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In the First Person

Many of you already know from the sample chapters provided on this site that my novel is told in first person. In fact, other than the prologue, the novel alternates between four points of view: Kylie Baines, Ben Carrick, Colette Baptiste, and Matt Tracy. I chose to tell the story this way because while the characters’ fates are intertwined and rich in history, they all drift in their own particular orbits. I needed four narrators to move the plot along as well. And I hope with this last edit that I’ve sharpened each narrative voice so that it’s entertaining for the reader, not distracting.

They all bring different qualities to the table. Kylie is leading a double life and the story revolves around her family, romantic relationships, etc. It’s completely neccessary that the reader see her perspective. Ben is more lighthearted and tells anecdotes about the friends in high school. Kylie would never tell an anecdote for sheer amusement but Ben seems genuinely interested in getting the group back together (like the good ole days) and therefore he easily dips into an idealized, slightly romanticized past. Colette, as Kylie’s cousin and the daughter of kingpin Denis Baptiste, is essential to the plot. She provides insights into the Baptiste family and fills in some of Kylie’s background (the time after high school but before the start of the novel). But Colette is spoiled rotten so she has none of Kylie’s seriousness.

And then there’s Matt Tracy. He was the last narrator I wrote into the story. I did so at the behest of a writer’s group I attended with C.K. when we lived in Santa Monica. Perhaps because Matt was the last narrative voice to take shape or perhaps because adding him was not my idea, he’s been the most difficult narrator for me. With the other three characters, I hear them in my head easily. Sometimes it takes a few hours to get a dialogue down and then several more to tighten it up but I always know what Kylie’s, Colette’s, and Ben’s take on the situation is going to be. Kylie will feel the gravity of the scene intensely and over-analyze her own part in it. Colette will dismiss anything that would require emotional maturity then feel guilty for doing so, all while cracking jokes about the other characters. Ben will feel the scene more acutely than Colette but he really doesn’t have much at stake. He’s happily engaged and about to start his Masters program. But Matt is a strong, silent type. It’s challenging to give a voice to someone who would prefer not to chime in.

I say all this because three of the full manuscript requests came back as “thanks but no thanks.” Actually, I shouldn’t make it sound so cavalier. The agents took the time to give some great feedback that extended beyond “it just didn’t fire me up to sell it.” One of the main critiques is about the narration. One agent said that towards the end of the book, my narrators seem fashioned from the same cloth. It’s a fair critique and I worked hard these past few weeks to rectify it. I think I owe this agent a thank you. I believe I have a more polished book now. But another agent said that she didn’t like the first person narrators switching all the time. She wanted to invest in one person and hear the whole thing from his/her point of view.

 

All this got me wondering: should I have written this book in the omniscient third person? Or even limited third person and used Kylie’s POV?

Personally, I like first-person narration. It’s one distinct voice. I don’t have to like the narrator or want to talk to him/her. But I’m more excited to read the book if I do sympathize with the narrator. I also enjoy the changing perspectives. The Help and Gone Girl are good examples. For the former, I loved all three narrators. For the latter, I’m only a few chapters in but I don’t like anyone yet. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like the story so far.

Third person narration is fine but in my reading experience, the author needs to chose one character to focus on. Furthermore, the limited third person often clumsily dips into other character’s minds. Even the goddess of novel writing, Jane Austen, does this. I taught Pride and Prejudice several times at high school level and reread it each time. In the beginning of the novel, when I’m supposed to dislike Darcy along with everyone else in Meryton, I get glimpses of his feelings for Elizabeth and I feel a little cheated of the big reveal.

 

But I digress. I’m really writing this to find out what other readers think.

Do you like first-person narration or third? And why? 

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Annalynne or Blake for Colette Baptiste?

It’s not just a matter of curly or straight. Blow dryers can fix the former and hot rollers can fix the latter. Who do you think is right to play Colette Baptiste when my amazing book eventually gets made into an insanely successful premium cable series? You’d think Annalynne McCord is edgier and her work on Nip/Tuck was amazing. But then you’ve probably not seen Blake Lively in The Town.

Would a picture help?

 

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The Second Chapter…Meet Colette Baptiste

The second chapter is narrator by Colette Baptiste, Kylie’s cousin and Denis Baptiste’s only daughter. A “mafia princess” of sorts, she often sees things only through her own self-centered perspective. However, I love her. She’s my second favorite of all my characters. I think she’s funny and even has her caring moments. And I love her name. We will need to find a hottie to play her when my book gets made into a successful HBO series.

Chapter 2

Squad Cars

(COLETTE)

Okay, so that day—like the Thursday before Thanksgiving—really sucked. There’s no other word for it. It just plain sucked. My dad got arrested. Obviously, I couldn’t go to school. Who can sit through statistics with that shit on the news? And people would just be all staring at me—like I was the freaking criminal or something.

But, I had a good plan. I was going to hang tight until Kylie called me. She’d know what to do.  You need a plan in situations like this. Believe me.

I was on Long Island early that morning with my mom. She was freaking out, of course. But by about ten thirty, I got back the apartment on the West Side. It felt really weird knowing that just a few hours ago a bunch of cops had been swarming around the place. I felt kind of nauseous walking in the building.

My phone vibrated and almost fell right off the nightstand next to my bed.

“Hello?”

“Hey, beautiful.” It was Gabriel—a hottie that works for Kylie’s boyfriend (well, not boyfriend—I’ll get to that). “We’re going at 9. We got Lot 61. Do you and Styles want us to pick you up?”

“No, uhh, that’s okay…” I completely forgot to tell Kylie that I made plans with Thade and his boys. Plus, how was Thade going to pick anyone up? He drove a yellow Lamborghini.

After I hung up the phone, I sat there wondering what to do with the rest of my day before Kylie called. I took a look in my closet and started thinking about Thade “Diablo” Beauvoir and his friends. What would be a good dress to wear? What does a guy who calls himself “Diablo” like in a girl’s outfit? It was a ridiculous name. Kylie made fun of it a few times in the beginning. He took us out one time and gave the waitress a two hundred dollar tip for one round of drinks. When I asked Kylie where he wanted to go next she said, “I don’t know. Ask the big tipper.” But I couldn’t hear her right and thought she said “the Big Dipper.” You know, like the star or constellation or whatever. So, I call him “Big Dipper” or just “The Dip” now. But Kylie gets mad if I say it too loud. I don’t think someone who calls himself “Diablo” would take kindly to my calling him “The Dip.”

Plus Kylie can’t make fun of people’s nicknames too much. First, we live in the nightclub world—everyone has a nickname. Second, she has a nickname herself: Styles Baptiste. Kylie maintains that it’s not her fault she has a stupid nickname. It was all Mark’s idea. Back when they opened their club—they had this small place in Long Beach, a great summer hang out—Mark thought they could attract more people if she used my last name. And he was right. It sounded cooler—more dangerous even—to hang out with Styles Baptiste than Kylie Baines. Bland.

Anyway, Kylie doesn’t call Thade by his nickname or his real name. She doesn’t call him anything. She mostly avoids him now. We met him on Labor Day weekend. Kylie was totally drunk (my fault for ordering like four rounds of SoCo and Lime). She was fawning over this yellow Lamborghini parked outside Oxygen, this trendy club in East Hampton.  It was parked right next to a hydrant. What an ass! She pointed at the car and yelled to me. Who needs to drive that kind of car? Must be compensating for something. Then she made me take her picture sprawled out on the hood. Totally wasted, I know.

Then, in full spread on the hood, bleep-bleep… The sound startled Kylie and she slid right off the freshly waxed car. I laughed so hard I peed a little in my pants. What a friggin’ scene.

Then we saw who unlocked the car. Thade walked over to Kylie and helped her up. He made some lame comment about how she must want go for a ride. Kylie pushed her way past him, stumbling and still laughing as she came up to us.

As we walked down the street, Thade slowly followed us with the passenger window rolled down. He kept on until Kylie gave him her number. The very next day he was at my dad’s house for our Labor Day barbeque. Kylie’s face when my uncle introduced him was priceless. Priceless! I laughed so hard my margarita almost came through my nose. Then my dad shot me a look and I stopped.

Since then, they’ve been dating—kind of. More like a power couple in a loveless marriage. It’s kind of superficial, but it’s fun for me. Kylie doesn’t admit it, but she has fun sometimes too. How could you not be a little infatuated with someone like Diablo Beauvoir? He’s taken her out wherever she wants to go. Him and his entourage are always at our clubs—making us even more popular than we were before. He buys her tons of gifts. And he’s nice. I can’t really find much wrong with him. And it’s nice to see my cousin with someone who’s not a selfish, cheating dick.

“The Dip” might not be the love of her life but he’s so much better than Mark Esposito. You’ve got to hear this one too. You know what’s kind of funny about Kylie’s reaction to Mark’s cheating on her? She didn’t lose it when she found out about him and Stacey, this slut they hired to be a bartender. She lost it way later.

The club was all Mark’s idea—I mean, Kylie had just finished her freshmen year of college at the time and he was like 25.  She didn’t really know much about opening a club. But she was excited about it all the same—Mark Esposito could get you excited about anything, about a piece of dog poop even. He was the type of good-looking, charming, smart guy that could say, “Check out this piece of poop.” And despite yourself, you’d probably say, “That’s some freaking awesome poop. It’s such a unique color of poopy brown.” Plus, he had money—he dealt both special K and crystal meth all around clubs on Long Island and Queens. So, essentially, Mark was a really likable douchebag. Kylie probably knew that dating Mark was against her better judgment, but she didn’t care.

So, like I said, they opened this club—mostly with Mark’s money. My dad offered to help Kylie (I thought she was dumb not to take it) but Kylie didn’t want any Baptiste money. She didn’t want to owe Dad anything.

She worked her ass off that first summer. They barely broke even—but they made it. Kylie started working for my dad at the Loose Moose during the school year just to pay the rent in the off-season. But the next summer—the club blew up. (I mean it was very successful. It didn’t actually blow up.) Mark convinced Kylie to use my last name and change her first name for all club purposes. Once she became Styles Baptiste, everyone wanted to hang out with her. I mean everyone. She worked all summer again, this time at both places: the Moose and her own place.

They made so much money. One weekend Kylie told me that her bar brought in over forty thousand between Thursday and Sunday. The more money they made, the more Mark spent. The more Kylie worked, the less Mark worked. But Kylie was too busy to see it. We think now that Mark started seeing Stacey about halfway through that summer. And he started doing his own product. That’s totally against drug dealer business code by the way. You never do your own stuff. That’s how you get sloppy. That’s how you lose money. He kept on seeing Stacey too.

That brings us to last June. Kylie found out about Stacey then. Obviously, she freaked one night. She was mostly mad at Stacey who made the giant mistake of calling my cousin a bitch and saying that she deserved it. I mean what the fuck, right? Kylie was so enraged that my brother had to hold her back. Her arms and legs were flailing and he carried her away. She got loose and Blaise couldn’t get her back before she cracked Stacey in the nose. It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. This girl who stole my cousin’s boyfriend, acted all two-faced for months, then talked smack about it, now stood there with blood gushing out of her face. Stacey yelled about how she was going to get her brother to come after Kylie. Blaise screamed back, “Yeah, you ain’t gonna do shit.” Then he turned to Vin and some other guys, “Get this bitch out of here.”

Mark had already wormed away though. I think he knew that Blaise might have kicked his ass if he stayed. From that night, the club was unofficially Kylie’s. On paper it was still Mark’s. But my family said Kylie owned it and Mark was out. That makes Kylie the owner—plain and simple. She was hurt though. Kylie didn’t even want the club anymore. My dad sent in some people to help her. Blaise had the pleasurable duty of letting Mark know that he was no longer welcome. But Kylie begged him not to hurt Mark.

But that’s not all of it. Like I said, the Stacey beat down was my second favorite moment. Kylie threw this awesome birthday bash for me the following summer. And Mark had the balls to show up. Incidentally, my birthday is the same weekend as Mark’s. He freakin’ trotted in with Stacey, his brother Jeff, and a whole bunch of other Puerto Ricans in tow—like he’s there to take back his territory. I remember this shit like it was last week.

“Oh my God.” I said to Kylie. We were in the back lounge sipping on some vodka cocktails.

“Oh my God, what?”

“I can’t believe this dickhead.” Mark and his group came in like they owned the place. I looked back and Kylie was gone. She was already half way to the bar. I grabbed Blaise. About five of us followed her. I kept jumping to see over people’s heads as we maneuvered through the dance floor. I saw Mark, but no Kylie.

Then I looked at the bar. Kylie walked around it, grabbed something, and started walking outside. She didn’t even acknowledge Mark. She looked calm even. I looked back at Mark and he yelled something to her. Then his face changed and he jumped over some booths to get to her. The rest of his group followed. I looked back at my cousin. She had a baseball bat in her hand.

Blaise ran outside with his friends and a few other bouncers. When I finally pushed my way through, I saw Blaise put is arm across Vin to stop him from reaching Kylie. I heard him say, almost sinisterly, “This is going to be fucking awesome” as I walked up.

I scoured the parking lot for Kylie, trying to figure out what “this” meant. Then I heard it. Glass shattered and hit the pavement. She was busting all the windows on Mark’s Escalade.

“What the fuck? You fucking bitch!” I heard Mark scream from about thirty feet behind me. He ran up but Blaise turned and hit him. I had like two seconds to get out of the way before all the guys starting fighting. It was crazy. You know, punching doesn’t sound like the way it does in movies. It’s kind of blunt. Not glamorous or cool at all. It just sounds really disgusting.

The cops were there almost instantly. Someone on line outside must have called. The next thing I remember was Kylie and Blaise (and just about every guest at my birthday party but me) getting put in cop cars. There was a big crowd surrounding us. So many people but they hardly said anything.

It’s not everyday you see a brawl and a girl taking a baseball bat to the windows of an SUV. I saw Kylie stare at Stacey while the cops were cuffing her. Stacey yelled, “You stupid bitch!”

Kylie smiled real big and laughed at her. Stacey said, “You don’t have anything to say for yourself.” Kylie looked at her hands behind her back, “I do. You just can’t see my finger.”

As she got into the backseat of the squad car, she called out to Stacey, “How’s your nose?”

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