Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Starbucks Chronicles

Wednesday morning at Starbucks.

A wall of windows opens onto an expansive courtyard with tables, benches, and red geraniums that pop out against the gray day. Beyond, on the street, commuters flock to the companies that surround this Starbucks and to UC-Irvine, just down the street.

“He’s So Fine” blasts over the speakers.

The sounds of barista's voices: “Rachel!” “Emilio, Nonfat mocha grande!” “Tall nonfat cappucino!”

Across the room a man in a white shirt and groomed beard tears the paper sleeve holding his slice of zucchini bread, smears butter on the bread, and takes a bite. Then he sips from what looks like iced tea on his left as a steaming double-cupped coffee sits to his right. He dunks his bread into the hot drink and chews as he wipes his fingers with brown napkins. He dunks another piece, chews, gazes through the window, and dunks again.

I should stop studying him, and turn my attention inward to my novel. But I have been working since I arrived. I copied all of my chapters to one file because it has been a major pain in the behind trying to find certain scenes or lines of dialogue: Did the mother character say that, and if she did, where? Does Starletta’s friend, Madeline, ever show up in the flesh or only over the phone? Does Quinn have a blond hair to his chin or gray gelled porcupine-quill like hair?

So many things to lose track of in a novel. Flannery O’Connor said fiction is messy. Indeed. I still have separate chapters, too, but each time I revise one, I will copy it to the “entire revise” document for when I need to search, and find.


deirdre said...

The mere thought of tackling a novel makes me cringe. I can't remember what I had for lunch yesterday, nevermind what a character said in a chapter written months ago. I've always wondered how novelists do that.

Steve Lyon said...

I love your descriptions of the places you write. I have been working in various Starbuck's locations in Lexington KY where I live for past four years or so, and have found it to be a lot like getting up and going to the office. And sometimes the conversations around me speak to what I'm working on, too - once a woman breaking into quiet tears after her companion - lover? - left. She had a computer, too, and after a while began to write.