Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (Merrycoz.org)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Purely Hypothetical Question

Say you're doing a story, and your primary source (in fact, your only source) -- a character, a Real Dame -- has a stage name that, for some, brings up unsavory associations with the porn industry. And say your queasy editor wants to use that source's given name instead.

So you e-mail the publicist (and your source has one!), and she e-mails back to express dismay and ask if The Dame has approved this. And your queasy editor responds (copying you) that you'll just call The Dame and ask.

This leaves you in a bit of a conundrum, because in order to ask The Dame whether it's okay to use her full name, you're going to have to give some reason why, and you don't want to insult her by saying her stage name is too porny, even though this must be obvious to her.

What would you do? The hypothetical floor is open to hypothetical suggestions.

4 Comments:

Anonymous ashok said...

"Hi. Thank you for all the help you've given me on this article.

Listen, I have a problem. My idiot editor, who is a [redacted] [redacted] [really redacted], thinks that your stage name is not proper to use for our publication."

[10 minutes of cursing from the other side, and "I am a star" type crap]

"Look, I'm happy you haven't hung up on me. I don't like this situation either, I think it's rude to ask a story from someone and have to do this. But I'm a cog in a machine, and your reputation isn't gonna suffer because of this. You're far too admired for that. I'm not expecting permission from you, I'm just informing you of the situation. The story's great, trust me, I'll send you a copy now [if I can] for your review. Up to you what you want to do. I can't tell my editor off, because it's my job on the line. Thanks for listening."

12:37 AM  
Blogger frostine99 said...

Dear Ashok,

I greatly appreciate your sensible advice about the (totally hypothetical!) situation. I was (hypothetically!) ruminating about it when I found out five minutes ago that Queasy Editor and Dame's Publicist have worked out some sort of compromise that doesn't entirely make sense to me, but also doesn't require me to pick up the phone (to my great relief). Hypothetically speaking, of course. Again, many thanks.

frostine

2:25 PM  
Anonymous ashok said...

I'm glad you liked the "advice." It was more, "How do I smooth things over?" Well, the usual rules are:

1. Make some third party the bad guy.
2. Present yourself as in the corner of her who is wounded by the third party's actions.
3. Sell yourself like you're doing everything humanly possible to remedy the situation.
4. Make it clear that a little bit of acquiesence from she who is wounded would go a long way, but that you're really not asking for help.

People don't like to be pressured, or told what to do. Placing the blame on Queasy Editor makes it seem like you're both being pressured. And a suggestion, a request for help on your part, contrasted with that, should go a long way.

9:31 PM  
Anonymous ashok said...

I'm glad you liked the "advice." It was more, "How do I smooth things over?" Well, the usual rules are:

1. Make some third party the bad guy.
2. Present yourself as in the corner of her who is wounded by the third party's actions.
3. Sell yourself like you're doing everything humanly possible to remedy the situation.
4. Make it clear that a little bit of acquiesence from she who is wounded would go a long way, but that you're really not asking for help.

People don't like to be pressured, or told what to do. Placing the blame on Queasy Editor makes it seem like you're both being pressured. And a suggestion, a request for help on your part, contrasted with that, should go a long way.

9:32 PM  

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