Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What We're Writing--Hank's Turn!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I love that we're all at different points on the writing road. 

I am in the just-finished-my-copy-edits stage—and had so much fun with the almost-final revisions! I adore revisions, I mean, I truly get goosebumps, sometimes, doing them, because something that was kind of okay and serviceable sometimes can become something that's chillingly good.

Not always, I know. But enough times that it’s fuel to keep me going.

So as I close the writing door on TRUTH BE TOLD, I’m fascinated to see what’ll happen as I get into WHAT YOU SEE. It’s about how photos don't lie, but witnesses do. And of course how what you see is not always—well, you get the picture. (Ha!)

Anyway. I'm very early into it, only about 19,000 words.

Here's two cops talking to each other in draft one. Jake and another cop on the scene of a potential homicide. I wanted the arriving detective to query Jake about the situation, but I hadn't quite developed their relationship.

So first-first draft, the cops meet at a crime scene. I had no back story, no connection between the two, so I had officer Barton (turned out there's a reason for her name, who’d a thought?) just ask Jake a question, pure and simple.  

 “Did you take any photos?” 

Which is fine, flabby, but fine. Sometimes you’ve just got to ask a question, with no sub-text. But let’s say Officer Barton is a go-getter, an ambitious climber who might be scheming to get a promotion.  What if she said:

"What photos did you take? If any?" 

Now, see, she’s angling for something. Or maybe even trying to figure out if Jake did his job. This is not only a question, but, if he didn’t take any photos, a potentially circital question. Or--maybe she’s in on the crime, and trying to figure out how much Jake knows. Hmm. That’s a possibility.

 But what if—she’s got a crush on Jake? What if she’s trying to make a connection, or curry his favor, or keep herself on the case?

What if she asks “Could you please you email me any photos you took? I’d love to see them.”

Now that’s a different relationship, right? And you can hear her voice a little now. That’s a character who’s coming to life a bit.

But what if—she and Jake had a past, and not necessarily a good one. I decided – this is early on, remember—that maybe she and Jake had been an item, pre-Jane, and then, when Jake made detective, and she didn’t, she’s never gotten over it. She’s still a cop on the beat, he’s got a gold badge. And she resent it.

“You need to send me your photos,” she says.

Or even “Send me your photos, Detective. You still have my address?”

I still haven’t decided. But this is the interesting part. How are these characters going to  come to life? How will they relate to each other? Each line, every line, makes a difference.

And as for TRUTH BE TOLD, I am so excited! I am so happy with it.

The question in TRUTH BE TOLD—how far would you go to save your home?   The first scene is an eviction, Jane Ryland covering the heart-wrenching scene of a family forced fro their home and the heavy-handed deputies throwing the family’s possessions out the window. Until—uh-oh. They discover…

Chapter 2 is Jake’s point of view. A guy has arrived at the police station, and confesses to a cold case murder. Why would he do that?

Chapter 3, a new character arrives. Meet—well, that’s exactly what she’s deciding.

                                         Chapter 3

       Lizzie McDivitt typed her name, letter by letter, on her new computer. Trying it out. Elizabeth McDivitt. Elizabeth Halloran McDivitt. Elizabeth H. McDivitt. The admin types needed the wording of the nameplate on her new office door, and she had to choose. First impression and all that.
Would her bank customers be more comfortable with her as the crisp and competent Liz? Or the elegant and experienced Elizabeth? Maybe this was the time to become Beth, the friendly-but-competent Beth. The motherly Bess?
Lizzie stared at the computer screen, the cursor blinking at her. Decide.
“Lizzie,” at least, that was a definite no. “Lizzie” was fine for her parents, and even for Aaron, but not here at the bank. “Lizzie” sounded like the new kid, eager to please. Semi-true, of course, but not the image she needed. She needed . . . compassionate. Understanding. Her clients would be the needy ones, the out-of-work ones, the down-and outers who’d once had the assets to get a mortgage from A&A—but now had to scramble for refinancing and loan modifications.
“If you say it, if you portray it, they will believe it,” her father’d always told her. Seemed to work for him. His black fountain pen alone could probably take care of the monthly mortgage tab for a few of her clients. Father was always losing his fancy pens, misplacing them, forgetting them, one after the other. He never flinched at purchasing a new one.
She clicked her plastic ballpoint.
The bank had so much money. Her new customers had so little.
Click. Click.
What would be the bad thing, she wondered, about making it a little more fair?
Click. Click.
Aaron was still out for lunch, she guessed. She thought of him, his curls, and that smile, and what he’d actually said to her that first day back by the old vault. Their “tryst” last night, which ended—way too late—with her finally saying no and cabbing it home. She shook her head, remembering her girlfriends’ advice. You have to stop being so picky or you’ll be alone forever. True, Aaron was more than cute. True, he had a good job. So, okay, maybe. Even though he wasn’t exactly . . .
“Miss McDivitt? You ready for your one-thirty? Mr. and Mrs. Iantosca are here.”
Lizzie jumped, startled at the sound of her own name buzzing through her intercom. She’d started behind the cages in the teller pool, then got promoted to a loan officer’s desk in the lobby, visible every single moment of every single day, like a zoo animal.
Now, finally, she’d been named the bank’s first customer affairs liaison. With her own private office. It was lovely to have a door that closed. And an assistant, Stephanie Weaver, who stayed outside unless invited in.
“Thanks, Stephanie,” she said. She punched up the Iantoscas’ mortgage loan documents: a series of spreadsheets, tiny-fonted agreements, and the decisive flurry of letters stored on the bank’s in-house software. The green numbers that were entered several years ago had gone red last summer, then bold red in the fall, then starting around the holidays, black-bordered bold red. By now, mid-May, Christian and Colleen Iantosca were underwater and in trouble.
So they thought.

HANK: I cannot wait for you to read TRUTH BE TOLD! (Now, um, she mutters under her breath, available for pre-order ….the first time I've ever said that for this book!) And I will show you the cover soon! SO exciting!

But let me ask you…let’s just say that a few bankers in this book at not exactly good guys. Do you think I’ll get bank-loving backlash?  And what would you think if your mortgage was suddenly—paid in full?


  1. Bankers not good guys? You do remember I'm an accountant by day, right, Hank? ;)

    And I love your discussion about lines of dialogue and how it shows relationship. I'd never even thought about it, but your examples are very interesting.

  2. I'd be investigating big time if something got paid. What if it was a mistake? What if you had to pay the money back? How would you do that? I can't see a bank saying oops, wrong account, and send it back. Though that's the first thing they'd want if they put money in your account and you spent some. Whew. Long winded. Who knew this would charge me up so much?? ;)

  3. Sounds really good, Hank. Can't wait for Truth Be Told.

  4. Can't wait for this one Hank! I too love the description of the choices you can make while writing dialogue--while writing anything, really.

    It's a miracle that a book does get written, when there are so many ways an author can get tied in knots:)

  5. My mortgage was paid in full? The bank must have a client from the "rich" Romano family; no relation, of course, to ME!

    I would definitely be on the phone with the bank, insisting that they do some sort of audit. (I used to work in a bank, by the way.) I'd persist and persist until the mistake was corrected. Now, if it turned out that this was some sort of modern-day Millionaire story (remember that TV show?) I'd say let me send that person a thank you note! (It's nice to dream about this!)

    I can't wait to see how this plays out, Hank!

  6. Oooh, nuance. I love the polishing of revision. Just a tweak and there's a whole new layer of meaning. Let's hear it for SUBTEXT!

    This sounds like another huge winner, Hank...

  7. I can't wait to see the cover of the book Hank. The previous two have been really strong covers, so I hope the trend continues for you.

    Also, can't wait for the book to come out - but that goes without saying.

  8. Excellent! How fun to read how your thought and writing process works during the writing and revising. And cannot wait to read it!
    Oh, please let me know how it might feel to have our mortgage paid off - wow. How very freeing that would be.
    And I'd start hitting a whole lot more book conventions!

  9. Okay, first, go pre-order TRUTH BE TOLD.

    Love the dialogue. I'm reworking a secondary character now, and paying a lot of attention to the same thing. She's young, ambitious, eager to prove, eager to please, and just a touch of a loose cannon.

    I doubt in today's economy you'll get much backlash from bank-lovers. Heck, I'm pounding attorneys pretty good in my WIP. They're natural targets. Same as bankers.

    And if my mortgage was suddenly paid? First excitement, followed by trepidation. "How the bleep did that happen and am I going to get slammed somehow?"

  10. Oh, Mark, the ACCOUNTANTS are good..some of them at least. :-) But TRUTH BE TOLD is all about financial finagling and mortgages and foreclosures and people trying to save their homes--and it was really fun to write!

    Crossing fingers you love it..

  11. SO, Ann--what if the bank said--ooops, we made a mistake? YOu know it could happen... and what would happen at the bank as a result?

    Who would cover it up, and why? And what would happen to the customers? And to the bank execs? What wold it be worth to get everyone to keep quiet??

  12. Thans, Jack! Thanks, Susan! LOVE goosebumps.

  13. Well yeah, Roberta. But it's also wonderful, right?
    Because there's always another possibility, we just have to be patient enough to find it.

    (We'll see some of your new book tomorrow, so terrific!) (And so incredibly interesting to see how differently we all write. It knocks me out every time.)

  14. DebRo--well, if you have bank experience, I definitely want you to read this. I of course did a lot off research with banking people--but fiction is ficiion, at some point.

    I recently went to an event where Harlan Coben spoke, and he said he did virtually no research--he said he could make stuff up that was more interesting than reality. There's something to be said for that--but I always worry about he THING that just can't be. Whatever it is.

  15. Thanks, Hallie. Crossing fingers! Yes, those are the fun parts!

    Oh, Kristopher, the COVER. I am--crossing fingers there, too. They want to make it a little different so we don't get trapped into a "they always have to look alike" mode. Which is why the title isn't The SOMETHING SOMETHING. We shall see! And thank you!

  16. Someone pays off my mortgage without my knowledge -- I'd be on the phone in a heartbeat.

    And if it somehow turned out to be legit, my next stop is a tax attorney to find out those ramifications.

    And since I still think if it's too good to be true, I'm putting the money that should be paying off my mortgage into a separate fund just in case the bank later says, "Oops -- you weren't the right James M. Jackson"

    But since I write financial crime, I have no problem with problem bankers, or insurance agents, or financial advisors. :)

    ~ Jim

  17. I'm with Ann - if my mortgage suddenly is paid, I'm going to be looking into how. I wouldn't want it to be a mistake, and if someone paid it I'd sure want to know who did it so I could thank them (or, depending on what strings are attached, tell them to take it back).

  18. LOVING all this! What if someone said--oops, we miscalculated your payments Now they're this amount...somewhat lower...

  19. There are so many online amortization calculators. I'd definitely be hitting one of them to verify.

  20. I do love how SUSPICIOUS you all are! You crime fiction experts you.

    Don't you think banks ever really make mistakes?

  21. Oh, Hank, I am so ready for your next novel. I have pre-ordered Truth Be Told now, and I'm looking forward to a great October read. Maybe I'll be caught up on all my other reading by then (in my wildest dreams). And, I think having some bad guy bankers is unfortunately not a stretch, even to people in the banking industry.

    The dialogue in character development/relations was fascinating to read. I will now be even more aware of the subtleties of dialogue. Such great examples, Hank. One of my favorite parts of reading is the interplay of character relationships in their dialogue, but you've pointed out just what a difference it really does make.

    As for personal banking, I watch my bank closely. After a $20,000 mistake a couple of years ago, apparently someone hit a wrong key, I monitor transactions carefully. Although the mistake was promptly corrected, it made me wonder how many times mistakes are made and not caught by customers. As you might have guessed, the mistake was not in my favor. Vigilance is the only way to do banking.

  22. Yes, a mistake in the customer's favor. It MUST happen. SO why don't we ever hear about it?

  23. Does anyone actually love their bank? After waiting for 20 minutes for the CS rep to figure how to write a wire transfer (I had to find the icon on his computer for him), love was NOT in my heart.
    Paying off my mortgage? I'd ask for it in writing. Notarized. No do overs. And then I'd celebrate!LOL. You've invited to the party.

  24. Hank, that's so good, the dialogue thing. Subtext. I don't think I ever work it out that consciously.

    And LOVE the excerpt from the new book. Can't wait to read it!!!!

    What would I do I suddenly found our mortgage had been paid in full? Call the bank. Funnily enough, I got a credit monitoring alert last month, and when I checked into it, it showed that our mortgage company had sold our mortgage and that it was PAID IN FULL. Life imitates art, right?

    But when I called the bank, the loan officer said, "Oh, no, we still own your mortgage. It was a computer mistake. We're working on getting it all straightened out."

    And now I'm thinking, "Hmmm..."

  25. Yep, banks definitely make mistakes!

    I remember hearing about a customer at the bank where I used to work who was trying to tell one of the officers that there was too much money in her savings account. He kept telling her that she probably forgot how much she had deposited! She persisted and persisted, and eventually someone took her seriously, and the mistake was corrected.

    The last time I refinanced, when the bank officer gave me the payoff figure, I KNEW it was wrong. It should have been higher. I told her, and her response was that I didn't know how banks calculate that sort of thing. Well, I'd refinanced a few times in my life (and probably had been doing that since before she was born!), and I knew that there was something wrong with that figure. A couple of days before the closing, she called me at work and said they had miscalculated the payoff figure and I owed them a few hundred dollars, which had to be paid by the close of business that day, or the deal was off! It all worked out (I managed to get the money to them on time), but I do trust my "gut" about things like this.

    It's been over thirty years since I worked in a bank, so I'm not up to date on lots of bank matters, but it sure is interesting to read the comments today! I worked in the Trust Department, and, oh, the stories I could tell!

  26. We need a mathematician! Could the percentages have been wrong over a period of years? That could add up!

    So exciting to hear about this book!

    And I love the idea of all the layers exposed in one line of dialog.

    I love this BLOG!!

  27. Oh,DebRo--so interesting! Plus bank calculations can joe so complicated--who knows how they figure stuff out.

    And we've all had mistakes on our accounts haven't we?

    (And we often try to believe what we want to hear...)

    Tiger, I'm there! And thank you, Denise Ann! xoxo

  28. Yikes, typo city above--why does the computer just CHANGE words?? It was supposed to be "can be so..."

    Thank you, Debs! That is very very reassuring...xooxo

  29. OMG, HANK!!! This is so good... I cannot wait! Really and truly cannot wait! xoxoxoxoxoxo

  30. You just keep getting better and better!

  31. I read a news story yesterday about a 20-year-old guy whose bank deposited someone else's $32,000 in his account. The kid immediately spent a bunch, withdrew a bunch, came up with a cockamamie story about an inheritance, and then took and posted photos of himself with wads of money. Now he's arguing, hey, you made the mistake. Truth be told, it doesn't work that way.

    The fun of making up people are all the possibilities!

  32. Hank, I was just teasing you. I know bankers and accountants can be bad people. It's true of people in every walk of life. I just couldn't pass up giving you a hard time.

  33. Reine, what the heck is autocorrect? And how do you always know EVERYTHING?

    Off to find autocorrect. Hurray! Thank you!

  34. The question for me is hypothetical, but if my mortgage was suddenly paid-in-full, I'd be at the bank as soon as possible – no phone calls. I've seen banks' mistakes, and helped friends get them corrected.

  35. Sherry--you are too wonderful. Thank you. (What's the latest with YOUR book?)

    Ramona--I caught that allusion--Truth be Told! xoox

    And Mark, you are an incorrigible scamp and rascal. All I can say..xoxo

  36. I keep hoping the ATM will dispense more than I ask for. And then I want them to prove it. Especially if my receipt is what I originally requested. Hmmmm THAT hasn't happened.

    I love the excerpt, Hank Can't wait for this. Pre-ordering now.

  37. It's a blessing, Reine! And we rely on it. xxoxo

    MArianne--Thank You! I am incredibly grateful. It matters so much--I cannot express..xoo

  38. You are too kind, Hank. But I love it—but not as much as I love you.

  39. If my mortgage was suddenly paid, I’d say, “Thank You, Lord,” then I’d head for the bank to find out what was what.
    The examples of phrasing a statement in different ways was quite fascinating and now you’ve shared enough of your newest story that I simply cannot wait to read “Truth Be Told” . . . .

  40. Oh, I can hardly wait!!! . . . but what a question. I would probably call to report it . . . just recently The Orange Shop sent a double refund and I refused to cash the second. I just couldn't.
    If I were the desperate family you have created for this book, though, I might be, no WOULD BE, tempted, especially with children involved. Jim's idea of setting house payments up in a "just in case" account is a good one.
    Waiting now for TRUTH BE TOLD, and feel sure it will be more than worth the wait. ;-)

  41. Hank said, "And Mark, you are an incorrigible scamp and rascal. All I can say..xoxo"

    She's on to me!

  42. If something got paid in my bank account, then you can bet I would wait out the statute limitations and party like a rock star. (And in the meantime save up in case the bank realized their oops and had me pay it back.)

    I love your discussion about dialogue, which is imperative to any story. Can't wait to read the entire book!

  43. Oh, Hank--another juicy story! I love it. I have friends who are in banking, and some of the stories they tell. . .well, let's just say I don't think fiction can do the scheming and naughtiness justice. I'd definitely be calling the bank if my mortgage got paid, or I'd live in fear of getting a big bill someday! So enjoyed the dialogue samples. My protag isn't speaking to me right now, so maybe I can go give her a poke and get her going again. Great comments on this, too!