Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Unfolding of a Character

You stayin warm?...

I know, right...I'm dyin on the vine out here. Everythings one ginormous, fuckin icicle.

It was gettin old and needed new tires, but I never imagined it would break down when it's two degrees outside.  When is this bus gonna get here?

That blows. Where you headed?

To my mom's.  She needs help with her groceries and other stuff around her apartment. You?

Shit. Work...where else would I be goin at 7 in the morning?  

Bus pulls up.  Julia and Dylan get on.

My friend and I were lamenting about how hard it is to convey dialogue in a short story format.  You want the reader to feel what it feels like to be a middle-aged, single mother down on her luck sandwiched in between her two dependent kiddos while also managing the needs of her ailing, elderly mother.  And, a brilliant, punk ass kid in his early 20's who can't quite get it together, resolute on rebelling against the system but trapped by it all the same.

Without a messenger, the only thing you have is words and unfortunately, so much of the meat in dialogue happens in the non-verbal...the ways that we look at each other or look away or touch the other or want to, but don't.

And so, as Anne LaMott teaches, you try to get under the skin of the character and inhabit it, so that you can clear as a pin point articulate what they would and would not do.  The tough part is when you you're not a single mother or a punk kid in his early 20's.

So, you just keep at it...banging it out, erasing, rewriting, rereading, reimagining if the whole thing is plausible and if it's not, can you suspend the reader's disbelief long enough to entice them to come on the journey?

Yesterday, after school, while getting Kate (7) ready for ballet, she asked me what I do at my computer.  I told her that I'm usually doing one of three things: writing, paying bills, or listening to music or all three.  And then she said, what do you do when we're at school?  To which I responded, that list is much longer.  And then she said, what did you do before we were here?  And I said, you mean before you were born? Nodding her head yes, I replied, I can hardly remember.

And it's true.  Just as I'm inventing characters for stories, I feel like I'm constantly reinventing me.  It's the nature of the story, the journey, the unfolding of the life.  And much as I'm completely oblivious to where the story line will go with Julia and Dylan, I'm equally as unsure about myself.

The good news for both are that the possibilities are limitless.

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