By Cindy Brown
Writers know that sometimes we have to kill our darlings, to cut scenes we love that no longer fit into our books. But what do we do with those scenes? Someone asked that question at Malice Domestic during the humor panel where I met Jackie King (who so graciously asked me to post today).
I like to resurrect those scenes. Sure, some of them stay in a file marked “Maybe later,” but too often later never comes and my poor dead darlings languish in the deep freeze. So every so often, I pull one out and let it run around a bit. I rewrote a bunch of them into monologues and invited a theater company to read them as part of my launch party for Macdeath. I put one on my blog. I plan to include some short funny bits in my email newsletter. And what the heck, I’m going to raise one from the dead right now.
My novel, Macdeath, a madcap mystery set in the off, off, off Broadway world of theater. The scene below didn’t really move the plot forward, but I think it’s a fun little bit that gives you an idea of the book’s world. To give you a frame of reference, the scene is written from the point of view of Ivy Meadows, my actress/part-time PI protagonist, and features Linda (the stage manager), Debbie (the costume designer), and Edward (the director). I hope you enjoy my dead darling!
I strolled into rehearsal, twenty minutes early. I made a point of walking past Linda so she could see how wonderfully on-time I was. She looked at her watch, then tapped it, holding it to her ear.
“Damn,” she said. “Must need a new battery.”
I smiled at her, mostly to keep myself from sticking out my tongue, and started toward the dressing room.
“Since you’re here on time…” she said.
“Early,” I said. “I’m here early.”
“Since you’re here a few minutes early,” she conceded, “I’d like you to go upstairs and see Debbie. She has some wigs for you to try on.”
Debbie was our costume designer, a big woman with a large laugh and about a zillion costumes to get done in the next few days. I hadn’t heard her laughing lately.
I ran up the stairs and poked my head into the costume department. Neatly organized racks of clothes filled the room. Shelves lined the walls, crammed full of labeled cardboard boxes. I saw a box labeled “codpieces,” but I didn’t see Debbie.
A petite blonde woman sat at one of several sewing machines, piecing together a costume made of striped fake fur.
“Did Debbie leave any wigs for me to try on?” I asked. “I’m Ivy. Third witch.”
“Didn’t say anything to me, but...”
She waved toward a counter near the back of the room where several wigheads stared into the mirror with Styrofoam eyes. Fake hair peeked out from boxes under the counter.
I didn’t know what Debbie had in mind, but Linda had sent me to try on wigs, so I did.
I had just yanked off a short blond one that made me look like the mother in the Brady Bunch, when I saw Debbie stomp into the room, Edward hard on her heels.
“No, no, no! Must I explain the concept to you again?!” As usual, Edward gestured wildly as he spoke. Instead of the usual carrot, though, he was flinging around a bit of brown and green cloth.
The blonde seamstress slipped out of the room. I slid back between a couple of racks of costumes from a production of Mame! Completely hidden by a wool coat and a red gown with a feather boa stitched around the neck, I could eavesdrop without being seen.
Debbie spoke through clenched teeth. “I heard you just fine, all five thousand times you’ve explained it to me. If you would just listen to me for…”
“Then where is the circus?!” Edward nearly foamed at the mouth. “Where are the tutus, the glitter, the gaudiness? Certainly not here!”
“The witches are not wearing any goddam tutus,” she said. “No way. How are they going to crawl in and out of the caldron in tutus?”
Edward ignored her, and waved the bit of cloth, which I was beginning to think was a leotard. “This just looks like a bad interpretive dance costume.”
He minced around, doing, yes, a bad interpretive dance. He pranced like a deer. “Now, we are the woodland creatures, blown out of our forest …” The deer twirled around, “And into…” the deer stopped and stared straight ahead. “Into traffic.”
Debbie crossed her arms. “Are you saying my costume looks like roadkill?”
Maybe it was a really good interpretive dance. I could see Edward as roadkill.
“If the shoe fits,” he said, dropping the leotard on the floor.
|Picture from launch party for Macdeath|
Ivy and Edward
Cindy Brown has been a theater geek since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Ivy Meadows theater mysteries. Macdeath, the first book in the series is “a gut-splitting mystery"(Mystery Scene Magazine). The second book in the series, The Sound of Murder, comes out this October
Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.