Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: Mary Sue No More, or How Karen Kubota Became a Real Character (Plus: Chapter 3 Editing Strategy)

Shira’s cousin Karen Kubota is a charter member of Spanner’s original “Class of ’92”, yet for two whole decades she never fully developed into a character. She was a Buddhist “Purity Sue”, a pretty body with a pleasant manner but not much content, whose character was pretty much limited to being Compassionate, Earnest, Genki, and the Victor Laszlo to Shira’s Rick Blaine. So how did she stop being a flat Mary Sue who I avoided writing and become an actual character with an increasingly important role?

  1. She developed the lacerating wit proper to a Richter-Thomas. When last night I completely rewrote an important scene in Chapter 6, she surprised me by calmly unleashing it on no less than the private owner of the Seattle-area school system, Book 1 major villain Peter T. Ross.
  2. She fell in love with Shira, making the hypothetical Karen × Shira ’ship canonical at last. In the final version of Chapter 2 she now successfully convinces Shira to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with her by seducing her in a very sweet scene.

The second one came first. My muse, yuri fangirl that she is, pulled it on me during the massive Chapter 2 rewrite. I almost expected it. The first hit me by surprise – it didn’t sound Karen enough at first – but then I realized she’s a Richter-Thomas, and if you’re a granddaughter of two-fisted children’s author Eleanor Richter, you’d better be able to keep up with her – and if you aren’t yet, you will be eventually. Nelly Richter is the “Wicked Wit of the West”; that had to rub off on eldest daughter Reva Richter-Thomas, who in turn passed it on to at least three of the four Kubota kids: big sister Saffron, gay brother Sage, and Karen. But the key to Karen’s character remains the Japanese spelling of her name: its Chinese characters are renge, “lotus”, backwards.

Shira, Spanner’s resident canonical “Launcher of a Thousand ’Ships”, has a special weakness to beautiful women she loves, even close relatives. If she’s beautiful and Shira already loves and trusts her, getting Shira into her bed is a matter of course, if of course the woman swings that way. The Richter-Thomas women inherited a strong bisexual tendency from the Thomas side, who were German socialists and advocates of free love and Nacktkultur (nudism) during the Weimar Republic even though they were ethnically Jewish. So of course Karen got it too. Why else would she know the most effective way to touch Shira’s heart? Her relationship with her friend Colette, introduced in Chapter 3 before a villain in Chapter 5 knocks her into Chapter 13, even resembles a marriage. So when Karen’s character bloomed at last, the love quotient tripled!

This gives me hope for the remaining flat characters, including “Class of ’92” members Daisy Kwon and Marina Reyes (who now debut in Chapter 2 as tutor and student). Right now Daisy is the Korean-American version of the elegant Japanese “Yamato Nadeshiko” woman and Marina is a depressed illegal-alien girl (Mexican, of course). They’ll become more prominent when the School Arc begins in Chapter 5.

Meanwhile, my strategy for cutting down the not-yet-edited four sections of Chapter 3 is beginning to emerge. Take Part 3:

  1. I combined it out of the Revision 2/3 sections “Portrait of an American Family” and “Car Song”. I was going to call it “Coming to Take Me Away” (still a scene title) but just decided (while on the pot, even; that happens) to make the final title “Car Song”. Two cars appear. I should make it three by adding one to the section’s final flashback. Willa drives one. As for the first…
  2. Remember the lemon yellow Boss Mustang that Shira’s greasily tinkering with? (In the nude, even; Shira is nothing if not way too audacious to be legal for her age.) It’s now metallic cherry red, it belongs to Shira, its name is Sally, and Shira calls it “she”. Shira is notionally the daughter of Revolutionary Girl Utena heroine Utena Tenjou and archvillain Akio Ohtori. Akio has a scene-stealing car that owns you. Sally the Mustang is Shira’s version of the Akio Car, and its scene-stealing qualities are intensified by her love for it. When she finally gets to drive it in Chapter 7, Shira being Shira, the experience proves quite erotic. Just the driving, not the sequence’s concluding all-human love scene. The driving.
  3. Start the section with a transitional scene. Another Shira videoblog? Lurid tabloid TV video of a wild police chase ending in a spectacular crash? Both? One then the other, or both at once?
  4. Cut down the opening scene at Red House. Turn it into a sequence, in fact: Desiree tells off the Mormons, turns down a New Age cult, and with her sister and lover Charlie greets in the nude a pair of old Jehovah’s Witness ladies so that when they kiss the old ladies drop dead. That last one comes from one of the very last notes in Project Notebook #15, and this is the perfect place to put it.
  5. Three bloated Revision 3 scenes to cut down: the garage, the living room and kitchen, and Willa’s car on the way to the boardwalk. Problem: too much gratuitous exposition, not enough connection with story continuity.

Talk about bloated: Part 4, “Party Crashers on the Boardwalk”, is very long indeed. Those 600+ words I need to cut? I could cut that many out of Part 4 without hurting the plot. I’ll also cut some bloat out of Parts 5 (“Your Next Trick”) and 6 (“You Don’t Know What Is What”) while changing them to fit into the stronger Revision 4 continuity.

And now to put that strategy into action…

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