Okay…so this is me. CK. And I’m here to talk about my fic.
Uh, that’d be this one. The one you’re reading right now.
He was fifteen minutes late.
I almost always start with either a first line or a last line. Before I begin, I either have to know where I’m starting or where I’m going to end up. In this case, I had the first line, and the second line kind of wrote itself. Like a snowball effect, if you will.
Though I still had no idea how it was going to turn out.
Not that it bothered her…not really.
Yes. I am a fan of the ellipses. (That’d be the dot-dot-dot). I can’t help myself.
I also like short paragraphs.
You may have noticed.
I’ve had people ask me about it before, and the truth is I don’t know why I write like that. I don’t plan it. The paragraphs just form themselves, standing alone when they want to.
I don’t recommend trying it. I’ve worn out three enter keys.
It was just that every time he was late, she remembered.
She remembered waiting on that pier for him in high school, fighting between telling herself he didn’t stand her up…he couldn’t have stood her up…and wondering which ditch he was lying in.
Abigail sighed, glancing down at her watch for the fifth time.
She knew he was going to be there.
He was always there.
He had never let her down once, not since high school.
I’ve always seen this as a central characteristics of Shawn. When push comes to shove, he’s always there when people need him.
Of course, Shawn as a teenager was a totally different story. He’s grown up a lot, and part of what Abigail likes about Shawn doesn’t exist anymore. She likes the Shawn he was in high school, even if that’s the Shawn that hurt her.
That was the part of the problem.
Sure enough, he arrived five minutes later.
Only twenty minutes late.
Not bad for Shawn Spencer.
He slid into the seat across from her, his eyes dancing with the same playful mischief he’d had in high school…
God, why did it always come back to high school?
When was high school going to be over?
Sadly, it’s never over.
At least, I haven’t found the end yet.
"For the record," he declared, flashing her a grin before she could say anything. "Llamas…not as fast as cars. I don’t care what salesmen say."
Where did this come from?
I don’t know.
When it comes to Shawn’s randomness, I tend to look around whatever room I’m in at the, pick an object in it, and go from there.
In this case, there were no llamas in the room with me.
Though that would have made writing a whole hell of a lot more interesting…
"Really?" she returned the grin, their familiar banter instantly talking over. "Because I thought about entering a llama in the Kentucky Derby this year."
I am fairly certain I had to google Kentucky Debry to make sure it was, in fact, a horse race.
The Winston Cup, it turns out, is not.
Back to the fic. I’ve always loved the banter Abby and Shawn have. It’s effortless and way adorable.
And, yeah. I’ve now outted myself as a non-Abby hater. Sorry. I know she’ll leave, but I don’t hate her.
He raised an eyebrow, always up for some verbal sparring. "No self-respecting jockey would ride any animal with a silent l."
Please don’t ask.
Shawn speaks, I write.
That’s all I know.
What people sometimes don’t understand about dialogue is that once a line is out there, the other characters have to respond to it. Someone says something, someone else says something back… There’s a natural flow. 99% of the time when I can’t get a line to work, the problem isn’t that particular line. The problem was ten lines earlier. I just didn’t see it until later.
Their eyes met across the table, their easy, comfortable smiles reassuring each other.
Suddenly, Abigail’s smile faded slightly as she remembered what she was going to do.
She had tried to do it so many times before…she knew she had to…but every time she did, she got lost in his eyes and the words vanished.
You can’t tell me you wouldn’t get just a little lost in Shawn’s eyes.
Be honest now.
Shawn’s smile faded, too, when he saw her expression change. "What?" he asked, looking around the restaurant. "Did I just accidentally insult the waiter in his native tongue or something?"
"No," she assured him, her smile returning for a brief moment. "You didn’t accidentally insult the waiter."
"Good," Shawn sighed in relief. "Then, what--?"
"Nothing," she shook her head, but the words fell flat between them.
They both knew they were a lie.
"If you want me to get a note from the llama…" Shawn offered, his forehead wrinkling as he tried to figure out what he had done wrong.
So, he was a little late.
What was the big deal?
He was almost always late.
"Llamas can’t write notes," she informed him, clinging to this last bit of banter almost desperately. "No thumbs."
Ah, perhaps the most painful line of the fic. Trying to cling to something you both know is dying before your eyes.
I can be such a bastard.
"I don’t care you were late, Shawn."
"I know," Shawn nodded, clearly still confused. "I’m just trying to figure out which of the 234 Top Secret Girl Rules I broke this time…I have it narrowed down to I did something I shouldn’t have, or didn’t do something I should have. Am I close?"
For the record, there are actually 1,984 Top Secret Girl Rules. Shawn was never very good at math.
I actually felt a little bad for Shawn at this point. It’s frustrating being in a position where you don’t know what you did, you just know you did something.
This is also the point where the dialogue kind of took over. Once a conversation gets going, I can’t stop it until it reaches a natural conclusion. An unfinished conversation is a travesty of writing.
"You didn’t do anything wrong."
"I was late."
"You’re always late."
"I need a new llama."
This is one line I could actually hear in my head as I wrote it. The flat intonation, the resignation. He’s still clinging to the banter, but it’s fading fast.
Or maybe he just needs a new llama.
Now, I don’t use a lot of dialog tags when I write. In fact, I tend to use as few as possible. I’ve been yelled at for this before, but my feeling is this: a well-written line of dialog literally speaks for itself. If you frame it right, a tag is only a distraction. You should be able to hear the intonations in your head when reading. If you can’t, it’s probably not a great line.
That being said, always use tags, kids. Don’t listen to me. I don’t know what I’m talking about.
She laughed, shaking her head slowly. "Shawn, it doesn’t matter. It’s okay."
Her hand rested on his in what was meant to be a reassuring gesture, but they could both feel it in her touch.
She said it was okay, but the truth was that nothing was okay.
Everything was wrong….and yet, looking around, there was no discernable reason why.
This was important to me. Shawn is not a creep. Abby is not a creep. They are not cheating, they are not mean or abusive or even overtly wrong for each other. At one time, they were great. On some level, they still work. But it can’t last because it just isn’t what it used to be. They’ve both grown and moved on. It’s not anyone’s fault. It just is.
This isn’t high school.
Even she had a hard time putting her finger on it.
When they were together, they had a great time.
He was funny, charming, smart, attentive.
Sure he ran in another time zone, but what did that matter?
He sighed, pulling his hand back as he searched her eyes. "Uh-oh," he murmured. "I’m going to need more than a new llama, aren’t I?"
She nodded, gazing down at the table so she wouldn’t have to meet his earnest hazel eyes.
He was trying so hard.
"Give me a hint, here, Abby," he laughed nervously, shifting uneasily in his chair. "I don’t speak Pissed-Off-Girlfriendese. Are we talking flowers? Chocolate? Newts? What am I supposed to do?"
I don’t know.
Maybe there was a picture of a newt.
She finally looked up, meeting his gaze. "I don’t know."
A silence hung over the table for a minute, neither of them knowing what was supposed to come next.
Shawn ran a hand over the back of his neck, finally forcing the dead conversation forward.
They both knew what was coming now.
"My psychic mojo’s been off lately," he murmured, raising a single, unenthusiastic finger to his temple. "…But I’m sensing that it’s not me…it’s you?"
She nodded stiffly, trying to force a smile, trying to get back that warm, familiar banter they’d had just seconds before. "It’s not, Shawn. It’s not you. It’s me. It…it’s me."
This was also important to me. I wanted Abby to be the one to break it off, and I didn’t want Shawn to end up looking like a jerk. That was not an easy balance to find.
"Right," he nodded wryly. "And we’ll still be friends…and you’ll call…"
"What if I trade the llama for a watch?"
"It wouldn’t matter."
"Because you’ll always be Shawn Spencer."
Another section with few or no tags. Again, conversation has a rhythm and a flow, and a tag here would have messed it up and added nothing. I loathe nothing more than wasted words.
He blinked in surprise. "I’ve always been Shawn Spencer," he argued, at a loss.
This was a new reason for breaking up.
One that had never even occurred to him.
He had the wrong name.
Damn his father.
A cheap shot at Henry, but come on. I have to mention the man as often as I can.
"I know," she nodded, pressing on as quickly as she could before her voice began to give. "And that’s the problem. You’ll always be Shawn Spencer. You’ll always be That Guy."
"What guy?" Shawn asked, not at all sure he wanted to know the answer.
"The guy who left me on the pier in high school."
"I was a kid!" he protested. "I’m not That Guy anymore!"
"I know," she nodded in agreement. "You’re not, Shawn. You’ve changed. Grown up. You’re not That Guy anymore…but every time you’re late, I flashback to that night on the pier. I waited for an hour for you, my stomach in knots the whole time…wondering where you were…convincing myself you wouldn’t stand me up…wondering why you stood me up…"
Normally, I make it my rule to never have a title be a direct quote from the fic. Usually, I hate that.
However, I also make it my rule to spend no more than five minutes thinking of titles. A great title is right there. A mediocre one doesn’t matter anyway.
"I didn’t mean to--"
He blinked slowly, trying to process everything. "If you know, then why does it still matter?" he asked.
She inhaled slowly, leaning back in her chair as she appraised his honestly perplexed face carefully, gauging his reaction to her next statement.
"Because of her."
Shawn didn’t blink.
He didn’t ask who "her" was.
He didn’t have to.
They both knew there was only one other "her".
"What does Jules have to do with anything?" he asked finally.
Abigail had to admit it was a fair question.
Shawn had never openly flirted with the female detective in front of her.
He didn’t talk about her much.
He wasn’t more friendly with her than anyone else.
This was also important to establish. Shawn wasn’t being a jerk by flirting with Jules overtly or making passes at her.
I don’t want him to get with her like that.
There was absolutely no reason for her to know anything was going on between the two of them…and yet, she knew.
She smiled palely. "She’s nice, Shawn."
"Yeah," Shawn agreed with a shrug. "She is. So?"
"So, I have that feeling in the pit of my stomach again…like on the pier. Only this time, I’m not going to be left standing alone."
For me, that pier was the pivotal moment of this relationship. It doomed it for eternity, even if that’s not fair.
Shawn wasn’t the guy anymore, but it doesn’t matter.
The pier still happened.
Sometimes, you can’t move on.
"There’s nothing going on with Jules!" Shawn insisted. "Come on, Abby. I wouldn’t—I mean, you know that. You’ve known me since high school."
"No," she shook her head. "I knew you in high school. But that was a long time ago, Shawn. We’re not in high school anymore. We have to get past high school."
She gently placed one hand on his cheek, smiling sadly at him. "You’re not That Guy anymore. Maybe you never were. It’s not fair to you that I’ll always see you as That Guy. Maybe if high school had never happened…maybe if you hadn’t runaway…"
Shawn lost his one chance. His moment was gone. Jules is his new moment. That’s all this means.
"But, I did," Shawn cut-in. "I made a mistake. I missed my moment."
"And you’re missing it again," she told him quietly. "Shawn, she trusts you. You’re not That Guy. Not yet. Don’t miss it with her, too." For a long moment, Shawn just stared at her. Her smile never faded, though her eyes did grow a shade darker and more brilliant.
"I’m sorry," he whispered finally. "I’m sorry I was ever That Guy."
I don’t think Shawn ever really meant to hurt anyone. I think he was just a young, self-centered guy. He wasn’t cruel. Just…thoughtless at times.
"It was high school. It’s time to move on. For both of us." She leaned across the table, gently kissing his forehead. "It’s not you, Shawn. It’s me."
He leaned back in his chair, his eyes widening slightly as he tried to take everything in.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "Are you sure I’m not--?"
"You’re not," she shook her head.
"I…think I’m in love with her," he whispered, almost sounding surprised by the words. "I mean…I am."
Hee. Okay, I just liked this part.
Not that I’m a romantic at all because I’m so not. Ask Mo. I hate mushy crap.
"I’m not…" he hesitated as he stood up, his eyes meeting hers one last time. "I’m not leaving you on the pier again."
"I know," she nodded, smiling as he slowly took a step away from her. "I told you. You’re not That Guy anymore."
So, that was the fic. I hope you enjoyed it, because I loved writing it. For me, any moment like this is all about characters. Gags, dialogue, pain, anything you write has to come from who these people are. You can’t bend them to your will, your story must bend to theirs. I told you I always have to know either where I’m starting or where I’ll end up. I didn’t know I’d end up here, but I followed the natural flow the conversation took and the characters led me where they wanted to go.