Tuesday, April 21st.
This past week has been a busy one. I enjoy teaching the writing class. It’s a small group of fascinating women, each in various stages of writing development. Since I primarily teach fiction writing, those who expect a course in poetry or how to write for magazines will be disappointed.
I have short-term memory problems (is that age or is it just me??), so I wait until the day of the class before preparing the evening’s agenda. Putting things off makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I like to get busy and accomplish what I set out to do. In this instance, though, I believe waiting until the eleventh hour is best for all concerned.
Progress continues on Upside Down and Whopperjawed. If I had nothing else to do and devoted most of my time to this story, I could finish in about six weeks. Maybe less. April Grace Reilly often seems to sit on the corner of my desk, telling me about her day and the crazy people in her life. Recording her tale in her sassy, witty voice ensures that the story basically tells itself.
Not every novel I write is this easy or this much fun. But that’s another topic for another time.
I am not my characters.
I once wrote an historical novel in which one of my minor characters criticized Teddy Roosevelt. I read this aloud to a feedback group, and the next morning a man and woman showed up on my doorstep. Upset that I did not love Teddy Roosevelt, they assaulted my ears for an hour with history and praise. When they finally wound down, I explained it was my character criticizing the man, not me. I did not serve in the Spanish American War with him. I did not know him personally. I could have saved my breath. They were miffed, and apparently happy to be miffed since my defense fell on deaf ears.
Another time, I wrote a humorous piece in which one of my characters mention a certain religious order that is known for knocking on doors. It was a brief mention of them showing up at the door, and certainly nothing derogatory, but a few days after reading this piece to a feedback group, I received a long letter from a little old lady defending her friends who belonged to that religion.
Not long ago a friend was visiting in our home. She talked about “you did this and then you did that”–which confused me until I realized she was talking about someone in one of my books. We had a good laugh about it, but I told her, “I am not my character.”
Well, maybe I am, a little bit. But if that’s so, I wish I could be as outspoken, witty and brave as they are. Alas, I’m just the wordsmith who delivers these characters to you.