Writing Wednesday: Gabrielle’s Necklace

I’ve almost finished another rapid pass through my Phantom novel, putting in references to Meg’s sister–because I decided she did have one.  Though I’m not 100% sure that won’t change again!  But for now I’ve dropped in a few references to her sister Gabrielle, who died before the novel began, and even more references to the necklace Meg is wearing throughout the book now.

I realized this was an excellent opportunity to give Meg a tell-tale habitual gesture–and now she touches her necklace whenever she’s feeling lonely, alone or disappointed by her friends.  And perhaps the excerpt below will explain why!

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I wished I could talk to someone about the Phantom, really talk about the Phantom, but that someone was not ever going to be the police inspector.  He was the last person I wanted to tell about the man in the mask.

“Meg Giry knows about the Phantom,” a voice announced.  The words made me start and I turned my head to find the speaker.  Jammes, of course.  “Her mother is the Phantom’s boxkeeper.”

Enough gazes were directed towards me that Inspector Mifroid had no difficulty identifying me.  He paced closer, pencil poised above the notebook’s open page.  “Your name, mademoiselle?” He looked at me out of cold gray eyes that didn’t seem as comfortable and at ease as I had expected.  A smirk still lingered in the corner of his mouth, but the eyes were serious.  I felt myself go still and grow small under that gaze.

“Marguerite Giry,” I said, my voice sounding small too.  My hand crept up to touch my necklace.

His gaze followed my hand and he said, “With a G, of course.”

I blinked, then realized he was looking at the G engraved on the small gold disk of my necklace.  It was not for Giry.  It was for Gabrielle.  Somewhere my mother had a matching necklace with an M on it, my necklace, but I had worn Gabrielle’s ever since—well, for years.

I was as likely to tell the police inspector about Gabi as I was to tell him about the man in the mask.  So I only said, “Yes.”

Writing Wednesday: Pre-Edited

Occasionally while working on revisions, I find myself thinking I need to add something and then, happily, find that I already have.  I’ve been over and over this story so many times now, it’s hard to remember at times what’s been written and what’s only been thought!  This happened to me recently, as a beta-reader recommended that I add in a Joan of Arc reference in the scene when Christine tells Meg that an Angel of Music has been speaking to her.  I couldn’t quite find a spot in the conversation–and then as I read on, found that I’d already done it at the end of the scene!

Here’s a glimpse at Meg’s reaction to the news, including that Joan of Arc reference.

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I was a good Catholic girl and I believed in angels in the abstract—but to believe that an angel was speaking audibly to Christine in her dressing room, and giving her advice about how to improve her singing?  I was more likely to believe that the Ghost was really a ghost, and I didn’t even believe that.

Besides, when there’s a man lurking around an opera house, possessing an amazing voice, an ability to walk through walls and strong opinions about music, you don’t have to look far to find an explanation for an angelic visitation involving singing lessons.

It was that likely conclusion that was keeping me awake more than the uncertainty.  Should I suggest the idea to Christine?  But the thought of telling her made my stomach hurt.  And besides, I was only guessing that the Angel was the Phantom.  Perhaps I shouldn’t upset Christine if I wasn’t sure.  Even at the time I knew I was trying to convince myself of a way to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, but the half-decision still let me fall asleep.

We didn’t speak of the Angel the next morning, parting on the most cheerful of terms, and the whole idea seemed no more plausible while I was sitting in Sunday morning mass.  Angelic visitations had precedent, true, but angels had had more important things to say to Joan of Arc than recommendations on singing techniques.

Writing Wednesday: Class Divides in 1880s France

Earlier this week I did some editing on a scene in my Phantom retelling that gets at a thematic point (and plot obstacle) that I think has been largely ignored in other versions of the Phantom’s story: namely, the class divide between Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, and Christine Daae, opera singer.

Mainly, Raoul could never marry Christine, and everyone involved would know that.  She could be his mistress, sure, but it would be a scandal to marry her.  In the original novel, Raoul is sad at one point early on because he knows he can’t marry her–and that obstacle is never referenced again.  (Spoiler: they get married eventually.)  Webber ignores the issue entirely.

In my ongoing effort to distinguish my retelling, and to provide a (reasonably) historically accurate version, I wanted to take that issue on directly.  The excerpt below comes just after Meg asks Raoul what his feelings are about marrying Christine.  It’s not the only place the class issue comes up (it becomes a major part of Meg’s plot in the third book too), but I like how this bit captures it.

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Raoul looked at the ceiling, the programs, the far end of the corridor.  “You must understand—my options are very limited—it’s all nonsense about the aristocracy having more freedom, we’re really very constrained in many ways—”

“I understand perfectly, Monsieur,” I said in my politest tones, because why waste any more time on this nonsense?

“Oh good,” he said, shoulders visibly relaxing, which just went to show that he had no idea what I meant.

I understood that he genuinely cared about Christine, that he thought well of her and, maybe, wanted to do the right thing by her.  I also understood that none of that weighed as heavily as the pressure of Philippe, or of societal opinion.  Nothing was surprising in that.  Everyone knew that men like Raoul didn’t marry girls like Christine.  Or like me.  Though with a sudden, uncomfortable feeling, I realized I wasn’t sure that Christine knew it.  But did I dare try to point it out to her?

I felt a surprising pang of disappointment too.  I didn’t even like Raoul, it wasn’t exactly that.  But it didn’t seem fair, that even Christine, beautiful, talented, magnetic Christine, wasn’t good enough for a silly vicomte.

Writing Wednesday: The Vicomte de Chagny

In revisions for my Phantom trilogy, I’ve been working on the scene that introduces Raoul de Chagny, Christine’s love interest–one of them!  We see him through Meg’s eyes in my novel and…he probably doesn’t come off as well as he does in some versions!  Here are her initial impressions, which probably sum up my portrayal of him rather well.

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I was about to ask her directly if she was looking for someone, when her hand closed around my arm and I saw that her gaze had settled on the far end of the Dance Foyer.  “Do you know that man?  The one talking to Sorelli?”

This could be the answer to the question I hadn’t asked.  I looked for Sorelli in the direction of Christine’s gaze.  The lead ballerina was easy to spot in her vivid red gown, talking to two men dressed in somber grays.  The older one was a usual visitor to the Foyer, and with a little thought I recalled the younger man’s name too.  “That’s Philippe, the Comte de Chagny, and his younger brother the vicomte, Raoul.  The comte and Sorelli have been, you know, keeping company for years.”  Surely Christine couldn’t have been looking for him.

“But Raoul,” she said in a low voice, “what do you think about him?”

“I don’t, usually.  I guess he’s nice enough.”  Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: The Vicomte de Chagny”

Writing Wednesday: French Influence by Way of Mr. Dickens

I didn’t read A Tale of Two Cities with the intention of researching for my Phantom novel, but it has turned out that way anyway.  Not a lot has been directly relevant, but it has added some definite shadings through reading the history.  The book is set about ninety years before my novel, but considering the French spent the intervening time having repeated revolutions and changes of government, it feels like it still has a lot of bearing for my characters’ experiences.

And there was one direct edit I made as a consequence of reading about the howling mobs depicted by Dickens.  The Phantom, you see, has a terror of falling into the hands of a mob, something mentioned in the very first scene told from his point of view.  After reading this book, I made some key edits.  Here’s the paragraph as it was before:

Any attack would be more complicated than a simple mob with pitchforks; France was a civilized country, but the result would be the same.  The end of a noose or even worse—a cage.  He was guilty of the crime of being different, the world had convicted him at birth, and he had ample precedent to suggest how they would sentence him.

And with edits:

Any attack would be more complicated than a raging mob with pikes; France was a civilized country, outside of her sporadic revolutions.  The result would be the same.  The guillotine or even worse—a cage.  He was guilty of the crime of being different, the world had convicted him at birth, and he had ample precedent to suggest how they would sentence him.

Small changes, but I feel good about them.  Also, weird historical note: I looked up the history of the guillotine to make sure it was still in use in 1881.  Turns out, it was France’s standard method of execution until 1981, when they ended capital punishment.  !!!  But maybe if I was French, that wouldn’t seem weird after all…

Writing Wednesday: The Grand Escalier

Faithful readers may have noticed that content has been sparse around here lately, though at least I’ve managed to keep the Friday feature going with some regularity.  Life is good and no one should worry, but life is also busy. In the last two months (and a bit) I got married and bought a new house, so life is still very much in transition.  My new favorite phrase has become “it’s a process.”

Since long-form book reviews have not quite worked their way back into my schedule, I’ve been thinking about some other features to explore.  Today launches one of them–Writing Wednesdays, because even though I’m not blogging I’m still doing pretty well keeping on my fiction writing.  So why not tell you some about it?  I’m not sure if this will be a weekly or semiregular feature but…it’s a process!

Right now (and for the last couple of months) I’ve been working on final (?) revisions to what turned out to be Book One of my Phantom of the Opera Trilogy.  I’ve been properly working on this (at intervals) since 2013, and the roots of the story go back almost ten years before that.  So it’s very exciting to be getting close to a final version of…well, a third of the story at least! Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: The Grand Escalier”

Fiction…Monday: Christmas at the Opera Garnier (Part Two)

Happy holidays!  Today I’m continuing my Christmas excerpt from my Phantom of the Opera trilogy.  Read Part One here, for the preceding scene and a little more context.  Most of this excerpt is from Meg Giry’s point of view, though the last bit shifts to Erik’s (otherwise called the Phantom) point of view.

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Early Saturday morning I showed up to meet Erik with a basketful of garlands in my arms.  At Christmas the Opera Garnier became a whirl of garlands and trees and explosions of giggles among the ballet girls as they planned gifts or discussed hopes.  Not to mention Christmas music everywhere, as we practiced for a series of special performances around the holiday.

It was Christmas everywhere at the Opera, except belowground.

“What is that?” Erik asked warily, eying my basket as though something might jump out at him.

“Decorations,” I said, moving over to the wall of masks in the prop room.

“Where are you planning to decorate?” he asked, no less wary as he triggered the secret door.

“I was just thinking…it would be awfully nice…”

“I don’t decorate,” he said abruptly, but I was getting good at hearing the nuances in his abruptness and this one was more of a ‘go cautiously’ than ‘back away’ abruptness.

Not that I went very cautiously anyway.  “But you could.  And it’s so gloomy with no decorations!”

“It is not,” he protested.  “And I like gloom.”

I heaved a sigh.  “Well, I guess.  I can leave these here, I suppose…”

“What were you planning to do anyway, hang wreaths on my gargoyles?” he asked, and this time it was an ‘I’m pretending I don’t like this, but keep talking’ abruptness.

“Of course not, they have too much dignity for that.  I just wanted to put some garlands on your piano and mantelpiece.”

“All right, fine, give me that,” he said, pulled the basket of garlands away from me, and stalked off through the tunnel. Continue reading “Fiction…Monday: Christmas at the Opera Garnier (Part Two)”