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I am shelved with things that are interesting, and that's good enough for me. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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I am shelved with things that are interesting, and that's good enough for me. [Mar. 13th, 2012|09:13 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Okay, here is my new rule which is actually an old rule:

You do not get a free pass on being interesting by being in a genre with interesting things. Specifically, you do not get to say, "Hi, I'm a spy! Now, the weather report." "Hi, I'm a spy! Here are several pages about my shoes. Or possibly my car." Unless your shoes do things. By which I mean spy things, not shoe things. Being a particular color does not count as doing things. Disabling enemy agents from thirty paces while emitting a particularly pleasant cherry-wood fragrance? Okay. Being purple? Not okay. Not okay for more than, like, two sentences, tops. How interesting can the purple of your shoes be? Not very.

You may be asking, what if I am really brilliant? And I can make my purple shoes interesting for four or possibly five sentences? Knock yourself out. Knock yourself out with the knockout drops emitted by your fascinatingly kitten-heeled shoes. Go ahead and be just that brilliant, and I will write you a personal apology here on the internet for all to see. Ready go.

But for all the rest of you: default to doing stuff. Please? Thanks.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: zalena
2012-03-14 03:40 am (UTC)
In other words: No Inspector Gadget!
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 10:45 am (UTC)
But his things do stuff.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2012-03-14 04:13 am (UTC)
But what if you are a Very Important Person? This makes your shoes (or those of your characters) extra-special important and interesting, right?
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2012-03-14 04:41 am (UTC)
Or what if you're a spy for Manolo?
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2012-03-14 05:46 am (UTC)
Industrial espionage is a different genre of book, I fear. A much less well-known genre, to boot.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 10:40 am (UTC)
I could actually do with a bit of the fiction about it, but alas.
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[User Picture]From: reveritas
2012-03-14 03:23 pm (UTC)
That's a shoe-in for worst pun of the year.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2012-03-14 04:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, I don't know. I could probably have kicked it up a notch if I tried.
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[User Picture]From: weatherglass
2012-03-14 05:55 am (UTC)
You may be asking, what if I am really brilliant? And I can make my purple shoes interesting for four or possibly five sentences?

I now want to see what Neal Stephenson would do with this.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 10:41 am (UTC)
I, on the other hand, want to see what Neal Stephenson Circa 1994-2002 would do with it. At the moment I am kind of meh.
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[User Picture]From: also_huey
2012-03-14 07:03 am (UTC)
I can't even begin to understand how you go about doing pages on shoes. And this strikes me as odd, because one of my biggest flaws as a writer is that I can really crucify a sentence. I blame English teachers who tried to teach phrasing by saying "Write how you talk", and I was a both a tuba player and a drill sergeant, full of breath and volume, and blessed with a mind that never stops and provides me with such a constant string of things to say such that my average sentence can easily go on for an entire paragraph, chock full of em-dashes and parenthetical notes and a semicolon, and the very same people who once entreated me to write how I talk read it and say "you don't talk like this, do you?" and I say "YES!" and they say "JESUS, TAKE A BREATH ALREADY".

Well, y'know, I will when I need to. But that hasn't happened yet. We'll get to that in a minute.

But a couple pages on shoes? Really? I mean, I could use shoes as a jumping-off point, about how these shoes put me on the path to where I am now. Maybe there was an argument with my mother when I fished them out of the trash, and that argument eventually led to me leaving home at fifteen. Or maybe these were the shoes that I was wearing when I crossed the Bridge of Sighs, and not as part of a tourist group, mind you, but because the Doge had just decreed that I be hanged at dawn. These shoes are much older than they look. I, on the other hand, am about the same age as I look, and only a few years older than I was when the Doge sentenced me to death, but how that comes to be is quite a long story...

...but shoes, just for the sake of shoes? I'm not seeing the point. I'm not even seeing why anyone would think that's a good idea, much less an author, at least one editor, and I dunno how many prepub reviewers. Is there really no one to say "Dude: get off the shoes"?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 10:43 am (UTC)
"Is the bit about the shoes really necessary?"
"We think this will draw in the ladeeeeez."
"Do we know any actual women?"
"No, but we have hopes of meeting some once this book comes out."
"Oh. Carry on, then."
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[User Picture]From: finnyb
2012-03-14 11:52 am (UTC)
"my average sentence can easily go on for an entire paragraph, chock full of em-dashes and parenthetical notes and a semicolon"

Are you me? I was informed at university that I "talk in punctuation", just like I write, and my average sentence can definitely do exactly what yours can.
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[User Picture]From: oursin
2012-03-14 08:48 am (UTC)
Surely the only important thing about Spy Shoes is whether they have pop-out poisoned blades? (like Rosa Klebs in the Bond books - not sure if this was in the movies or not.)

Possibly if the kitten-heels can be activated to levitate the wearer...
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 10:45 am (UTC)
I kept coming up with these theories, and when they a) were more entertaining than the book and b) got to the end of their entertaining lifespan, I put the book back on the pile to go back to the library and picked up a different book.

In which the example was at least not literally shoes, but also not much better.

The other monkeys: they are a lot of trouble sometimes. But won't it be convenient that I will be able to return library books while I am picking other library books up! (For values of "I" that sometimes mean "other members of the household completely.")
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2012-03-14 01:18 pm (UTC)
Now I want to read Spy Shoes, that little-known book by Noel Streatfeild.

(Generally, in Real Life(TM) I do the opposite very well: managing to be fairly boring in the midst of doing quite interesting things. This is not particularly helpful for writing purposes - I submit my travel blog as Exhibit A - but it does make for a pleasant low-drama life.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 01:21 pm (UTC)
OMG SO DO I.

Somebody's theatrical or musical career is a cover for their Difficult Younger Sibling's spy antics!!! And sometimes they get sulky because the performer gets all the attention even though they are saving freedom and the western world with their work. Oh, I know how this book goes. It exists holographically in my mind in its implications even though it is nowhere in this world.
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[User Picture]From: oursin
2012-03-14 01:36 pm (UTC)
Oh: that reminds me of a short (2 books? 3?) series by Janice Weber, Frost the Fiddler and Hot Ticket and possibly one more, in which Our Protag is a Top Concert Violinist and Secret Agent.

I do not give quality guarantees, however; it's a long time since I read them.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 01:57 pm (UTC)
Well, the library has the first of them, so my investment in finding out quality for myself is rather low.

At least, the library claims to have the first of them. One of my roles in this county is to ask for books the library thinks it has so that it can find out that, whoops, no, it hasn't got them after all, it's just that nobody has asked for years and years.

It's good to have a sense of one's place in the world, but also occasionally in the county.
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[User Picture]From: miz_hatbox
2012-03-14 07:45 pm (UTC)
It's a rough job but someone has to do it.

(They don't have books that nobody has asked for? They don't put them in Central Storage or label them in the database as Lost?)

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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 10:17 pm (UTC)
If they know they're lost, they're labeled as lost (at least for awhile--I don't know if the record is eventually purged). But oftentimes they don't realize something is lost until they go to fetch it and it isn't there. It's like how I watch their DVDs and tell them that the DVDs are broken: I have every hope that they purge the ones that no longer play, but there's always the time between the thing breaking and somebody trying to use it again.
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[User Picture]From: miz_hatbox
2012-03-14 07:36 pm (UTC)
I want to read this book too.
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[User Picture]From: dormouse_in_tea
2012-03-14 02:27 pm (UTC)
Somehow, as a result of discussing this entry with a friend, I now have to invent a world, develop the entire history of one of the cultures there-in, and then produce a learned scholarly monograph on the history of the art and craft of dyeing in said cultures.

I am REALLY NOT SURE how this happened, but I'm pretty sure I get to blame you, so thanks a lot. :P
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2012-03-14 03:00 pm (UTC)
I am unrepentant.
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[User Picture]From: miz_hatbox
2012-03-14 07:35 pm (UTC)
Yes. Thank you. Harriet the Spy knew this. Good old Harriet.

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[User Picture]From: redbird
2012-03-16 12:16 am (UTC)
Somebody could digress from the purple of those shoes into leather-dyeing and Tyrian purple and Phoenician trade routes and such. But that wouldn't be the spy novel you're looking at. It could, I suppose, be a lead-in to a novel about a spy a couple of millennia ago. Or, more likely, one of Avram Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory, with references to the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, alas never to be written now.
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