Wonder Boi Writes

In Development Sights and Sounds

Blog Subtitle: When Taylor Swift and Ellen Page Make Out In My Mind.

I am an auditory person.  I suppose this shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Between my affinity for words and my never-ending need to verbalize any complete thought, it’s pretty clear that nothing in my life is really set until it’s been spoken or read or sung aloud.  This aspect of my personality informs my writing in several ways.  One of the big ones is that I always read my novel, out loud, front to back, before I send it off to my beta readers.  Another important factor is that I (almost) always have a soundtrack to every book I write. Some books have full-length, album-style soundtracks.  They have enough music on them to get me through a full 1-2 hour writing session. Spanish Heart was like that and was filled unsurprisingly with Spanish-language or Spanish-influenced pop.  Timeless‘s play list was over 2 hours of songs mostly from my own time in high school.  Does She Love You? was a Reba McEntire greatest hits collection (duh). Poor Edge of Glory, on the other hand, was four of the most random songs. I cannot even tell you how they were connected to each other, much less the story.  I listened to them on repeat for about 4 months.

Thankfully, for my wife’s sanity,  In Development went in a very different direction in that 6 of the 11 songs came from a surprising source: Taylor Swift.

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I had never been a Taylor Swift fan until this book. That isn’t to say I disliked her. I simply didn’t know enough to form an opinion. Of course, I’d heard her songs on the radio and seen her on the TV a bazillion times, but I’m not sure how many of her catchy hits I could’ve pegged as hers, much less been able to sing along to. Until I heard Blank Space.

I am not at all ashamed to admit that Lila Wilder, one of my main characters from In Development, found her voice in that song. However, Lila, like Taylor, would not be content to be confined to one song.  Soon I was a proud owner of 1989 on my iTunes.  And I listened to it A LOT over the next few months. Slowly, Lila got sassier and stronger and savvier, and at times, shadier.

She also got a fashion upgrade.  Lez be honest: I am no fashion icon.  I own suits in black, gray, and navy.  Beyond that, I’m a jeans-and-T-shirt boi.  Most of the time when I’m writing a scene where characters have to dress up, I just look at the Eddie Bauer or Athleta catalogues online.

This is usually enough to rip a few descriptions needed for my girl-next-door characters.

This was not enough for Lila.  The pop star/social media mogul/designer put me through many hours of Pinterest searching for what super-famous, super-fancy women wear to work and on stage and at home, and once again I kept coming back to Taylor.

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It was an easy jump, seeing as how her voice was already inside my head. And boy, does that woman have all the outfits. All. The. Outfits.  Honestly I’m not sure at what point they stop being outfits and start being costumes, but I feel certain that line got blurred in the book and on my Pinterest board.

Before long, all my listening and the pinning got into Google’s metrics. Soon I was bombarded with ads for Taylor Swift fragrances and gift sets and movies and concert tickets and unauthorized biographies and interviews. Taylor infiltrated every inch of my work space, and most of my brain. Then for some reason I started getting ads for Justin Bieber. Clearly the Sales Guardians of All Things Online had pegged me as a 16-year-old girl. And then at the moment I needed it most, a 16-year-old girl appeared on my pages…but you’re not getting that spoiler in this blog. Let’s stick to clothes and the admission that when it came to dressing Lila, I was in over my head and way outside the realm of personal experience. Thankfully, the Internet giveth in abundance.

But what about my other main character, my actress, Cobie? Despite being named for one of my few TV crushes, Cobie Smulders, she didn’t have much of a face or an image.  As I mentioned before, I’m an auditory person, so I heard Cobie’s voice very clearly early in the writing process, and generally, that’s enough.  Voice, heart, motivation, these are the important aspects of character development for me, and they’ve been more than enough to turn out some of my most popular characters over the last ten years.  However, when compared to the Lila/Taylor mash-up, it felt like poor Cobie was getting the short end of the stick.  And to be honest with you, Cobie has been under-appreciated and undercut in a lot of areas of her life, but that’s another spoiler, so let’s just say I started to feel like she needed a visual counterpart too.

Re-enter Pinterest.  You see, it’s a bit if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie, because if you listen to Taylor Swift for mood, you get voice, but if you give a character that voice, she demands a look, and when you’re on Pinterest looking for, well, looks, you might as well look for all the looks, which led me to search for things like “lesbian girl/boi next door,” or “lesbian boi,” or “boi fashion,” and low and behold, all of those search terms eventually led to one person.

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Yeah, I should have seen that coming.  A better lesbian would have seen that coming.  As someone who has literally answered “Ellen Page” to several interviewers who’ve asked “Who should play you in the movie of your life?” I should have seen Ellen Page coming when writing a novel about a lesbian actress who got her start in teen movies.  I am embarrassed to admit I did not.

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I do not watch a lot of movies, okay? I’m poor. I have a ten year old. I live in a small town without a lot of entertainment opportunities. I missed the obvious connection right up until Pinterest smacked me over the head with it.

Suddenly, my actress didn’t just have a voice and conflict. She had style.  If you go to my Pinterest board for In Development you will find several outfits/costumes/looks on Ellen Page that will be described piece for piece on Cobie throughout the course of In Development.

Right now, I should probably stop and give the disclaimer that In Development is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

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No, really, this is true…for everything but the characters’ clothes!

I mean it. I do not know Taylor Swift or Ellen Page in person (duh!).  I have not read a single one of the unauthorized biographies Amazon tried to sell me when Google sold them my search histories. I have read a sum total of two articles about them (this one about Ellen Page’s #MeToo moment because I support the movement, and this one about Taylor Swift’s love of read and writing because I am a whore for books).

Neither Cobie nor Lila’s central conflicts are based on their actress/songstress they look like, and I know nothing about either of their relationship histories, so any similarities truly are coincidental (Okay, if pushed, I would have to admit that I think Taylor Swift dated that one guy, from that movie with the other guy who is super-pretty, but whose name I don’t remember).

I did not/do not hold either of them up as role models, nor am I encouraging my readers to. Nor am I saying other people shouldn’t consider them as role models. Maybe they’d be good ones; maybe they’re terrible. I don’t know!

I’m just saying, all I stole from them were my own descriptions, mostly of their clothes.  I hope there is no copyright infringement on descriptions of beautiful women in tuxedos and flapper dresses, because if there is, a lot of authors are in trouble.

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That being said, I will admit that playing character dress-up with two stunning, heavily photographed, outgoing women in the public eye is not the worst form of “research” I’ve ever had to do. Right?

Also, if visualizing Taylor Swift and Ellen Page making out on a grand piano is a copyright infringement, well then, I didn’t do that either, but fair warning, you might want to lawyer up before you read In Development. 😉

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April 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

   

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