prep work: Pajama Jones

Over at Argh Ink Jenny Crusie is getting set to write one third of a book… well hell, I can’t remember the details except she’s doing her prep work for her main character, called Mare. The other two contributors to this book are doing the same for their characters, and then there’s a meeting with a lot of alcohol where they compare notes and put together a work/battle plan.

Jenny also does a collage for her characters/stories. This is something I do in a smaller way, usually on the computer screen. Because if I let myself go into the studio and start playing with paint and paper, dog only knows when you’ll see me again. Procrastination Central. In fact, I should put a sign on the door that says exactly that.

So I’m working on Pajama Jones, for Putnam. I’m not ready to say too much about this novel at this point, but I can talk about the main character. Following Jenny’s example I’ll give you some basics about her. I’d be curious about any reactions you might have, and more important: are there any questions you would add to this list?

Finally: changes are always possible, and almost inevitable as the story and the character take off on their own.

Name: Julia Darrow
Home: born and raised in Greenbriar, Georgia. Ten years in Chicago for school and work, then back to Greenbriar.
Hair: brown
Eyes: brown
Height: 5’9″
Favorite foods: eggs Benedict, chicken and gravy, roast beef, good bread with fresh butter, strong cheese, noodles of any kind, any leafy green, thick cut potato chips, chili.
Won’t eat: Yoghurt, anything stew or gumbo like, soup.
Favorite things to drink: root beer, milk, juices, red wine
Favorite Music: Bach
Likes to wear: Used to present herself as a J Jill type, but since she’s changed careers, she wears pajamas, or long underwear that looks like Pajamas, or some combination of the two, all day long.
What her living space is like: A three room apartment above her business. Perfectly put together bedroom, antique furniture, a quilt made by her great grandmother folded precisely over the chest at the foot of the bed. The eat in kitchen is small, ultilitarian (she rarely cooks); the front room is a testament to comfort, quirky tastes, and technology. She’s got a full computer setup, a wide screen television that hangs on the wall, every other kind of geekish toy, a huge and comfortable couch and two chairs, each with a personality of its own, as well as a hugely expensive office chair. Good original art on the walls, all contemporary except for a small oil portrait of a great great grandfather in Civil War uniform.
Methods of transport: These days she walks, or stays home if it’s too far to walk.
Politics: Used to be very involved, now won’t watch the news.
Magazine subscriptions: dozens. Business related, but also high end crafts, arts, antiques.
Favorite Book: Happy all the Time, Laurie Colwin; Keeper of the House, Rebecca Godwin
Favorite TV Show: She watches everything except sports, news, politics, and sitcoms with laugh tracks. Used to like medical dramas but doesn’t watch those anymore either. Tends to turn on HBO and let it run.
Favorite Movie of the last few years: Man on Fire
Expression: don’t just sit there
Movie star crush: As in, I”ll go see anything with . . .: Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington.
Pets: a large cage with five pairs of love birds, another larger cage with ten pairs, a small dog called Lucy, breed a mystery, a pound rescue.
Creative outlet: the display window of her shop
Favorite Muppet: Oscar the Grouch
Favorite ice cream: Tin Roof Sundae
Favorite desert: can’t pick just one. She’s got a sweet tooth.
The thing she’d never do: Miss opening the shop on time, be late for an appointment, stop running.
The thing she’s always wanted to do: Make everybody’s bed.
Childhood toy that’s still in her room: an antique doll with a bisque face that is perfectly dressed, and that she never played with.

6 Replies to “prep work: Pajama Jones”

  1. It’s interesting to be invited to ask questions about this person. I would also like to know about how old she is and I think that someone who’s made those decisions about clothes and walking would also have firm convictions about shoes. The only criticism I would have about the portrait is the choice of actors — everyone likes them and knows that they’re good at their craft. They don’t really tell you anything the person.

    Also I want to know what sort of dwelling she has — where exactly do the birds live? Outside?

    And where does the money come from for her electronic toys etc? (I suppose this is really part of the story, but it’s something I wonder about in a lot of contemporary fiction).

  2. Julie —

    Now see, the actor question is interesting. To me, these particular actors bring up a certain set of characteristics. A woman who likes them above others is a woman who is attracted to alpha males, the strong guys who will stand up and take a bullet for a cause. It’s not a particularly unusual choice but it is a safe, comfortable one, and that’s important to Julia.

    I’ll have to ask her about shoes.

    Above her dwelling: a three room apartment above her place of business … what kind of image do you get from that? Not enough of one, I’m guessing. And the birds: the smaller cage in her apartment, the larger cage downstairs in the shop.

    Which is part of the answer to where the money comes from, and to go into that (as you’ve guessed) would be getting too far into the backstory for this exercise.

  3. Maybe this is an odd question – does she have streaks in her hair? Sing loudly in the shower? Does she paint her toenails with purple polish even though no one sees them? The list shows me Julia as I see her looking through the window; those little things would show me how she thinks about herself, if you know what I mean.

    I love the contrast between the antique quilt and the tehno-gadgets; it adds an instant complexity to the character, as does her movie choice – Man on Fire raising some quite political issues, conflicting with her desire to no longer watch the news.

  4. Meredith — you know those are great questions, but Jules and I are just getting acquainted and I don’t have all the answers yet. Suspicions, but no answers.

    And also this bit of information: her best friend from grade school works down the street, and she has four little girls. So if Julia’s toenails are painted, I know who is responsible.

  5. I had a jolt when I read the favorite books part— Laurie Colwin being my favorite author, Shine On Bright & Dangerous Object being my favorite book. Few in my circles know of her—- I am anxious to meet Julia.

  6. That’s a lot of birds. A LOT! And lovebirds, quite romantic.

    What kind of business does she have? I’m guessing an antique shop, but maybe I’m just too suggestible, with the antique furniture in her apartment. Is the building a stand-alone house, or part of a downtown row? With the dog, I’m thinking backyard. But with her walking everywhere and the display window, I’m thinking downtown. Also picturing her taking the dog along everywhere, with a cozy bed in a shop corner somewhere.

    I’d also like to know how old she is. Again guessing mid to late 30’s? I’m also picturing someone a little rounded, but tall and rounded, so maybe “solid”? That’s some heavy food.

    And “Man on Fire” is a tremendous, under-rated, fantastic movie. It’s intriguing to root for someone putting bombs in nasty places and blowing people up. Inspired choice.

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