Friday, October 21, 2011

MASKS Commentary Track: Chapter 14

Please, please, PLEASE do not try to jump onto the roof of a moving train just because I wrote about it! My characters are trained professional lunatics, and the physics of what they do is just a wee bit more complicated than I made it sound here. Do not try this at home. EVER.

There. Now I probably won’t get quite so many letters from angry, grieving parents. 

Frantic pleading aside, I do think the train-surfing scene is a fun one. This is another bitty fragment of the original Masks, taken from a short story that featured Rae and another character working out their feelings for each other while train-surfing. (Sorry, romance fans—this story predated Trevor, so he wasn’t Rae’s dance partner.) That story, in turn, was based on an issue of Nightwing that came out while I was in high school in which Nightwing and Robin (Tim Drake—so yes, my two favorite Robins were both in the story) did the train-surfing thing while blindfolded. The Nightwing story was basically a way to cram a lot of exposition and a little male bonding into a story with lots of neat visuals and very little plot. And it led to this exchange:

Me, I didn’t notice the lack of plot at the time—I was busy staring at the pages and thinking, “Someday, my characters are going to do this.” And now they have. That’s another one to check off my bucket list.

Hey, at least I didn’t make them do it blindfolded. I have some pity.

Quick note for the birdwatchers: yes, there are occasional merlin sightings in Los Angeles. I know, because a merlin buzzed my car on the 110 Freeway once, just south of the Pregerson Interchange. It was a merlin, not a peregrine falcon or anything else. I got a really good look at the plumage, what with it being six inches from my windshield. (I drive a very small car; perhaps it mistook me for a rodent.) I later did a little research and figured out that my merlin, which I saw in late winter, was probably just a-passin’ through. You don’t normally see them this far south in summer, but I didn’t feel it was stretching the truth too much to have one take up year-round residence in the city. We have flocks of feral parrots, after all; why not a merlin? So please don’t send me angry letters about my bird being out of season. I know she is. She’s just insane, like so much of the rest of the local wildlife.

Trevor gets stitches in this chapter, too! This was probably the most fun element of this chapter to research. I’ve blogged before about how a friend lent me her suture kit and taught me how to stitch people up, and how terrible I was at it. Rae’s experience is fairly accurate to mine, except that she’s more freaked out by the fact that she’s working on a person, not a block of foam.

Believe it or not, Trevor’s trick of talking about something incredibly distracting can actually help someone calm down in an otherwise panic-inducing situation. It does not work for everyone, however, and if Trevor hadn’t known Rae as well as he does, he would have run the risk of distracting her too much, and getting a needle stuck somewhere he wasn’t numb. Rae is the sort of person who defaults to handling a crisis rather than full-on panicking, and usually only needs a small nudge to snap into her crisis mode. I’ve had this happen to me a couple of times—for most of my life, I’ve been the person who called 911 or pulled out the drowning victim or whatever while other people around me screamed. Later, after my part in the crisis was over and the paramedics or police had arrived, I would sit somewhere and shake or otherwise freak out. (Interestingly, I can almost never switch into crisis mode when I’m the one having the crisis; it has to be someone else bleeding, screaming, etc.) Several of my friends have figured out that I don’t need much of a nudge to start barking orders or grabbing wet towels or whatever else I think I need to do. I’m pretty sure one or two of them have done exactly what Trevor does here to get me to stay calm; I know I’ve done it to others. Don’t try this at home, though, unless you’re pretty sure the freaker-out only needs a small push to become useful. Too much distraction is a rather dangerous thing, especially when the distractee is handling a needle.

And oh, the growly thing in the storm drain. Some of you have already guessed, I’m sure, but you’ll meet him next week, and I guarantee there will be at least one BIG surprise. (Evil smile.)

This week’s soundtrack is an old song I heard on the radio while outlining Masks. It reminded me of my train-surfing story and the old Nightwing issue, and I knew then that I was going to have to shoehorn a train in here somehow. With apologies for the hair, I give you Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train”:

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