There are folders where I stick other things too . . . thoughts and people and voices and characters. I sometimes have these flashes of characters and a tiny scene—I’m sure many of us have this happen. So, here is the snippet that flashed in my head, how as I thought it as I walked:
She named the child Praline, pronounced Pray-Leen. What got his goat was how stupid a name that was—clichéd Southern for one thing, but the other thing was how that name could be pronounced in two ways according to where a person lived: Pray-leen could just as well be Prah-leen, and that shot to hell her theory her child would have “pray” in her name. She did other things to get a hold of his goat, things that sent his spine straight up and his fingers to curl into a fist, a fist he never used on her of course, a fist that tightened all the way up to his jaw and caused his teeth to clench before he gave it up and let go. His thoughts stomped on his brain as he pushed the bullets into his gun. “Me or her,” he said, “which it’s gonna be, me or her . . .”
I thought that scene, went, huhn, well where’d that come from?, then tossed it. Maybe one day that man’ll come back around, or maybe he’ll go to the Island of MisFit Characters. That’s where all the snippets of characters go, and they can’t get off the island—oh a few of them may have built little boats and tried and maybe even made it back to my brain, but most stay there, building little communities and living their lives without me to interfere. The ones who don’t go to the Island of MisFit Characters end up in a waiting room folder, I suppose (and here my brain imagines a woman sitting in a room that is all white—nothing around her but white—and she’s reading a magazine, waiting waiting).
There’s simply no way to keep every little thought, every little scene, every little snippet of a character. Eventually, I need to focus on one character, and that’s the one who is the loudest, or the most persuasive or endearing or…whatever—or the one who sneaks in when I put my fingers on the keys. I wish I could be the type who writes outlines and knows exactly what their plot is and the beginning-middle-end and who will be and what they look like and where they are. Instead, I open the black hole in my head, and one of the folders opens, and it feeds me what it wants me to do a bit at a time, and some things are never ever clear, even after I finish the work, even after it is published-that’s right, there are some things I can’t picture clearly even in TG or SG because of my weird brain.
Now, as for that Island of MisFit Characters—imagine rowing out to it and stepping onto that island and all these characters surround you and they’re clawing at you, yelling, “MEMEMEME ME! Me Next! Me Next! Write about ME ME ME!” *shudder* gives me the willies. Nope, rather stay away from there. That’s why I don’t make notes. Huhn, the notes end up mostly unread anyway.
I just have to trust my own way, my own instincts, my own writing personality. People may be surprised at what I can’t do, how my brain sometimes works against me, and what I can’t envision and can’t can’t can’t—but, if I let the way my brain works (or doesn’t work) stop me, if I concentrate on the CAN’Ts then I’d never get anything done, I’d never have Tender Graces and Secret Graces or the Sweetie novel; I’d never have my other works. Sometimes you just have to embrace who and what you are, your limitations if you will. Maybe in some way my limitations are my greatest strengths when it comes to my writing and characters.
And you? Do you have an Island of MisFit Characters? Are you organized in your writing life? Or do you pull it out your as—umm, I mean, your folders tucked somewhere in your head? Do you embrace your way of doing what you do, even if it sometimes feels frustrating, even if you wish you could do it in another way?
Open up the way, quieten the doubts, and do what you love. Find that balance. Find what feels Real to you, what feels True, and then –well, then let nothing stop you from doing what you are called to do.
Folks, we are expecting that winter storm here in the mountains of western North Carolina. GMR and I are battening down our hatches, so to speak. We have no idea what to expect, but, if we are really dumped on with snow, we could lose power—and for how long, we don’t know. So, if you don’t see me around for a few days (hope not more!) then you know why. For those of you in this storm’s path—be careful and weather-wise!