Musings

When a character stalks an author…

Julia. I have neglected Julia far too long and she’s appearing everywhere. Haunting me in the people I meet, the clothes I wear, the stories I hear.  It’s funny how the pieces of a person just fall into your lap when you’re busy attending to other things.

maggie-schoepke-shattered-photo
Photo courtesy of Maggie Schoepke. You can follow her anime blog at teatimewithsenpai.wordpress.com

 


 

It started with Julia. No, not my character, a real person. She was sitting just a couple rows in front of me and I wanted to take a picture, because it was her, it looked just like my Julia. But it’d be weird to sneak a picture of a stranger in such a small room where it’d be noticed, even weirder to explain my stalkerish tendency. So I resolved to simply catch her full name during introductions and look her up on Facebook or Instagram because all the modern teens have those. And then it happened: she introduced herself as Julia. This really was my girl! Scarless, no blemishes to be seen, but a Julia that looked exactly like my Julia nonetheless.

Then the moment of truth came: Julia had left the building and I went to look at the sign-in sheet (which was available for all attendees to email each other. I wasn’t a total stalker. Others were copying the list as well.) And darn it! this girl’s name may as well have been Julia Smith. I searched Facebook and Twitter fruitlessly, for there were thousands of results and no mutual friends to bump the right one to the top. I’d lost her!

As a side note, I totally hope I encounter her again this year at the same lecture, and then I will fiercely force my friendship on her by taking interest in her work or something. And hope I don’t get a restraining order as I all too quickly ask for a group selfie 😉 I’m not a creeper really!

Sigh. This is what happens when a writer encounters their character in the real world. As if I’m not mad enough without this pull towards insanity…


 

Next came the story. There’s a book already out that sounds scary like my character, only with real life happenings and not paranormal urban fantasy. Some sort of teen angst Julia drama book. And I suddenly worry that I’m losing my chance, that someone will take her story from me and publish it so much faster than I ever could. Sure, every story has been told and it’s just a retelling, but Julia’s story is all mine and I don’t want to share.


 

Then came the Julia. Not my Julia or the Julia lookalike, but another Julia, one looking to join our writer’s group. How would this Julia take it when I read a story about her namesake falling to little bits in front of her? I don’t quite know, but she shockingly seemed okay with it when I summed up the story in forewarning. But with the name Julia semi-regularly on my tongue and referring to someone other than my character, it hearkens me back, back to the Julia I’m supposed to be living life with, or writing life with I suppose. Julia doesn’t like to share my attention, and her name is her name and my lips can’t utter it without regarding her specifically. My stories don’t deal in the most self-denying characters.


julia-dress-lularoe

Most recently, it’s shown up in clothes. What would clothes have to do with Julia? But then there was the LuLaRoe craze. The outfits with names of people – Carly, Joy, Irma, Randy, Cassie, Ana, Nicole, Mimi, and – you knew it was coming – Julia. And suddenly the Julia is covering my newsfeed, as if my real-world encounters weren’t enough. Social media brings up Julia like the plague, only a plague of fashionable comfy clothes (Woot woot!).

And once again, I feel the beckoning. I could wear her clothes in honor of her. But I have to sit with her too. I can’t just have her in my everyday life without taking the time to chat and tinker and understand what’s going on in her head and in her world. Her story needs to be out there for the world to see, like all the other Julias that are invading my life. I have to share this space with my Julia, the one and only most important Julia. Characters don’t want to share with the real world. Authors are demanded to live in the fictional universe until the character releases their grip, and balance is not something my characters will understand. Would yours? Does anybody understand balance when it comes to someone else’s life?


 

writing

 

So on that note… World, meet Julia. My Julia. You have all your Julia’s out there, and they’re just wonderful and I like encountering them. But there’s my Julia too.

 

She’s a little broken, a little unsure. But she’s got a story she’s ready to tell. And I’m busy writing it.

 

 


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Musings

When a murderer won’t shut up at 3am

Have you heard of “If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler”? by Italo Calvino. Very interesting book, written in the second person. Saying “You do this, you do that.” Not “I” or “he”, it’s about “you.” And “you” pick up a book at the bookstore, start reading and get enthralled in the tale, then suddenly realize the second chapter is a different story than the 1st chapter, so you return it to the store for a correct copy that doesn’t have the publisher’s error. Only the bookstore accidentally gives you a different book entirely. And so on the story continues with all these story snippets and “you” just trying to get your hands on an actual copy of the original book you wanted in the first place. Innovative story, not your usual thing.

Okay, so I’m not gonna go so far as to compare my own meager writing to world-renowned Calvino. But my short story I’m working on is similar-esque. Very meta like Cal’s… but unlike Cal’s, my story has a narrator that’s a murderer telling the reader how the whole murder went down and “you” have to figure out what happened and who the murderer is. It’s like a quirky meta mystery thing.

Why am I writing this short story instead of my work-in-progress urban fantasy novel? Because I had a murderer stuck in my head, and goshdarnit, a chatty one at that. I couldn’t get quiet all night, furiously scribbling the notes and begging the murderer to shut up. Welcome to writer life! Talk about a sneak peak. So I promised this murderer a short story if I could just get back to my actual work-in-progress soon.

But I will say, it’s exciting to stretch my writing out of my comfort zone, figuring out clues and red herrings and second person and meta story. It’s so fun! 🙂 You’ll hear more about this project I’m sure in the coming months – hopefully to be available for you all to read!

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for the Writers, Mental Health, Musings

My Characters Respond to Your Problems

My goal of writing 1000 words this weekend flopped. Due to a minor personal crisis. Sure, I could write through crises, I mean that’s what we’re supposed to do. But I was a slacker.

Lucky for me, I was venting my problems to my friend and unofficial business manager, Yasmeen. Out of the blue she said, “What would Analiese say to you right now?”

“Suck it up!” was my response.

And despite my not writing practically anything this weekend, there was one thing I wrote:

What My Characters Would Say About My [& Your] Problems

In case you wondered what characters think, in case you wondered what it’s like to pour your problems out at a Freaks Anonymous meeting, in case you wanted some group therapy, here ya go:

    • Mrs. Trencher – “Hush hush, someone may hear. We’ll get you to a Doctor, get this fixed right up.”
    • Mr. Trencher – *buries head in book*
    • Dr. Wise – “Is that all? Not fascinating at all. Dr. Evil can fix you right up.”
    • Dr. Evil – “Is that all? I don’t give a wit about you, all I care about is ol’ Gep, but of course I can get you a right fascinating problem for that coot Wise if I really wanted.”
    • Geppetto – “There, there. I’m sure we can work this out for all of us. You just need family. We’ll be your family” *hands over lifelong contract for me to sign*
    • Sylas – “What’d you expect, a couple freaks like us?”
    • Analiese – “Suck it up, you spoiled rich brat. Suck. It. Up. Poooor you, you have it soooo hard. Deal with it.”
    • Phoebe – “Well I suppose I can’t say I understand where you’re at. Never will, never can at least. That must be rough, I’m so sorry.”
    • Nick – “It’ll be a’ight. Give it time. You’ll get used to us.”
    • Sullivan – *nods head empathetically, saunters off ‘cause no one’s looking*
    • RaeChae – “Get over yourself, we need to do something. There’s a bigger problem. Get rid of big problem, maybe little you problem goes away. Now, what’s the plan?”
    • Jasper – *hands The Forgettable some paper and pen*
    • The Forgettable – *scribbles note* “Read this once I’m gone.” *Leaves* Note says: “For Freedom: get out now!”
    • Narrator – “Maybe it’s good I can’t remember. Maybe I’d have more problems. But maybe having a reason for problems is worth it…?”
    •  

    • Julia – “Wow, you just throw it all out there, yeah? Dump it on anyone who will listen? Hmmm. Well, let’s get you out of this mess.” *leaps right into the ‘mess’ before making a plan*

What About YOU?

What do you think your favorite character (not just from my unpublished book) would say about life’s problems?
 
And which of my characters do you think you’re most like when responding to someone’s life problems?
 
 

for the Bookworms, for the Writers

Hateable Characters

I just finished reading A Map of the World. I have very mixed feelings about it. The plot didn’t seem to go anywhere. The ending was anti-climactic. Yet the theme was excellently portrayed without being in-your-face. And I was interested enough to finish the book.

www.goodreads.com
www.goodreads.com

The most confusing part for me though was the characterization. The protagonist Alice was so off-putting, along with just about all of the other characters.

Describing her husband as reeking of manure from farming, tromping into the house with manure-covered shoes, later even entering the hospital for a visit with manure-covered shoes. Just shower already! Take the boots off at the door.

Or her daughter Emma who is a total brat, and she realizes it but just gives up. I wanted to whack her upside the head and tell her how to raise her child. Don’t give her breakfast after she throws it! Or better yet, tell her to eat off the floor what she threw down there….oh wait, no there’s probably manure all over it now.

And also every time Alice goes into a long monologue (which is often, she doesn’t listen well), I can’t help but think of Mrs. Marcus in the movie It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, jabbering away about absolutely nothing – only Alice isn’t funny.

Then there’s the kid Robbie who is a terror later to a preposterous extent, but I can’t see how he was specifically a terror back when Alice smacks him. A kid just standing there refusing to answer a question is frustrating, but really, slapping him over that? But Alice goes on and on the first few chapters about what a horrendous kid he always is.

Yet I read the entire book.

And it gets me thinking. These characters aren’t heroic. They’re not your likeable character with a couple flaws to make it realistic. No, they’re actually realistic.

Sure there’s people in the world that are like likeable characters in stories. But most? Most people have something that will drive you crazy if you stay with them for 200 pages of their life story. Many people in the world will jabber on and on to where you just want to make them shut up (me included, sorry.) Many parents will have days where they give up on their kid behaving and just try to placate them to get through the day. Many people have moments where they want to slap someone over something small, just because it was the last straw – all the little daily nuisances piling up to an unbearable height.

I’m not sure I liked the story. I’m certain I didn’t like the characters, except maybe Lizzie or Claire, the 2-yr-olds. I was frustrated and angry at the characters, wanting to strangle them or yell or run away, for the entire book. But maybe this story had some worth, something that held me, because I had to admit that I probably encounter more people like this, and am more a person like this, than any of my favorite characters from other stories. I don’t know if that makes this story alright or not. Maybe that means the story is crap. I don’t know.

 

Your Turn:

Have you read any books with unlikeable characters you’re pretty sure you were supposed to root for? What do you think – is this more real-world portrayal, and do we want that in books? is this type of chracterization crap writing or genius writing?