Saturday morning while I went about my ablutions, Gene popped into my head. Gene is one of my six characters in my untitled WIP. The stories start in the 50s. Six teens, seemingly very different, meet weekly and keep in touch with each other their entire lives. They must have something in common.
I know all my characters fall in love, marry, divorce etc etc. You know, have a life. My problem was how to accomplish this. Remember, the story starts in the late 50s, early 60s when life, especially for young people, was very different than it is today. My dilemma— how to construct their lives.
For one of my characters, Charles, as it turned out, though I had hoped it would be Gene, I asked a friend how he met his wife. He willingly wrote me the details, with dates yet. This happened 30 years ago and he still remembers the dates. He met her (they have since divorced but are still good friends) through another friend of his at a community dance. She was with another guy. However her date was drunk and my friend, Fred, wanted to dance and so did she. Fred kept plying her date with drinks, and he and this woman, Pat, danced the night away. It was Pat’s sparkle and laugh that reeled Fred in.
I thought about Fred’s story and decided it wouldn’t work for Gene. However, I could make it work for Charles. The idea I had for Charles was for him to meet a white woman, he is black— or Negro as it was called in those days. At first I envisioned a situation where they meet somehow but not in person and don’t know what the other looks like. Couldn’t figure out a way to do that. Limited imagination. Instead, I placed the scene at a club in the Negro section of town. Mississippi John Hurt is the head-liner and Charles is surprised to see white people in attendance. He meets her—Simone—sleek Simone I call her because she is tall, slender, with a helmet of smooth blonde hair. They have to share tables in the club and Charles and his buddy, Floyd, end up sharing a table with Simone and her brother, Claude, and so it goes. Simone and Charles learn they have a lot in common. In a friendly manner Charles attempts to ferret out as much information from Simone as he can. But I got the idea from Fred’s story. Funny how it works out.
Back to Gene. At breakfast the local paper featured an article about “frommance”. Platonic relationships between a man and a woman who are the best of friends. “Aha” says I.
How about this? Gene lives with his dad but they don’t get along. Let’s say they have one of their usual fights and Gene stomps out to the front stoop of the apartment building to cool off. He can’t go too far as he has to start his shift as a hospital orderly soon and still needs to do some stuff at home to get ready. As he is walking downstairs he hears another door slam and shortly a woman about his own age bursts out the front door, plunks herself down on the same step Gene is sitting on and with a huff and a puff starts to mumble to herself. Then she notices she’s not alone. He looks at her. “Fight with your mother?” He recognizes her as the daughter of another tenant on his floor and has heard their loud voices many times.
She, too, recognizes him “Fight with your dad again?”
They talk and realize they have many mutual interests besides their home life. They both work with people, clients in her case, patients in his, who have problems — he with sick people in hospital, she as a receptionist with a law firm dealing with people in trouble with the law, and needing help. Not the easiest people to get along with. The couple begins to see each other as often as his schedule permits. They go to movies, dances perhaps, walks in the park. .Both want to leave home and decide to get married. I do know what happens after that but it’s not pertinent to this discussion. I only wanted to figure out a crucial moment in their lives in order to lead up to it and carry on the plot line after that moment.
Stories are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (oddly I hate actual jigsaw puzzles) and I eventually will weave them together to create a, hopefully, coherent story.
One of the things I love about writing is: I never know what’s going to happen with my characters. Stories rarely end up the way I originally envision them.
Sometimes I feel like the white rabbit in Alice – constantly checking the time and with the uncomfortable feeling that I’m always late. It’s a pressure I put on myself, one of self-imposed deadlines. I wonder if Mr. Carroll put the character in because he always felt that time was running out?
I write starting with ideas or characters. Everyone has their own method e.g. plotters who detail everything before they start to write, or pansters, who write by the seat of their pants. I stick in dialogue later. Some write in dialogue and fit in plot and ideas later; whatever works.
So, what are you? Plotter or Panster?
The Beastie boys recorded No sleep Til Brooklyn…….. not quite no stop til Brooklyn but since they are from Brooklyn…
Blogophilia 52.4 Topic: “Friendly Ferets”
(Hard, 2pts): Use the line ‘no stop till Brooklyn”
(Easy, 1pt): include a rabbit