Monday, December 6, 2010

Co-Writing Pearl, Harbour

So, my first co-write in years went up about a month ago and, well, I like it. I loved writing it, I love who I wrote it with, I love the story, the setting, yada yada yada. None of that means it was any good, but I loved the whole process. Oddly enough, I found it quite relaxing. It took a lot of the onus for creativity off of me (being placed squarely on my co-writer) and gave me the opportunity to do what I'm actually good at (editing) within a creative work rather than after the fact.

Is there room for improvement? Hell, yes. But one has to start somewhere, and I couldn't think of a better place, time, or partner to do so with.

Anyway, I'm not trying to sound arrogant or pretentious, but I've been asked about how it all came together by a couple of people, so I'm sharing. Hey, it was fun. I'd recommend it to anyone who's thinking about it. For those who haven't read the piece, here it is:

Pearl, Harbour

How did it come together? That's easy enough to begin to answer, not so easy to thoroughly answer. Basically, I asked Baino if she'd be willing to co-write something with me. There was no plot in mind, no specific notion of character, setting, or tone. Merely an image of a lover dying underneath a tree and a loose concept inspired by a song Baino had shared with me a few days prior to my asking ("Breathe Me" by Sia... you can listen to it on the IrreTrax page in the fourth playlist, "Romance Movie").

Later that week, Baino sent me part of an article concerning Australia's internment of Japanese - both POW and Australian citizen - during World War II. It was perfect.

Initially, we were looking at a two-part story. She had a clearer idea of how the story would unfold, so she wrote most of what would ultimately become chapter 1 ("Rising Suns") and chapter 4 ("Pearl in the Water") of the story. That was our rough draft. Within that draft were a few simple notes to me: "add a sex scene," "fill this in," "what happens after the escape?"

So I set off filling in the blanks. Strangely, Baino had written little of the woman into the story, concentrating almost solely on what the man was going through. Needless to say, I felt balance was needed and put some in place. Two parts became three. Sitting back and looking at natural plot points, three parts became five (the idea of four chapters was largely skipped). By the time I finished my crack, we had their meeting and the beginning of their journey together. But no destination. No romance.

So Baino set off filling in those blanks. And by the time she finished her crack, we had them living a life together, a romantic seduction and sex scene, the beginnings of the post-escape journey, and were at the point at which the man would be killed (which she requested I write). Admittedly, I was more than happy to end the story with his death, but we both acknowledged there could be some sort of epilogue for the woman. I wasn't completely sold on the idea, but Baino's subtle hints had a sense of urgency to them, so I wrote one in (two, really) amid the threat of writing a sixth chapter.

Next came edits, rewrites, throwing stuff out, adding stuff in, a final read-through and, voila: story done. There wasn't nearly as much arguing as we both expected, but there was still quite a bit. I'd erase or change something in an effort to de-romanticize it a tad. She'd erase or change something in an effort to soften its bluntness. And we'd both put stuff back in the other had taken out. And then we'd take it out again (sometimes accidentally in our haste to beat the other to the punch).

Reading back, it's kinda funny. There is serious confusion in many passages as to who wrote what... both of us taking credit for a particular sentence or paragraph and neither of us taking credit for another (she'll be more than happy to give me credit for the title, though... since she hates it)(which is just payback for her decision to use British-English spelling in lieu of American-English without consulting me). Each character has traits that are subjective to only one of us, oblivious to the motivations of the other author. And the factual details came from the most unlikely of places (Baino, admittedly, did most of the military research, while I did more concerning the physical landscape of Australia... go figure).

And that, as they say, is largely that. Hope you enjoyed the result.


  1. Awww you're too sweet. There wasn't much arguing and it was an absolute joy working with you. I'm looking forward to developing it further over the Christmas break. I think the key is that it was a total collaboration, lots of discussion, plot development, personal contact to make sure we were on the same page and a total 50/50 effort. It wasn't a 'you write this bit and I'll write that bit'. Thoroughly enjoyable and I'm proud of the result, although agree it does need more work.

    Oh, you're the first man in my life to ever refer to my hints as 'subtle'. For that kind sir, I thank you! :*

  2. nice...thanks for the insights into your process jeff (and baino)...definitely food for thought...

  3. Thanks for the back story of the team effort. -J

  4. Nice to hear the back-story. The result was really good.


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