them enough that our love is translated to creative endeavor… well, you’re just going to have to cope. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to.

I think fic writers should be welcomed affectionately, en masse. Fic writers are fans. Fic writers buy multiple copies after they wear out the first ones looking for nuance and meaning they might have missed the fiftieth time. Fic writers collect, obsess, get their friends into your work with all the fire of their enthusiasm. They are creative and brilliant and driven, and a lot of them have gone on to be published authors in their own right as they give voice to their own stories and their own worlds.

The authors who don’t like fic might as well be saying they don’t actually respect the people who love their books. And maybe they don’t. Maybe they’ve gotten too used to thinking of themselves as monolithic bestsellers, maybe they’re so wrapped up in themselves-as-authors that they’ve forgotten that a book only lives if it is read.

I’m with the fic writers on this one. There are some bad apples, obviously, but you know what? There always are. I happen to think the good outweighs the bad.

True Love

This Valentine’s Day, I thought I would talk about true love for a little while.

I took a course on Jane Austen while I was in college, taught by one of my favorite professors. One day in class, we were talking about a somewhat dramatic episode in Austen’s life. At a house party near Christmas, a comfortably well-off friend of the family around her age, with a good reputation, proposed marriage. She accepted, only to refuse him the next morning. We don’t know what she was thinking. If she ever wrote about it in letters, they have been lost to us. Some of my classmates immediately started to clamor that maybe she was in love with someone else, that she was unwilling to compromise her romantic ideals, that she didn’t love him… And my professor just looked around at all of us with the look on her face, familiar to us by now, of a woman who was tired of hearing the words “love” and “Jane Austen” in close proximity.

“She knew she couldn’t get married and continue to write.”

“She could have…”

“She absolutely could not have,” my professor said. She reminded us of all the reading we’d done about life in the early 19th century. The endless chores, how long everything took, how even if you had servants you needed to be constantly checking up on them, how once you had children they had to be taken care of. There would be parties and balls to go to and to throw, and all of that would now be her duty, not a diverting pleasure. Sensing that we were still resistant to the idea, she lowered her copy of the biography we were reading.

“You cannot be a woman with a family and an artist at the same time. You must choose between being the best mother you can be and your creative life. It is possible to do both, but not both equally well. You have to understand,” she said, looking around at each of us, mostly girls, hardly worthy of being called women yet, “that you must choose.”

Here was a brilliant, successful scholar, respected in her field. We knew from other conversations in class that she had a child, now grown. She knew whereof she spoke, and she was telling us that if we thought we could do it all, we were going to break our own hearts in the process. I will never forget the impatient gentleness in her voice. It should have been obvious to us. It clearly was not.

Perhaps it became obvious to Austen as she lay awake that night, over two hundred years ago. Perhaps in the rush of the moment, she couldn’t have done anything but say yes. But then she must have realized. And so she chose.

It’s an easy choice for me to make right now. I don’t have children who need me as much as my writing does. My relationship isn’t suffering. It doesn’t seem to hurt my friendships much that I say, “I can’t come out this Friday – I’m writing.” I know they would all love it if I actually produced some work I let anyone read, but I’m going to just gloss over this. (Manuscript, I’m still mostly ignoring you…)

The Princess Bride, an anthem of our time if ever there was one, has a lot to say about true love. True love is magic, true love is the worthiest cause of all. In the movie, it’s two people in love with one another. But one’s true love does not have to be another person.

My true love is a cause no less worthy for being between me and myself. My true love is writing. Creating. Taking the things I have in my brain and transmitting them to words on a page. I’ve always done it. I used to scribble in notebooks before I could make words. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that, it was much easier then.

There are other people I love. I’m in a solid, wonderful relationship with someone who likes the craziness and waking up in the night finding that I’m hunched over my computer, and the occasional wails of, “I don’t know what goes in the middle of a book any more!” I’m lucky. I’m grateful. But it feels like a betrayal to be so clear that there’s this overwhelming need in my life that has nothing to do with another person. Even though everyone has things they love so much.

I’m not going to feel guilty about it. My family, friends and boyfriend all love me, and writing is such an intrinsic part of me that if they love me, they love the fact that I write, too.

Fictional Reality

I’m annoyed at Laurie R. King. Those of you who know me will be shocked, shocked, I tell you! She’s one of my favorite authors. I respect her a great deal. Her Mary Russell series, the exploits of a young woman who becomes involved with Sherlock Holmes in his retirement, has been a touchstone for me ever since I read the first book about ten years ago. I respect King as a writer, and I follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Therein doth the problem lie.

“Mary Russell” has her own Twitter account, maintained by King herself. (It’s not a fan account, as she has occasionally linked between the two on her author’s Facebook page, which is how I found the Twitter account in the first place.) I don’t like this very much. It feels too cute to ask us all to believe that this character, set very firmly in her time, is still alive and well, along with Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and John Watson, nearly a full century after the books are set. A lot of people seem to like it, though, so I’m happy to leave it alone as a concept. However.

About a week ago, @mary_russell tweeted, “Just because a body was woman found on the Queen’s Sandringham estate our phone won’t stop ringing. Holmes and I may have to visit Mycroft.” My eyebrows raised. Certainly not in the usual vein of her tweets. I thought for a moment that King decided to make up a tale to have us all follow, so that she could later write a book about it. Fun, I thought! But it still wasn’t sitting right with me, so I googled. Then my mouth dropped open.

It actually happened. A young woman, later identified as a teenager, found dead and possibly murdered on the grounds. And Laurie King thought it would be “cute” to have Holmes and Russell on the case, as it were.

Subsequently, Holmes has gone down to London for a consultation, and a few other tweets have happened, including these from yesterday and today:
“Just heard from Holmes and reading between the lines it appears Brother Mycroft is asking Holmes to hie off to Sandringham. I may join him.”
“Although neither of us actively pursue cases these days, but…I’ll not leave Holmes to do this alone. If I go silent that is the reason.” “Holmes will consult again today, but not go to Sandringham (Mycroft and I had a few words). Really, the local constabulary will handle this.”

I can’t tell you how offended I am. A woman–now we know she was a 17-year-old girl–is found dead, and King is using this as a way of padding her Twitter feed? A girl died, probably scared and alone, and King’s response is to tweet about it as a fictional character and claim some role in the case? I’m appalled. Half the people following her probably don’t know it’s real. They think, probably, that it’s a fictional turn. One woman tweeted back that she’s worried for Russell and Holmes, and wonders if this is going to make it into another memoir. I can see how it would make for a good Russell/Holmes story. You could write a dandy story with the possibility of royal involvement, danger, scandal on the Queen’s estate, there’s a lot to be done with it. But that would be fiction, and this is real life.

It’s one thing to have Russell tweeting from 2012. Her immortality, such as it is, is only conferred by the limits of her fictional existence, but it’s cute enough, I suppose. I love the idea of characters coming in and out of our world, it’s a main plot point in one of my nebulous novels. But this goes beyond the limits of decency for me. By all means, make up a fictional case and have Russell get as involved in it as she wants. Make it up. But for pity’s sake, don’t use a real tragedy as a jumping-off point for your interaction with your fans, claiming agency where none exists.