Phil: You know how it is; after years of writing about proper blokes subjects like boats and trains and greasy car maintenance, you get stuck into producing a novel and find you have fallen into the pink, fluffy, pit of chick-lit.
I don’t really know how this happened. When we first talked about the book, in my head there was something Tom Sharpe-ish going on. A bit less pervy stuff maybe, but definitely lots of funny set-pieces and preposterous ideas. Laugh out loud funny stuff.
The thing about working with someone else though is that your ideas get an immediate editing. The sort of thing that all writers ideas get, but instead of this happening at the end of the process when the manuscript is complete, they take a beating straight away. This is good as they never grow from mere acorns into sacred cows but you can find things eveloving in directions you didn’t expect. Quite exciting really.
Gradually, as e-mails pinged back and forth and lunchtime chats fleshed out the plans, Kate took over. Kate Smith, the main character that is. To put it in a nerdy way, she is Darth Vader in our Star Wars story but with better clothes, less space ships and no breathing issues.
In fact the clothes became more and more central to the story. Kate’s wardrobe defines her. It’s not just about appearance but (and this is where it gets chick-lit) her moods and personality are summed up by the contents of her wardrobe. It would be going too far to suggest that clothes are all that matter to her but she does use them in a way a male character wouldn’t. Not just her either, once you get into this stuff, everyone gets the treatment.
All this is fine but it leaves me marooned. I mean, I can understand why I don’t need a spanner suitable for Whitworth threaded bolts but am lost when it comes to outfits. For example, apparently different brands of jeans fit differently. Who knew ? I thought they just fitted or didn’t and if they didn’t then you picked a bigger waist size or longer legs.
All this means it’s a good job I have a co-writer. Now when I need to know what someone is wearing, I send an e-mail “Candice, what shoes are required for walking around a field in the summer ?”. I’d guessed “old ones” but apparently the correct answer is “Gladiator sandals or wedges”. Also, when I fire a block of text over, the next time I see it the paragraphs have added brand names. Chick-lit it seems should read like a shopping list.
Which brings me to peplum frills.
One of our minor characters wears a jacket with one and my first response was “What the hell is one of those ?”
Tentatively looking on teh interweb, I find it is “a flared ruffle attached to the waistline of a dress, jacket, or blouse”
That wasn’t much help. So, emboldened by the knowledge that I wasn’t about to inadvertently surf porn at work, I looked at the pictures. This helped, it’s the frilly bit at the bottom of a womans jacket. To my eye, an extraneous bit of detail stuck on by designers hoping to persuade gullible customers that they need a new jacket even when the current one hasn’t worn out yet.
I enquired further. According to Candice, you might wear a jacket with a peplum frill to distract the eye from a “fat arse”.
Genius. Without describing the person, you are saying that she cares about her appearance but is a little heavier than she would like to be. That’s why I need a colleague. Mind you, with all these cup cakes we are eating now I’m wondering if there are any blokes jackets with the same feature…