Monday, November 22, 2010

Gather Round the Fiction Table - A Character's Perspective

It wasn’t your typical Thanksgiving lunch. In fact, not one living person was present. Just us fictional characters. We’d decided to get together while the computer was turned off and the author couldn’t rearrange our lives any more. Not that she had much power anyway. We had minds of our own. Sigh.


Sure, she started a sketchy plot, developed some general physical guidelines, typed the words on the page, but after that…once she breathed personalities into us – well, it was only a matter of time before we took over the stories.

I've never understood why she puts so much conflict into our stories. It felt unending. Conflict, conflict, conflict. One of her favorite writing quotes is ‘conflict is at the heart of a good story.”

Bad news if you're a character.

So I called together some of the heroine’s to discuss this unfair life over a little Thanksgiving dinner.


“I haven’t been to a Thanksgiving meal in eight years.” Dr. Adelina Roseland said, her face glowing with excitement. “Thank you for inviting me, Eisley. I know you must stay busy as a single-mom of three, but you always seem to have time to entertain.”

I shrugged. Entertain? Yep, with a lot of unintentional comedy involved. “It’s my pleasure. I think it’s such a treat to get together from the author’s different genre, and time periods.” I nodded toward Ashleigh in full Edwardian attire. “We can certainly celebrate too.”

“Exactly. A brilliant notion.” Asheigh Dougall unpinned her broad-rimmed hat and revealed a mass of dark curls underneath. She had a sweet smile, but it never seemed complete. Like a piece of her was missing. I wonder if the author has even discovered the missing piece yet. Sometimes we surprise her halfway through the story with our little secrets. I love it when that happens. "Though we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in England, I can always think of something to be thankful for. Of what have you to be thankful?”

“I’m thankful that there isn’t one piece of red meat on the table.” Sophia Quinn sighed back into her chair and rolled her dark eyes up to the ceiling. Some of the other characters said she was a vampire slayer, but that couldn’t be right. The author would never write a story about vampires. It must be a literary term. Like code name for vegetarian feminist or something like that. “I see enough blood in my job, the less I have to look at it the better.”

Ashleigh’s fork filled with chicken salad stopped in mid-air and lowered back to her plate. I think all the blood-talk kind of got to her.

“Well, I’m thankful the author finally finished writing chapter three in my story.” Adelina shook her head. “How long does it take one person to write a few pages?”

“You must be teasing, luv.” Ashleigh stirred her tea, her face a mirror of understanding. “You do realize the author wrote my story eight years ago and has revised it so many times I don’t even know the ending. Besides that, she’s changed the spelling of my name twice and my sister’s name three times. Poor girl, I attribute it to her…um…what did you call it, Eisley?”

“Absent-mindedness?”

“Forgetfulness?”

“ADHD?”

“No, I think you once referred to it as creative divergence. Yes, that’s right. Although all of the above are most likely involved.”

“If I was that indecisive in my job, I’d be dead.” Sophie grimaced and grabbed a spoonful of mixed fruit. “I’m sure I could write a much better story than she can.”

“No worries,” I said. “Whatever the ending, it will be a happy one. She always writes happy endings.”

“Sure she does.” Came Sophie’s sarcastic reply. “I’m trying to be thankful here, but my story ending doesn’t look promising. I don’t know how she gets to the ending, because she’s skipped about fifteen chapters to write the last one – and it doesn’t look pretty.”

Ashleigh laughed. “You’re only a first draft, Sophie. There are no certainties at this point. Not even an ending at all. Just be thankful you’ve not been stashed into the...” Ashleigh lowered her voice to a whisper. “The drawer.”

I cringed and Adelina dropped her fork with a clang against the table.

“Now, Ashleigh, don’t go passing along horror stories.” I placed my arm on Sophie’s shoulder, but she pulled away. She wasn’t the huggy sort. “Just because a story goes into the drawer doesn’t mean it won’t come out again. She resurrected one just for my contemporary romance. My story has been the most revised, I think. Four times through for a complete revision, and about seven to ten full edits. This last edit, she cut out about fifty pages from the original story. I felt my life getting shorter with each cut. Sometimes I wonder what in print she’s doing.”

“But your ending is still good.” Adelina chimed in. “I don’t even know what my ending is going to be, and I’m a little nervous about all these notes the author keeps taking about a submerged vehicle.”

“Precisely.” Ashleigh snapped her napkin onto the table. “She has four books on the Lusitania alone and a preposterous amount of notes on its sinking. Unless I’m wrong, I’m the only historical character at the table. This does not bode well for me at all.”

“Now guys, I know the author wants to write for the glory of God. That has to help us deal with whatever she throws at us, right? I mean, she wants our stories to send a message of God’s love to the readers.”

“That is something for which to be thankful, luv. Our stories are part of a much bigger plan, even if we can't see the outcome directly in front of us.”

“But wait a minute.” Sophie leaned forward, her unearthly emerald eyes catching the faint sunlight glimmering through the window. “The author’s own story isn’t so much different than ours then, is it?”


“What do you mean?”

We all leaned closer.

“She doesn’t know the ending of her story, not the exact ending – but she’s trusting Someone much bigger than herself to make her story a testimony of God’s love too.”

I smacked my forehead. Why didn’t I think of that. “That’s right.”

“Are you saying, God is the author of our author’s story?” Ashleigh’s smile bloomed complete this time.

“She must be very certain of his love for her.” Dee whispered and averted her gaze to the window.

“I bet she wonders what God is doing in her life sometimes, just like we wonder what in paperback she’s doing in ours.” I reached for a drumstick and shook it at each one of them. Ashleigh looked horrified. “But in the end, she does remember His love for her – and that’s why she can…” I swallowed hard. “She can be thankful for the good and bad that comes into her life.”

Ashleigh dabbed at the corner of her eyes with a dainty handkerchief. “God showed his love through the life of his Son. The most beautiful love story of all time. Despite German torpedoes, or unruly cattlemen, or exhausting ex-husbands, and…” Ashleigh lifted a brow toward Sophie. “Toothy undead. The author believes her faith, her assurance in a love like that, will be painted with literary brushstrokes through the stories of our lives – so that others can see Jesus in us.”

“As she’s learning how to trust God with her own story, she’s writing ours.” It made everything a little clearer – and a whole lot easier to bear. Our stories, even our pain, had a purpose.

“If she can trust God with her story. “ Sophie sighed, a surrender-sigh. “Maybe we should be thankful we can trust her with ours.”

“Precisely.”

"It's the ultimate happily-ever-after." Dee offered.

“Well, I’m glad we’ve settled that.” I unveiled the cake in the center of the table. “Now it’s time for sweets.”

“Chocolate for dessert.”

I laughed. “Really girls, is any other kind?”

I Peter 1: 3-9

6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Thanks for reading to the end. Sorry for the long post. It's very difficult to write short scenes :-) Hope you enjoyed. So what are your characters saying about you?

Blessings from our Alley to yours. Happy Thanksgiving.

32 comments:

Sherrinda said...

Great idea for a post, Pepper! Love your characters...and they are all so incredibly beautiful!

Right now my characters are saying I need to learn to write! I'm muddling through the middle and my characters are BORED! I'm trying to up the ante, but am struggling. Part of it could be the pressure of being so behind at NaNo, but I've given up on winning and just focusing on writing DAILY! Maybe my characters will quit nagging me and let me just get their lives on paper.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Love this, Pepper! One of my characters is saying, "Get on with writing my story already. I'm dying to find out what happens!" Time to start plotting soon so I can get her to stop nagging.

Nick said...

Fictional Thanksgivings meals are really good - if you're trying to lose weight!

Pepper Basham said...

Tsk, tsk - are my characters at in again? For the whole world to see.
Sigh.
This thing usually only happens in my head! scary, I know.
Sherrinda,
You are a winner even if you don't meet the wordcount for Nano. Faithfulness to writing is the key - whether it's only 10 words. I have to keep repeating that because my wordcount has been VERY low the past few weeks.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I really enjoyed this Pepper! What a fun thought of what your characters might be thinking about each other and you!

I think mine is saying similiar to Sarah's "Get on with it already! Worry about perfecting me later, right now I just want to know how's it all going to end for me?"

Pepper Basham said...

Sarah
So glad you liked it. I thought it might be a little too weird - even for me. But it was fun!!!
And my characters are saying the same thing as yours.
GET ON WITH IT!!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Oh my goodness, I loved this! Of course I did b/c one of my favorite parts of writing for me is how my characters come to life.

Wow, what are they saying? Probably that I need to chill out some, eat some turkey, listen to some music, dance a little. Then they'll seduce me back to them. ;)

Great post.
Happy Thanksgiving!
~ Wendy

Pepper Basham said...

Julia
totally understand, mine respond like yours and Sarah's too. (as they've said for themselves ;-)

This post is evidence of my..er...creative divergence. Yeah, that's it!! I'm not crazy. :-)

Pepper Basham said...

Nick,
FANTASTIC point!!! No calorie-food.
And in celebration of that marvelous thought, I'm bringing in a plate of Marvelous Peanut Butter Bars and large glasses of milk all around.
Believe me - you'll need the milk

Pepper Basham said...

Wendy,
LOL...I love the idea of the characters seducing us back to them.
Sounds great.
I can't seem to separate from mine long enough to be seduced back. They sit on my mental shoulders in any free-thinking moment of the day :-)

Casey said...

LOVED this Pep! Great writing. Man you are so good! :)I had this genius comment in my head and now it has flown the coop. Ah well. Maybe next time. Too much partying methinks. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Blogger is torturing me today. One more try to log in and say I loved the post, Pepper. :)

Julie Lessman said...

PEPPER!!! What a TOTAL hoot!!! Talk about a creative and fresh (and fun!) perspective from the character's point of view. Fair turnabout for sure!!

Happy Thanksgiving, Pep, and to all ... including your characters!!

Hugs,
Julie

Audra Harders said...

LOL, Pepper! My the drama that goes on in your head! I love it. And the ladies of your Thanksgiving table are all so...so...different! Ashleigh and Sophie make quite a pair.

I've raced through my ms for NaNo and really, when you write your rough draft as fast as this, you can't help but depend on your characters to help you. I know I've experienced some surprizing moments over the last few days.

Sherrinda, hang in there girlfriend! November is NOT the best month for me to pound out a rough draft, I don't think it is for anyone. You're doing a great job! I'm praying for all my "buddies".

Thanks for the chuckles, Pepper. You are amazing.

Sherrinda said...

Audra, you seem to be on track to make the NaNo goal. Will Thanksgiving slow you down? I knew November was a difficult month, but I thought I'd give it a shot. At least, get back in the habit of writing daily. So far, it's been good.

Tessa Emily Hall ~ Christ is Write said...

I love this! What a great idea. Right now, my characters are probably wondering why I haven't been spending much time with them lately... and why it's taking me so long for me to edit their story.


Thanks for sharing this, and happy Thanksgiving to you, too! =)

~~
Tessa
www.christiswrite.blogspot.com

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Pepper, great idea for a post! So much fun.

My characters are wondering where I disappeared to. However, I stopped writing just before something pretty dreadful happens, so maybe they're thankful for the reprieve from conflict :)

The Writer said...

Okay, so I'm very tempted to write my own characters celebrating Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or the end of NaNoWriMo or some other such major holiday. XD

Pepper Basham said...

Case,
You are so sweet! Thank you for those kind words.
And Party ON!!

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Mary,
Thanks for stopping by.
I was thinking the insanity of it would tickle you.
The length would tickle Julie, and...well, Audra would probably just be tickled :-) It's cause she's so sweet - and thinks I'm a bit wacky to genre-hop.
She's right.

Pepper Basham said...

Hi Jules,
I'm working up the courage to open this certain attachment that arrived in my email box today.
You love me
You love me.

:-)

Pepper Basham said...

Oh Audra,
Thank you for coming by. Glad I could get a few laughs out of you. And yes, it's kind of crazy inside this head of mine :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Pepper Basham said...

Tessa Emily,
Totally understand - my characters want me to hurry along too.
They can't be so bossy sometimes, can't they?

Pepper Basham said...

Ha! Cindy,
You don't run from conflict too, do you? :-)

Pepper Basham said...

Writer,
Write it - even if just for some fun practice.
I had a blast.
Weird - but a blast.

Mary Vee said...

Great Post, Pepper
I told a couple of teachers about this idea with a tweak for students. Hoping they can have as much fun as you did:)
Happy Thanksgiving week:)
Blessings on all our readers.

Mary Vee said...

I just re-read what I wrote
...the idea was Peppers that I appropriated...OK downright stole to share with those teachers...because it was so fabulous.
credit given...of course:)

Pepper Basham said...

(snicker) Mary, you are too funny.
But, it IS a good idea for writing from a different perspective. I think I'll use my own idea with some of my kids at work. What a great thought for helping kids with Autism and Asperger syndrome take a character's perspective.
Wow - I'm taking my own advice.
:-)

Angie said...

Love this Pepper! I love your characters...can't wait to read their stories some day! :)

Laura Frantz said...

Pepper, THIS is why you're destined for publication:) Your characters really leap to life even in a blog post!! I had quite a few chuckles and learned a thing or two in the process. Getting characters together is such a creative idea, has me thinking how mine would react to each other. Don't imagine Morrow and Lael would be friends... Praying for you as you write and start the holiday season. My plane leaves in 11 days:) Bless you bunches!

Pepper Basham said...

Hey Ang,
Glad you enjoyed it.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Pepper Basham said...

Laura,
I placing your comment in my 'keeper' file, for those days when encouragement is needed.

Have a wonderful trip and enjoy your holiday season.