Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fact or Fiction

(Note: After positing the first chapter of Charlotte Restrained, I edited it an additional four times! How’s that for addiction?)

How a Character Develops, at least in my world!

After reading my first blog a friend said that she wanted to get to know me through my writing and hoped I would become more comfortable revealing myself. Thinking about this, I have returned to the place at which I started, I am like Shrek, I am an onion, with many layers, and I would imagine that every entry will reveal an aspect of me.

Interestingly enough it was through the exploration of my layers that I returned to my childhood love of writing. As I mentioned in my first entry, I have moved a lot and have met a lot of people. The constancy was my family and my imagination. I think reinventing yourself over and over requires imagination and fortitude. Moving repeatedly developed within me an innate desire to try and determine what made a person tick and then I would create futures for them. Most people would remain unfinished characters, I would never read the next chapter of their lives or know their “happily ever after”.

It will probably come as no surprise to find out that I love the Biography Channel. I love the promo, “Every life has a story.” Many who know me know that I often begin an explanation with, “Well, there’s a story there.” I cannot help it! I love the story, because the story reveals to us an emotion, and gives us the choice of reaction, action or no action.

Last week I saw a woman at a coffee shop and she kept shoving her hair out of her eyes. She was! She was shoving it! Not brushing, smoothing, tucking, or flicking. She was shoving her hair. It was hard not to notice. My initial thought was, “She needs a haircut.” I took my coffee, went about my business and finally later that afternoon I found my thoughts returning to her. Then I began to break things down:

She: Who is she? Why shoving instead of brushing, smoothing, tucking or flicking? Shoving can be an angry, impatient, or frustrated action. That helps me create an idea of who she is. She is an angry/impatient/frustrated woman in a coffee shop. Is she angry because she cannot find the time to get a haircut? Is she impatient because she is waiting for someone? Is she frustrated because she is growing her hair out?

Need: Does she need a haircut or is this an old habit that she still does when she is concentrating on something? What if she has a special event coming up and she needs her hair shorter or longer for the event and does not have the time or money to make it happen? What if all she really wants is a haircut and a dye job? Can she not afford it? Is she poor? Does she need help?

Haircut: I wonder what she’d look like with longer hair or longer hair with highlights. I wonder if she has long hair because her partner likes long hair and secretly she hates it and wants to cut it but doesn’t because she wants to make her partner happy. Will cutting off her hair be the signal to the end of the relationship? Or has she been growing her hair for a couple years and is excited about the length and tugging at it reminds her of its length? OR is it just hair?

I can create scenario after scenario. It entertains me, helps me to dig deeper into my own psyche, makes me wonder about myself, our culture, and other cultures. It gives me thoughts to ponder and wonder what I am teaching my children.

All this from one woman shoving her hair.

If you are wondering what the end result is that cannot happen because in writing there is no single solution. This is one of the stories that I invented for this woman:

She sits in the coffee shop excited. Just the action of being alone and anonymous in a coffee shop is pretty exciting. Being from a small town and wanting to blend in, one of the first things she observed when she entered was that most women wore their hair down. Not pulled back in a pony tail as she usually did. She tugged at her bangs, annoyed that she’d had to get them cut, but at the same time, she smiled inwardly at the memory of the cause. Her daughter had been giving her “a day of beauty” and the elastic hair band had become so twisted in her hair, there had been no choice but to cut it out.

Refocusing on the reason she was here, she pulled her resume out of her bag and placed it on the round table in front of her. Technically it wasn’t a briefcase, but to her it was better. It was a laptop bag, full of pockets, and secret compartments. Not only did it hold her treasured designs and photographs there were places to stick car keys, cell phones, hide a supply of snacks for her kids, and even a super secret pocket that held her stash of chocolate. The best part was that it was “her.” It had been a long time since she’d bought something that said, “This is who I am.” Having three young children had delayed those types of purchases.

So here she was, adding to the reinvention of herself. She’d been nervous, but her husband and friends had encouraged her to meet with the owner of a local landscape design firm. She hadn’t worked in years, but her fingers itched to hold a drafting pen and her brain whirred with ideas of what could be. Her only hope was that the person interviewing her would see the years she’d spent as a stay at home mom as an asset, that her projects from the past would dazzle him, and that she’d get that part of herself back.

Quickly she glanced around the room and saw a woman that looked a little bit like her. A woman with a bag that wasn’t a briefcase jammed with papers. The utilitarian bag had McTeachers Night written on it. The thought ran through her mind that the woman needed a haircut!

Just then a voice said, “Hello, are you Rebecca Forstner?”

She looked up to see a man dressed somewhat casually, holding a drafting tube. She quickly stood up, offered her hand, and said, “Yes, I am.”