In Which Our Heroine Is Further Distracted By Political Spouses and Writing Theory

27 January 2004

I have heard people arguing that a candidate's spouse should in no way reflect on the candidate -- that who they married has no bearing on the person you're electing. I don't agree with that at all. A man who would marry Teresa Heinz Kerry, for example, is a man who scares me spitless. The Botox. The party-switching career political spouse thing. The dismissive arrogance. The whole package. It's just not good. To my eyes it reflects on at least some aspect of his personality that is superficial and power-mongering, fickle and arrogant.

On the other hand, I've already talked about why I'm drawn to Judith Steinberg Dean, comparatively speaking, and Gertrude Clark intrigues me for similar reasons: neither of them was chosen as a politician's spouse. As much Elizabeth Edwards hits a pretty darn good vibe with me, I also think that it's fairly clear she knew she what she was getting into from the very start, and so did John. She was a law student, for heaven's sake. And Hadassah Lieberman has been around the political block more times than most congresscritters, by this point (her degrees are in government and International Relations). She knows what she's doing; I respect that. I don't like some of the stuff she's doing, but I think she's probably fairly good at doing it. But it was not a surprise to either of those two women what was on the agenda for their spouses.

Gertrude Clark, though...a general's wife has to know how to deal with people. By all accounts I've encountered, she's practical and adaptable, able to talk comfortably with people from all walks of life and regions of the world. I think she says good things about what he values. Actually, I think all of them do except Teresa Heinz Kerry, who, as I mentioned, scares the crap out of me. It's just that they're different good things, and sometimes the good things aren't nearly enough to drown out other considerations.

Some well-meaning Democrats in the '90s tried to argue that Hillary Rodham Clinton wouldn't be much of an influence on her husband. I didn't think that was a good thing. "This man committed to spend his life being partners with someone whose opinion he doesn't respect!" Oh. Um...well...good? No. Not good. Not good at all. And I hope we're over that now, because...yuck.

Meh. Politics. All that aside, it was a decent enough day yesterday, working, finishing A Frozen Hell -- I don't really look forward to having to deal with more Winter War stuff when it comes time to write that book. It's brutal and horrible. It's the only possible setting for that particular book. It shaped Ansa and Sohvi and the others; they wouldn't be themselves in some other setting, and their story there is interesting -- but here we are again at interrelations of the supposedly independent canonical elements.

Bear got me thinking about long and short conflicts, because that's apparently not how she thinks of different lengths of works, or maybe it is and we're still talking around the words we're using. Here's my personal example: the prolog to Fortress of Thorns started out looking like a short conflict. Will Charlotte and Miri be able to save each other from the Grey Place? Short conflict. Heh. Yeah. And it kind of worked in miniature in that prolog...except that they weren't able to leave it at that, and the question spread out into a handful of other characters and will take four books to answer. Because the prolog answered, "Will Charlotte and Miri be able to save each other from the Grey Place this week?" And the books answer the question as a generality. With subplots, sure, and other points of interest, other questions (or other relationships, etc.!). It's just that as a general question, it's a long conflict. Even if I tried to excise everything that didn't have directly to do with this conflict, I couldn't squeeze it into 5000 words. It's a conflict that requires development.

This is the tricky bit of writing an episodic novel: the conflicts have to be interesting in short form and add up to something interesting unfolding in the long form. So far I've sold two of the three shorts I've finished on my epistolary dealie, so I think people are finding the short form conflicts compelling enough. Which is good. We'll see if they add up to something as nifty. I hope so. I've gotten really good feedback on "MacArthur Station" and "Glass Wind," and they've been a lot of fun to write.

Hmmm. Sometimes length of conflict depends on how much data the decider needs to make a decision, compared to how much they already have. In "Dark Thread" (I got my author copies yesterday!), Anne doesn't have that many avenues to explore. She gets the information she needs, she makes the choice she has to make, and we're done and drinking our coffee inside a couple thousand words. There are fewer possible wrong avenues. The stuff she needs to know to make her choice is relatively straightforward and all available from the outset.

...etc. I'm not saying that you can't make a short conflict into a long story or (less successfully) vice versa. I think Tam Lin is my favorite example of a relatively short conflict, and yet with its anticipation building it can make a wonderful book. (We'd better hope so, at least. Karina: "I notice that The True Tale of Carter Hall has acquired italics since we last spoke about it." Well, yeah, guilty as charged....) But the length of conflict definitely informs the length of story, for me at least.

Which is only part of why the Not The Moose is what it is. Sigh.

(Grumble mumble Celia Marsh grumble weather theme issue ratzenfrackin' grrr. I have rains of frogs. And salmon. And mouse tornadoes. Mouse! Tornadoes! Bitey bitey, squee squee, whirrrr! Spread out over a total of 200K right now, going to be two to three books! Not at all suitable in length for sending in to Fortean! But in topic, oh yes. Must not contemplate short storying in same world until I finish rough draft. Must stay focused. Mouse! Tornadoes! Sigh.)

And on the weathery note: we got plenty of snow yesterday, and it's not supposed to snow today, so maybe we can dig out and stay warm until it starts snowing again tomorrow or the next day. It only delayed Em and Aaron's arrival, rather than making it impossible for them to come down, so that was good. (No puppy, though; easier to have a focused dinner and conversation that way, but distinctly lacking in the area, really, I think is what I'd call that area. But Em called to make sure they were still welcome without him, so we were forewarned.)

So. The Belly of the Bow and the Not The Moose, and battling inexplicable crud and that sort of thing. And tea and warmth. And not paying attention to political spouses, mouse tornadoes, or anything else of the sort. Nononono.

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