Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Damsel Under Stress Reread: Chapters 2-4

Getting back to my Damsel Under Stress reread with commentary after all the travel and home repair issues … Now with chapters two through four.

Katie jumps at the excuse of needing to find a Christmas gift for Owen as a reason to get away from her friends, and then she goes into a burst of paranoia about what would be appropriate to get him so soon into a relationship. This is based on a situation I faced when I started dating a guy right around Thanksgiving. Since we'd just met (it was a blind date that went well), I was wondering if we were even at a gift-giving stage, but then he mentioned wanting to get together so he could give me my present. I went into a panic of trying to figure out something to give him. As I mention in the book, with women you can give stuff like candles. There's not really a male equivalent. Most of the less expensive, less intimate gifts, like books, CDs or DVDs, require enough knowledge to know not only what the person would like but also what they already have -- and that's the tricky part, since if they want something, they tend to get it right away. Even buying things for male friends is a challenge. I'll have an idea for a brand-new DVD as a gift, and then hear how he bought it for himself the day it was released. I've run into similar problems with office gift exchanges. There are tons of potential generic gifts for women, but fewer for men. (Incidentally, his gift to me was what ended the relationship pretty quickly, because it was soooo not appropriate that early in the relationship and showed a complete disregard for my stated tastes and interests. I noticed the red flag, among other red flags, and ended things.)

Rod's makeover starts in this book. I guess that magically crazy semi-date with Katie was a wake-up call for him. He's starting to work on his real appearance instead of relying on illusion. I think some of this was inspired by the fan mail I got for him. I was a little surprised by how much readers liked him, and that made me consider humanizing him a lot more and making him less of a punchline.

Writing a real date for Katie and Owen was rather difficult, and I suppose that's appropriate, given how awkward the transition from friendship to romance can be. I was trying to capture that sense of nerves and shyness as they make that transition. Of course, it helps that they can't seem to have a normal date without some excitement, and after that excitement, things seem to settle more into a comfort zone.

I never seemed to let poor Katie settle into any one job for any length of time. In this book, off she was sent to work in Owen's lab, having to leave her spot as Merlin's assistant behind. Into the gap comes Kim, Katie's biggest rival as a magical immune. Actually, from Katie's point of view, Kim is just another coworker, but Kim sees Katie as a rival. That's somewhat based on an experience I had in my career, where I've had a few people whose jobs I had zero interest in who seemed to see me as a major rival and threat, and who jumped at multiple opportunities to undermine me. Writing these books and using all my work experiences was very cathartic for me. Incidentally, many years later, I made a friend named Kim who was very similar to the way I described book Kim -- physically, not in personality. It was a little weird meeting someone who looked like my character and had the same name.

I really like the bit about wanting a fairy godmother for work -- getting the killer suit and awesome presentation, but you have to get out of the office by five before the Armani suit turns into JCPenney separates and your laptop becomes an Etch-a-Sketch. But I'm not sure a career fairy godmother would have helped me much, as I wasn't really cut out for the career I had. I sure could use one now in my publishing career. Poof! Publicity!

Then I had to pick up on what happened to Philip -- why he was turned into a frog all those years ago. I sort of tied that off in an offhanded way in the fifth book, but I think that's still a dangling plot thread. There was just too much going on in this book to really deal with it.

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