Allie–Elizabeth Bennett or Miss Angst?

I’ve been struggling with Allie, my Main Character.

Here’s the problem: I’ve put her in a culture where women are the property of their fathers and husbands–and actually, men are the property of their fathers, and even fathers are the property (in effect) of their lords.  Even the lord isn’t free, because he has an obligation to all of the people he controls.  No one is free.  So, I could think of two natural responses to being the daughter of the lord.  1) Accept it meekly because this is the society you were born to and you don’t know anything different.  (yawn.*)  2) Oh, woe is me!  I’m being forced into a marriage I have no choice in, and my life will forever suck, and I must cry now!  (anachronistic if I take the feminist route, and way too angsty regardless.)  Fundamentally, those two responses are usual.  Anyone might have those responses.  I’m not writing about just anyone; I’m writing about this character.  Therefore, she must be unusual, different, and above all interesting.

But how can she be unusual, different, interesting, and believable in this situation?  I can’t write myself (for example) into this role because I was raised in a family where I could be anything and anyone, and I got to make my own decisions.  So, if someone told me I had to marry IG**, I’d laugh in his face and move on with my life.  If that weren’t an option, I’d probably run away.  Or agree, and then go about finding my own way to avoid it entirely.  None of those options makes sense for her.  (Possibly the third one, but …)

Allie started out being angsty, although I was making her be angsty about her younger sister*** getting married, in a protective “oh noes, it should be me!” way.  But it doesn’t make sense.  Allie is intelligent and not overly self-deceptive, so she has known her whole life that both she and her sister would be married off to whoever was most convenient and beneficial to her family at the right point in time.   So her whole life she’s been inventing a plan for how to handle it.  The plan might not be what actually happens#, but she has one.

But then I couldn’t think of what it would be.  I couldn’t imagine a plan that was practical, realistic, and interesting.  I went straight into angsty or feminist.  Feminist is definitely anachronistic.  So how can she be realistic, expectant, and still having a strong-and-interesting reaction to this news?  It is directly related to the core plot of the story, so she must have a strong reaction!

Finally, I concluded that she needs to be Elizabeth Bennett.  This is her society and it is what is expected of her, so she has been taught her whole life to expect this event.  She is smart, though, so she doesn’t just accept any of this blindly.  She’s going to be funny about it##.  Sarcastic sometimes, snarky maybe, but mostly just seeing the funny side of the world–except when the dark side looks her in the face and says “boo!”.  This works really well for me, except I’m having trouble integrating it into the character who appears when I think “Allie”.  I have two separate images, and whenever I try to make them one, I feel like I’m forcibly overlaying one onto the other.  They’re not sticking together.

This probably means I need to spend more time developing her character.  Where has this humor helped her in her life–and when has it hurt her.  How does she react to common things.  How is she Allie with the humor, and not Elizabeth Bennett###.

* Actually, the more likely variation might even be accepting it and working hard to be the best wife possible.  Still not very exciting, but acknowledges the fact that she’s likely to be an intelligent person with her own thoughts, not a brain-washable automaton.

** This is all I’ve come up with to call the guy she’s supposed to marry.  It stands for “Icky Guy”.  :-/

*** Incidentally, the name I tossed out for the sister was “Betty”.  Betty is a nickname for my full name, Elizabeth.  I’ve always despised all variations of the “Beth” part of my name, at least when applied to me, and Betty is one of the worse ones on anyone.  So, the fact that this was what my subconscious gave me for the poor sister… tells me that my subconscious didn’t actually give a damn about the sister, and that we were wasting our angst.  Fortunately I realized this 1500 words into the story and not several thousand.

# Hah, it definitely won’t be.  I’m not going to make this easy for her.

## I need to stop trying to make my stories serious, anyway.  It usually just comes off as pretentious.  Funny is way more interesting from me.

### Furthermore, I’ve realized that I don’t have a plan for a Mr. Darcy–that is, a love interest–and I’m not sure whether that’ll work.  Maybe he (or she…) will appear when he needs to, and it’ll just work.

Writing in the middle of the night

So, I’ve been working on this story.  My goal is for it to be a novel, and I don’t want to give up on it until I’ve beaten it into one.  I figure, I’ve never actually finished a full-length story, so it’s probably not the *stories* that are lacking, but rather *me*.  So, no point in giving up on this one, as though the next one might be any better.  Nope, I hope to figure out my own process on this one, to learn how to write a novel.

I find writing to be very roller-coaster-y.  One day I’m flying high because a scene just wrote itself out of nowhere–I expected the scene to start about an hour later and with completely different characters.  But then I stop before I end the scene… I ran out of time during my writing group, in this case.  And since it was going so well, I figure I’ll just pick up where I left off and it’ll be great.

Then there’s the great loud THUD when I return and discover that I have no idea how to continue the scene.  The ideas that were in my head when I started the scene are now in a whole different place, and I can’t seem to corral them together in anything resembling like how it should go.  Instead my MC just sounds petulant, or whiny, or … just dumb.  Ugh.  So I say screw it, I’m going to bed.  Brushing teeth, I’m totally berating myself for having dropped the ball by not finishing the scene while I still remembered where it was going.  Climb into bed, and just lie there, staring up at the ceiling I can’t see, still berating myself.

And then, like a light switch, I realize this is the wrong mental state.  This line of thinking is just the right way to completely give up on the story forever.  And I already know I don’t want to do that. (Usually it takes me weeks to stop berating myself… or even if I do, then I still don’t get any good ideas for a while.)  I think, ok, so I don’t know how that scene was supposed to get where it should be going.  Fuck it, let’s go in this other direction and see where that leads.  Really simple way to do it, no fancy dialogue required.  And then I realize, oh, that will leave me with the MC in a room with this other woman, who I think is her confidante, so they can have a conversation about what all is going on.  Which I thought they should have, but I couldn’t work it into the flow of the story.

Woah, ok, so that makes sense.  And then… And then I start imagining what they say, what they might conclude.  And so finally I have to get up again to write it all down, or else I’ll *really* beat myself up in the morning when I can’t remember a single thing.

So, 450 new words in about 20 minutes.  Unfortunately, it *doesn’t* lead naturally into the scene that comes after it.  Does that mean I’m just not showing it, or that I’m not showing it from her PoV?

Oh, and I can’t think of anything resembling a title for it.  I hate calling stories after the characters in them, but so far I’ve been calling this one Allie & Fen.  If only I knew what the monsters are called, I might call it after them.  :-/

Random thought of the morning…

It’s not green to use disposable things.  For example, the paper cup and the plastic spoon I use for my coffee every morning.  Sure.  But plastic stirrers are *also* plastic and disposable and not very green.  I suppose they’re better than a whole plastic spoon, but it’s still bad for the planet.

It doesn’t make me a better person to use a plastic stirrer than a plastic spoon, because I’m still throwing away non-biodegradable trash, even if it is less.

Just sayin’.

Meh

I had something profound to say this morning.  Then I had a meeting to go to before I could even make a note of the thought… and pfft, it’s gone.  *sigh*

What could it have been?  :-/

To do today

Yesterday morning my mom called saying she was feeling dizzy and would I come over in case she needed to go to urgent care?  🙁  So of course I did, and we didn’t go to urgent care, but I stayed to help make food and make sure I was around in case she needed me.  And we watched an episode each of Star Trek TOS, TNG, and Voyager.  It was great fun.  🙂

But because of that, all the things I meant to do this weekend have to happen today.  And I need a list, or I won’t do anything*:

  • Call my Dad, my Aunt, and my Dad’s Second Cousin (left messages)
  • Do laundry
  • Write a post about the book I read yesterday.
  • Work on my story
  • Pick out at least one book** and one DVD about Archetypes to acquire – either library or Amazon (found several at the local library… now I just need to go get a library card.)
  • Plant the succulents Mommy gave me  -> Next week
  • Plant a few onions
  • Plant bulbs
  • Repot succulents into a strawberry pot  -> Next week
  • And apparently I was gonna write about going to see Avatar for my birthday a week ago, but never did.  Weird.

EtA: Alright, I’ve done a few things… and now we’re going to make risotto.  Yummy.

* Yesterday morning Ben and I had a conversation about all the things we wanted to do this weekend.  And at the end of it I said, “Alright, on that note, I’m gonna read a book.”  This is how I deal with having things to do.  :-/  It was a fun book.  🙂  So really, having the list may not make me any more likely to do things.  But when I do, I can cross them off!

** this is homework, so it doesn’t break my no-new-books rule

Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, Yay Writing, Cramps Suck

Happy New Year!

I had a wonderful New Year’s Eve with my favorite [ljuser]purpleleopard[/ljuser], my mom, my boyfriend, and mojitos, at my house.  I don’t have cable (or an antenna), and we couldn’t convince the Internets to give us the ball dropping at the appropriate (west coast) time.  🙁  I like watching the ball drop.  But with nice champagne, homemade pizzas, and good company, it was wonderful.

My bday is on Monday, which I’m planning on celebrating by staying home all day and not going anywhere.  (I took an extra day off for it.)

I’ve managed to *write* a bit this vacation.  Only a bit of actual story (just shy of 1500 words, which feels really pathetic), but also brainstorming and other bits of writing happened.  I’m trying out Scrivener, which is a (mac-only) text editing program for writing fiction.  So far I like it, but I’m worried that creating so much structure for myself will set myself up with too many expectations and I’ll stop wanting to use it.  So I’m trying it, and I like it, but I’m gonna wait 30 days before giving them money for it.  So far it has a lot of similar features as CopyWrite, which is the program I’ve been using, but it has more ways of looking at the same info.  This may or may not be helpful for me… we’ll see.

And my period started yesterday.  No cramps, no obvious mood-swings… it was a bit weird.  Today the cramps started.  I could feel them starting, and decided to take painkillers, which usually makes me feel better until next month.  And then Ben and I went for a nice long walk on the bluffs (the ocean was beautiful, it wasn’t too cold or too hot…), and I noticed that the cramps weren’t going away.  They still haven’t.  So now I’m home on the couch with hot tea, wishing I felt better.  🙁  I think TV (hulu–I’ve already mentioned my lack of cable) will have to be my solace.

New Year’s Resolution and Summary of Recently Read 2009

I’ve totaled up all of the books that I’ve posted about here this year, and assuming I don’t finish any more books in the next four days (no guarantees! Yep, I did after all.), this is my summary for the year:

Novellas: 4 (possibly more, because some of the short stories I read were quite long, but I haven’t counted those.)

Started and abandoned: 1 (Elantris.  There are lots of other books I started and haven’t finished, but I do expect to finish them some day.  I’ll post about them then.)

Comics: 2 (or 3, depending on how you count — and I’m only counting full-length books, not the flimsies.)

Books: 45 46

So, that’s nearly a book a week, not counting all of the other books I haven’t yet finished.  Whew.

My New Year’s Resolution: Not to acquire any books or stories of any kind for all of 2010.

I’m giving myself a moratorium on getting books.  I bought or have been given/lent so many books this year (and last year, and the year before that…), and I’m afraid I’ll never get through them all, if I keep getting new books at the rate I do.  So, 2010 is my year to catch up.  My goal is to keep posting these “recently read” posts as often as I remember, and to get through a large number of the books I already have.  This includes a number of books that aren’t as easy as my usual sci fi/fantasy fare, like The Three Musketeer, and a ton of books that I’ve started and never finished.  I may decide to restart some of those

Snowman

Ugliest Snowman ever?
Ugliest Snowman ever?

Today is the Family Fun Holiday Party at my company.  Apparently that means that all the craft supplies, gingerbread house makings, etc. are out.

So, here is  my contribution to the world of snowmen.  He looks a little mad, with his swirly eyes.  And I couldn’t find anything appropriate for a mouth.

If you were wondering, the gold glitter on his head was meant to be blond hair.  The blue glitter on his head, which looks kinda purple on my screen, was meant to be blue highlights.  Punk, or something.  I dunno.

And then came feathers.

Scary lady yelling at me

Gah, what a weird thing.

So, I’m in my car on my way out of work, talking to Ben on my cell (wearing my ear snigget). I pull out of the parking lot and up to the red light. I notice in the lane-going-straight there’s a car pulled up beyond the stop-line. That’s a little odd, but since the light rail goes through this intersection, the civil engineers left plenty of extra room, so it’s not actually dangerous. Then I notice that the dome light is on in the car. Hmm, not usually safe while driving. So, I pull up in the lane-turning-right (because I’m turning right), whose stop-line is lined up with where the car is stopped, even tho the car is beyond its own line, and I peer in the window. Just quickly, just long enough to notice there’s a woman driver, and she’s leaning over something. I assume she’s digging in her purse. And then I look forward again, and the light turns green. Still talking to Ben, I start going. And suddenly she honks, for no apparent reason, and I’m just like… wha…? And I keep turning, because she can’t have been honking at me, I wasn’t anywhere near her… and from the lane-going-straight, she turns right, following me. I wonder if she’s honking because she didn’t realize that I was in the right turning lane, and that there *is* a right turning lane, and she really meant to be going right and was mad that I was rude? I dunno.

But she pulls up next to me on my right (I had turned into the left lane, because I was going to go left onto the on-ramp onto 280), and starts yelling at me through her open window as we’re driving. I’m thinking WTF? (I probably even said WTF to Ben.) I can’t hear or understand most of what she’s saying, except that she’s calling me a bitch, and something about me looking at her. Seriously?

So, now that she’s next to me, I notice that she’s a black woman, seeming really big and definitely loud. And that’s all I notice, before facing forward again, figuring that ignoring her is the best option. As I pull up to the red light at the next intersection, I think about how to get out of this situation. How bad would it be to drive through the red light? Bad, don’t do that. How likely is she to get out and attack me? Well, I’m sure I can step on the gas faster than she can get out of her car and break my window. So I just stop at the light, facing forward, trying to stay out of it.

She’s still yelling, I can’t hear everything she says through the window, but really pissed, and “bitch” a few more times. And she says, “Oh yeah, now you can’t look at me”, so I look at her. And I give her the nicest smile I can muster, and I shout “Have a nice day” through my still-closed window. Niceness doesn’t seem to faze her.

And then she shouts at me to pull over–I’m still not clear if she meant to fight me or what–and I say no. I really don’t want to react, I’m trying to think how to respond without escalating the problem, how to not get involved. I’m thinking … dude, you’re big and scary, and I’m this skinny little white girl. I know who’s gonna win this fight, and it’s not me. And seriously, pulling over? What?

She keeps shouting, I dunno what, probably calling me bitch again, because* when light turns green I give her the finger as I start moving. I pull onto the freeway, and she doesn’t follow.

At about that time, Ben chimes in again. He says he could hear some of her shouts through the window, and says something like, “Well, don’t get any on you”. I’m pretty shaken, adrenaline pumping and that fear-feeling tingling through my back.

It took about half the drive for that feeling to subside.

And I’m thinking, is there really an expectation of privacy in one’s car in the middle of a public road? I mean… you’ve got these 360° windows at the same height as everyone else’s 360° windows. I was just idly glancing in, apparently peering a little more interestedly than I intended, because I was mostly paying attention to what Ben was saying, not what my eyes were looking at.  And really–pull over?  What on Earth for?

Gah.  Most people think I’m nice.

* Causality here because I must’ve been reacting to something she said if I finally decided to flip her off, and not any time before then.  I remember I didn’t just feel safer because I was driving–though that was true, too–but I was reacting to something specific.  I just don’t remember what.

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