Reading in a writer’s group gives me an opportunity to show eight people just how ignorant I am every two weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, for instance, I read my first revamping of Fast Lane’s opening and was told I needed to show more of Lara’s transformation from plain old average Lara into Leading Lady Lara.

This transformation thing is kinda tricky, since the whole book is about one woman’s transformation. But I’m talking here about an initial transformation that Lara has to go through just to get to the next level. Preparation, more or less.

In man books, the lead character preps by doing a few push-ups, running an obstacle course and picking out the right machine gun. In woman books, according to my female readers, there is the need to show far more detail. Where does the heroine shop? What kinds of dresses does she try on? How much does she spend?

And the shoes. What about the shoes?

So I added all that, and then found out that Lara couldn’t just “go to the gym.” We had to know what exercises she was doing. And toning up wasn’t enough. She’d undergo a makeover: new hairdo, manicures, pedicures, professional wax jobs on various parts of her body. But just getting the wax jobs wasn’t enough. We’d have to know which parts and what type of wax.

So I added all that, too. And, you know what? Fast Lane got better.

It was with great confidence, then, that I read the re-revised opening to see if I’d covered all the bases. Well, yeah…but not necessarily adequately. This time, I was informed that Lara absolutely could not attend a party with Beautiful People in a dress that cost—be prepared to LOL, ManWARriors—$258.

“There’s no way she would go to that party in a dress that cost less than $2,000,” said Judy, my ultimate beta reader.

I added a zero after the eight. Problem solved.

But it also illustrates just what I’m up against. Only once have I spent more than $258 on a single piece of clothing. It was the Hart Shaffner & Marx suit I bought. In 2007. Having worn it only about two dozen times, I’m pretty sure it has at least four more years left in it, too. As long a wide lapels don’t roar back into style.

Anyways, all this thinking about fashion reminded me of an actual conversation I had with my mom after I’d attended the wedding of a high-school friend.

MOM: What did the bride wear?
DAVE: A wedding dress.
MOM: Well, yes. But what color was it?
What color was it? It was a wedding dress, for crying out loud. How many colors are there?
DAVE: White.
MOM: White-white? Off-white? Ivory? Cream? Eggshell? Ecru?
Ecru? There’s no such color as ecru.
DAVE: I don’t know, Mom. It was a white dress.

And then came questions about sleeves, shoulders, skirt length and gloves.

I was twenty-one at the time, and I’d apparently made little progress since. But now I know. So thank you, ladies, for educating me. And thank you, Internet, for making it possible for me to find a $2,000 dress without actually having to drag my butt to the mall.

The lesson? Do your research. A writer’s ignorance reduces a reader’s bliss.

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