Friday, November 07, 2014

Enchanted, Inc.: The Opening

A while ago, I proposed doing a kind of DVD commentary/re-read of the Enchanted, Inc. series. And then I promptly forgot about it or got sidetracked. But I actually went through the first couple of chapters yesterday, so here we go!

I wrote the opening line around the time I started plotting -- and a lot of that work was done in an airplane on the way to a meetup of Firefly fans. We were gathering in Wildwood, NJ, and my plan was to get a ride afterward to Philadelphia and take the train from there to New York so I could do my research. There ended up being a couple of people who'd driven down from New York, so they gave me a ride and dropped me off in Queens, where I could catch a train (it's elevated in Queens but becomes the subway in Manhattan) to my hotel. On that train ride, at one point the connecting door between cars opened and an entire mariachi band came onto the car and started playing -- and no one else on the car so much as looked at them. They were kind of hard to ignore, but you'd have thought they were invisible. I've since learned that these kinds of buskers are common and the best strategy is to ignore them because giving them any attention just makes things uncomfortable, but at the time, it struck me as really odd. I felt like I was the only person on the train who could see them. And that inspired the incident on the subway in the opening chapter. I figured that if something real and odd happened and nobody else noticed it, then it would set the stage for something magical and odd happening and no one else noticing. That way we don't think Katie's incredibly dense for not noticing the magic stuff.

A lot of that trip was going around and finding locations for the story. I knew I wanted Katie to be working in lower Manhattan, so I took the subway down there and wandered around until I found an appropriately soulless office tower. Then I walked back to where her home would be so I could time the walk and take note of what she'd pass along the way. In the first draft, that section was a lot more detailed because I wanted to fit in all those observations, but ended up cutting it because, really, it was just walking home from work and we needed to get on with the story.

I'd been in that area before, which was why I'd chosen it for the setting, but since I hadn't been planning on writing a book set there the last time I'd been there, there were a lot of details I hadn't noticed. I'd originally planned for Sam to be one of the gargoyles at Grace Church, which is so very gothic-looking that it must have gargoyles, but when I stopped by there to see what the gargoyles looked like, I discovered that there weren't any. Oops. But then I had the big "duh" moment and realized that there would be gargoyles only Katie would see. There really is a magic shop around the corner from the church, and since I was there in late September, there was also a Halloween costume shop nearby.

The recruitment e-mail was the idea that sparked the whole story, when I was wishing I'd get an e-mail for a magical job offer, but I tried to play it somewhat realistically in the book. Would you really jump at such a vague overture, or would you be leery of it? So I then had to set up a situation so awful that she'd end up taking the bait. Sadly, that miserable meeting wasn't too far from so many I've sat through, and the evil boss Mimi is based on some people I've worked with -- a client and a co-worker. Both people had a bad habit of changing their minds and then rewriting their mental history so that the new thing they wanted was always what they wanted, and therefore when you gave them exactly what they'd asked for earlier, you were doing it wrong.

All the stuff with the roommates and going out for drinks came from me trying to hew close to the line of the chick-lit genre. In a way, I was writing this as a spoof, but I also wanted it to be a good example of the genre itself. I needed to balance the magic stuff with the normal girl-in-the-city stuff, so I gave her friends who allowed for those chick-litty scenes. That was also part of me trying to be somewhat realistic and grounding the "real" part of the story to contrast with the magic. The company I'd worked for had an office in New York, and I'd heard the people from that office talking about their living situations. I based the idea of these three women crammed into a small apartment on what I heard about the life of 20-something professionals in New York. I even tried to do some research on rents and floorplans to make sure it was somewhat feasible. Actually, this sounds pretty luxurious compared to some of the stories I heard. I think the group of roommates was also somewhat inspired by some people I knew in college. There was a group of people a year ahead of me in the journalism program who'd decided that if they didn't go to New York right after college, they might never do so, so as graduation neared, they were hunting for jobs and apartments. There were four of them, and they were all going to cram into a small apartment, using sofabeds so that the living room would also be a bedroom. That's where I got the group from college in Texas going to New York together.

So, that's where some of the stuff in the opening of the book came from.

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