writerly habits

shy characters

Here’s something odd. Usually male characters are more difficult to get in touch with, and I have no problem connecting to female characters. Curiosity and Elizabeth and Angeline all babble to me when I’m working on their stories. Nathaniel will talk to me now, but it took a long time for the relationship to mature.

Pajama Jones ((retitled The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square)) is the exception to the rule. John Dodge is very talkative, very willing to have me hitch a ride in his head. Julia Darrow? Not so much. Just yesterday she started to open up. Now, Julia has some issues, but I didn’t think she’d be so tentative with me.

Fiction: something new around every corner.

really deep water, and pencils

Sometimes a scene is so important that I find myself afraid to jump in. I’ve been dealing with a scene like that for two days, dipping my toe in the water and drawing back in panic. Just how deep is this water, and what if it’s too deep?

A short side trip to make clear how serious an analogy this really is.

On a hot Chicago summer day when I was nine years old, and hadn’t yet learned to swim, a bully who shall remain nameless (but his initials were Jimmy Malone) pushed me into the deep end of the very crowded public pool at Horner Park at California Avenue and Irving Park Road. I remember trying to reach the side of the pool, and failing. I remember the going down for the third time, and how pretty the sunshine was on the water. Then I remember throwing up on the lifeguard who pulled me out. He was shaking, and he had very bad acne, and that’s all I remember about him. So you see, when I talk about jumping into the deep end, I know whereof I speak.

So this morning I did something drastic. I went out to write at Starbucks (please, no commentary on writers at Starbucks) and accidentally on purpose I left my laptop at home. Thus I was left with a notebook and a pencil, and two hours of time. So I wrote long hand. And now the scene is out, and pretty good, I think, after all my agonizing. Once in a while, I can float with the help of a number two pencil.

one inch frame

Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a book I often read through when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the project at hand. As I am just now. Her “one inch frame” is a reminder that I’m supposed to be thinking about the character in front of me, and just her, and what she’s up to right now. Forget the War of 1812, the British Navy, the complicated politics, the fact that I’ve got characters waiting for me up there in Paradise and on l’ile de lamatins, too. Just concentrate on Giselle at her breakfast table looking at the ships in the harbor.

The problem is, Giselle is still a little put out at me for leaving her to her own devices.The last we saw her was about half a million words ago and now she’s being standoffish. However, she tolerates me as she would a portrait painter.

I wish her husband would come along so I could get a look at him, because I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that he’s somebody I’ve seen before.