Not bad for a fat girl

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Trying On Personalities



I’ve been having a little fun with fiction. I’ve been trying on different personalities in the form of characters I’m writing. First person narratives are so different from third person. Getting into the character makes me feel like I really know him or her. Well, her. So far I’ve been working with female characters, probably because they’re what I know best.

Maybe it’s time to get a little bolder. I’ve written a few women, and they’ve been young. Far younger than I am. I suppose it’s because in my head I’m far younger than I am in my body. Teenage me is still alive and well, but fortunately she’s not in charge. Can you imagine? That would be a disaster.

Can I write older? I suppose I can try it, but it will be quite a bit more difficult. After all, I’ve been younger than I am now, but I’ve never been older. Of course I know older people, and I have my entire life, but it’s not the same as having that first-hand experience. Still, I think I’m going to give it a go.

Then there’s gender. At the moment I’m thinking in terms of simple binary, that is male and female. Again, these are the ones I’m most familiar with. Yes, I have met transgender people, and yes, the people I’ve met have been lovely, but I don’t know nearly enough about their experiences in the world to pretend to be able to write a convincing character at this point.

I’ve written characters from different backgrounds, from a former child soldier in South Sudan to an undocumented Mexican man full of machismo to a little girl living in foster care unsure of her future. None of these characters have been in first person, though. I think it would be enlightening to go back to some of these people (yes, I know they’re imaginary, but they’re still people) and write from their points of view. What is that scared little girl seeing and hearing in the dark in a strange bedroom far away from her family? How does his past haunt the Sudanese “Lost Boy” and does he feel survivor’s guilt? What, and who, did the Mexican man leave behind when he crossed the border? Was it worth it? Will he ever voluntarily go back?

It’s a fascinating exercise in empathy and creativity. At our core we share undeniable similarities. How these manifest, and how our differences separate us, are topics of unending wonder. I’m so lucky I can write my way into whatever personality I feel like choosing.

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A Taste of Fiction

Here is a short piece I wrote for a class I’m taking. Please feel free to leave constructive criticism. Thanks!

Fourteen Months and Then Some

            I’m foggy at first, unsure of my surroundings, but a flash of lightning illuminates the cinderblock and I remember where I am. It’s been fourteen months, three weeks, and two days since I last saw them, kissing their soft damp heads goodbye in the August heat. I inhaled their baby powder scent deeply and promised I would be back soon, a promise I knew I couldn’t keep. Still, they looked at me with those big wet eyes, just like always. I turned away so they couldn’t see me cry. I never let them see me cry.

When they were born three years ago, I promised myself things would change. They were four weeks early and so tiny. I spent hours in the ICU with them, stroking them gently, willing them to live. We were alone, even when the room buzzed with activity. Jax and Maddie. Maddie and Jax. The perfect babies I was never meant to have.

All through high school I cramped and puked every month. My mother was a drunk and told me I was a drama queen. I wish. Years later, a pretentious doctor at the free clinic announced that I would never have children. Perfect. I never wanted them anyway. I was sure I would be a horrible mother, based on my own horrible mother. Besides, kids were a nuisance, and expensive too. I had plans, and they didn’t include kids.

Things change, though, whether you want them to or not. I just knew I was pregnant as soon as it happened. God must have been in a funny mood that night, because he gave me two babies to carry. I was pissed. That was not supposed to happen, but it did. Son-of-a-bitch. Those babies made me stop and think, though, at least a little.

I wanted to go back to school, but school costs money, and money is one thing I have precious little of, especially after having two babies in the ICU for so long. There was no money for extras, and hardly any for even food or diapers. Still, I got by. I did some things I maybe shouldn’t of, but I had to. Nobody else was taking care of us.

I suppose it was bound to happen eventually, but I still didn’t expect it. I got caught. I was stupid. I was on the way to pick up my kids when I made a detour, like I’d done so many times before. It was going to be quick. I needed the cash. Too bad for me I let my guard down. Too bad for me I lost my kids that night.

Fourteen months, three weeks, and two days. A lifetime of not seeing my babies. I turn to the wall and there they are, frozen in a blurry photo. Maddie and Jax, smiling without me. I smile back in spite of my self, then wipe away my tears.


Stranger in a Strange Land

I am having a minor freak out moment here. I am 17,000 words plus into my Young Adult novel that I’m writing. I’m doing it as part of NaNoWriMo, and for some foolish reason I think I can either complete the 50,000 word challenge or at least get close. I’m on the right pace, but not everyday turns out the same for writing. I mean, once all my original ideas have been written, then what?

That’s not the real problem, though. The 50,000 words all need to flow in a manner that tells a single story, and within that story convey multiple plot lines and characters. Words are easy. images-1I can always find words (in spite of an earlier post wondering whether or not I would be able to do just that). It’s finding the right words that’s the problem.

I know, I’m supposed to suspend judgment and just write. Silence the inner editor and all that jazz. Got it. What I don’t have are novel writing skills. I’m floundering in the land of description and spending too much energy on back story. I know I need more action, but I’m not sure how to write it. How do I pace my scenes? How do I utilize dialogue effectively? How do I move the action from one point to another? How do I include the factual information necessary to understand the story? And on and on it goes. I have no idea how to craft a novel, this much is apparent.

For that reason, and that reason alone,  I am freaking out. One thing that has helped me is the software I’m using, WriteItNow. It allows me to arrange my writing into chapters, gives me places for notes, setting, ideas, etc. imagesIt has screens that allow me to connect my characters together with all of their relationships, and offers so much more that I haven’t even scratched the surface of. And no, they’re not paying me to endorse them.

The other help has been my flow map of the story. I’m sure the software offers something very similar, but I didn’t take the time that I needed to learn how to do it. I just grabbed a pen and paper and started drawing my boxes, with each chapter’s main event summarized, so I can go back and add, delete, or change as necessary. For me this is far easier than an outline, but it still gives me the structure I need to make sure the story has continuity.

If you’re still reading, you deserve a medal. I feel a little better just getting my worries about this project off my chest. Now if I were a smart NaBloPoMo blogger, I would wait until tomorrow to post this, but I’m not. There will be more words tomorrow, I’m sure.