Friday, January 4, 2013

Sometimes My Heroine Cracks Me Up

When I watch America's funniest videos, I always laugh the hardest at the ones where someone or something jumps out and scares some unsuspecting soul. One of my favorites is when a group of school kids (8-12 years old) pass a snowman in a front yard, and the snowman jumps at them. Throwing their books in the air, they run like there's no tomorrow.

What does that say about me? That I have a sick sense of humor? Then there's the one where some young men run a mouse on a string across the floor in front of an unsuspecting frat brother who screams like a little girl and jumps on the counter. That one usually brings tears to my eyes. And a drunken Red Skelton and Mickey Rooney in the cave with Elliott the Dragon in Pete's Dragon can set me off just thinking about it.

In my latest book, MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT,  I had an opportunity to include a scene like that, and I jumped all over it. The problem was I couldn't stop laughing. Since my culinary tastes tend to run like my Clueless Cook’s, I nearly gagged right along with her.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this scene, my clueless cook is judging a cooking contest on a cruise ship. (Think Top Chef meets Chopped!) A little backstory is that my heroine is really a wannabe sports reporter who can only find a job writing the personals. When the culinary reporter gig falls into her lap, she jumps on it as it comes with her own byline. The problem is she’s a fast food junkie, and she can’t cook a lick. She’s managed to fool everyone so far and now has been asked to judge the contest.
Here’s the scene.

Glancing down at the appetizer, Jordan was surprised to see that it resembled a chicken nugget. So far she'd made it through four of the appetizers without making a complete fool of herself. She was pleased to see that the last entry might be something she actually enjoyed.
Reaching for one of the chunks, she dipped it into the sauce. As soon as she popped the morsel into her mouth, she let out a relieved breath. Although it didn't taste exactly like a chicken nugget, it was close enough that she was ready to declare Marsha and her sweetbread the overall winner.
She ate the other two chunks, pleased with herself for having survived the evening. With her lips still burning from the jalapeño dip, she wiped her mouth with the clean napkin then pushed the plate to the side. Choosing the scorecard with Marsha's name, she scribbled a big 4.5, taking off half a point for the sauce. If it had been served with a nice avocado ranch or a creamy honey mustard dip on the side, she would have given it a perfect score.
“It looks like we’re ready to hear the judges’ decision,” Emily said, moving to stand beside Marsha. “This is the all-important vote where we find out who is eliminated tonight and who wins and gets an advantage in tomorrow night’s competition. Judges?”
Somehow Marsha had managed to open the top button of her purple sweater. Even though most of her chest was covered by the apron, a tiny bit of her ample cleavage peeked through. A visual designed to get the judges’ attention, which it definitely had. Poor Beau was nearly foaming at the mouth.
What was it about men and boobs?
“George, what did you think of Marsha’s sweetbread?” Emily asked.
     Christakis eyed her for a moment, glancing once toward Beau, making Jordan wonder if he knew something was going on between him and Marsha. Then he held up the card with a large 3 scribbled on it. For a minute, Jordan thought the audible gasp had come from her, but then she realized it had actually been Marsha, who was now staring at Christakis in disbelief.
     “Although I love sweetbread and I appreciate the rich white sauce you made, I found the glands to be overcooked and gristly. It would have worked so much better if you had spent a little more time sautéing them rather than frying them in the oil.”
Glands? Jordan squeezed her eyes closed, grabbed the napkin, and spit into it, but the morsels were long gone. Catching her breath, she looked up to see that everyone was staring, and she felt heat crawl up her cheeks.
“You cooked glands?” Her eyes begged Marsha to deny it.
“Yes. It's one of my favorite appetizers.”
Jordan took several deep breaths in a row, hoping to push back the lump in her throat threatening to ruin her debut as a cooking judge. “What kind of glands?” she whispered, so low that only those close to her could hear.
Christakis twisted in his chair to face her, laughter in his eyes. “The thymus gland. What did you think sweetbread was?”
There was no way she'd admit she thought she had eaten chunks of fried chicken. “I figured it was glands, but I wasn't sure what kind,” she lied.
Mentally, she slapped her head for the lame response. She knew it was glands but didn't know what kind?

The point I'm trying to make with all this is in that short period of time when I was writing that scene, I was actually Jordan, discovering I had just eaten glands. (My friends did this to me with squid. I thought I was eating purple onions in a salad. I spent the entire night waiting for the little buggers to pop out of my stomach like the little space creatures did with Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.)

So my question for you all is do you ever find yourself in that situation? Do you ever imagine yourself as your heroine? Does it help writing certain scenes? I would love to hear your story.


Risa said...

I cannot wait to read this...i am going to start it on the plane down to San Juan next Saturday to board my Cruise!!!! then next up will be the Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas....I have all my books on my NOOK ready to go!


You know I love your stuff, sweetie, and write funny too. I did write a scene where the hero and heroine argued over a cup of coffee and naturally spilled. He said loudly, "You just dumped coffee all over my man parts." Maybe not funny here, but in the story, I laugh every time I read it. oxox

Liz Lipperman said...

Risa, have a great time and let us know all about it when you return. I hope you like the book.

Liz Lipperman said...

And Vicki, you do write funny. I laughed when I read your comment because I can just see it in your dialogue!!

Lois Winston said...

Liz, Anastasia has become so much a part of me that sometimes I have to remind myself that she's a figment of my imagination!

Liz Lipperman said...

I know, Lois. I guess that makes for better heroines when they become mini me's/