Kate on the faulty punchline

There’s a scene in one of The Simpsons Hallowe’en specials where Homer is trying to tell the kids a horror story and says something like, “And then she hit him with a golf club!” And they look at him, bored. “Did I mention he always played golf?” “No, Homer.” “Well, anyway, he did. And did I also mention that she was dead?” “You suck, Homer.”

(that’s me paraphrasing because I can’t remember the exact words, and I’m too lazy to look it up)

Well, anyway. I’ve finished the first draft of my next book and while I’m pleased with it, it feels a bit like Homer’s joke. The shock revelations, the lovely resolutions, the imagery and themes…well, I know what they are and why they’re so shocking or lovely or whatever–but I fear I’ve forgotten to tell the reader. They’ll get to the end and go, “So…what was that thing about the red tiger?”

I know I’ve written short stories and novellas in the past where I’ve got to the end, spellchecked and pressed Send, without redrafting. But I can’t really get away with that on a 100,000+ book, which takes place over several years and three continents of a total fantasy world. I’ve made maps of this. Maps, I tell you. And coats of arms. What’s that you say? It’s just a form of procrastination? Well, you might be right my friend, but I still need to know whether the Academy is east or west of the Tower (actually it’s north) and which side of the shield the red tiger stands on.

Still, this is what second drafts are for!


Now, did I mention a tiger...?

12 thoughts on “Kate on the faulty punchline

  1. …going cross-eyed looking for the red tiger…

    But I know what you mean. My first drafts always contain absolutely everything, ever, on earth, which is the joke equivalent of ‘and then they went out, and then they came back, and then there was cake, and then…’ Not so much a shaggy dog story as an entire Battersea of them. And then, when it comes to second draft, I go back and re-read and cannot for the *life* of me work out why I had to have a ghost and a tank and a talking tree, and then the story gets rewritten properly. But then, I’ve never had tigers…

  2. I am in awe of the Latin dictionary in this picture – I never got beyond amo, amas, amat….or something like that….but that’s okay for someone who writes romantic fiction, yes?
    Just wondering if you have a Latin-spouting red tiger in there somewhere….?

  3. It’s like a philosophical question, Jane, you have to prove to me there isn’t one. No, actually, I did the shield with the tiger, but when it came to looking for pictures this was the only one I had taken and I, er, don’t really know how my scanner works yet.

    You KNOW the book would be better with the talking tree. Put it back in!

  4. Linda, I wold love to pretend I’m fluent in Latin but in truth I did French at school and the Latin dictionary is only there so I can look up the odd word when I’m naming places or people or trying to sound a bit more intellectual in my pseudo-Roman fantasy world! You’ll notice the banner beneath the shield doesn’t have a motto in Latin (it doesn’t have a motto at all! Something else to fix in this draft…)

  5. But if you’d finished draft one and the reader knew about the tiger – would you have mastered the coat of arms? 🙂 Congrats on finishing the draft and good luck with the next! Have a feeling I’m going to like this book.

  6. If that’s the first draft, I’m already in awe and really looking forwards to reading it. (I have a Latin O level,(a qualification that’s so old it’s practically Roman)but I don’t think I’d pass if I took it again tomorrow!).

  7. Kate, did you do Art as well as French at school? If not, you should have – the coat of arms looks amazing! And does everything in a fantasy world have to make sense? I used to love reading the Dr Xargle books to the kids (mine and anyone else’s who would listen) because they made our world look totally illogical to an alien.

  8. That’s beautiful, Kate, and I can’t wait to read this book! Hurry up with that second draft 🙂 What’s tiger in Latin? You’ve got to put that in the motto.

  9. Sarah, I had a load of fun learning about heraldry and what the various colours and charges represent. Since there’s a lot of symbolism and imagery in the book, some of the symbols, like the red tiger, and indeed the wolf on this coat of arms, got layered into the story.

    Chris, I’m very impressed at the Latin O Level! I wish I’d taken it, but when you’re 13, French sounds a lot more useful for going on holiday and chatting up the locals!

  10. Juliet, er, yes I did do Art but I only got a D at A Level…let’s just say I went for quantity not quality!

    As for making sense…well, if it was all exactly like our world then there’d be no point writing fantasy, and half the thrill is in discovering what’s new and different about the world. But I do feel the need to be consistent from page to page. Dream sequences where everything changes can be fun (and there are a few in this book in the form of visions) but imagine 100k of them!

    Christina…we’ll have to ask Chris about the Latin for tiger! I had a motto in mind for him, but in the end I found I was shoehorning it in, so I might just leave it out!

  11. This sounds like a super story, and I can’t wait to read, red tiger or no. And like Jane, I noticed the Latin dictionary on the shelf. Did I ever mention that Latin was my ALL TIME FAVOURITE subject at school? Oh right, well, that was an oversight. Okay, I get it. I suck 😀

  12. We did a lot of sentences involving happy farmers and strong sailors… but no tigers. Probably just as well.

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