Jillian is

I am so lost these days in my novel, and not in the good way. It is a horrible, tangled maze and I can’t get out. Chapter Two is the worst. I’m contemplating losing it entirely, but then there’s Chapter Three.

The novel has become a place I visit so infrequently but which I think I know too well to take a map. I fear the moment when I will return to my book and realize that I or it has changed and the story has lost its appeal even to me (or I to it). It was the case with everything I’ve written up until this. Somehow this book is still attractive to me, three years since I created it, two years since the first draft.

But what is it that appeals to me? By asking myself the question I became immediately aware it wasn’t my main character. It was her sister, it was her men, it was her actions (but was she even really doing them?) She is like a limp dish cloth being dragged across this story and soiling it. She needs to wake up! She needs to be who she started off being! I lost her somewhere when she fell from first person POV to third. She disappeared.

So I made a list: Jillian is. And then I just filled it up with things I wasn’t sure were even true about her. Jillian is obsessed with famous writers. Jillian is uncomfortable in crowds. Jillian sleeps with her bed in the living room. Jillian is always trying to figure people out. But as the list went on and on I realized that they were true things about her. I realized I knew her, I had just forgotten about her in the rush to tell her story.


(from finalarchitecture.com)

Jillian isn’t me. She is someone I created and need to continue to create. I need to be enthralled by her if anyone else is going to be. I need to be totally wrapped up in her quirks and eccentricities if I am to let her breathe.

I stopped writing today and started thinking. Am I moving this story along if I keep writing off into nothing, or am I moving this story along if I start taking everything that is nothing and turn it into something. Something like a bed in the living room and a phobia of crowds that at least, if anything, gets me excited to read my own story.

Bad-Ass Characters

I only write about bad-ass characters. My characters always say what I couldn’t have said in that situation (and luckily, I also get to make up the situations in which their bad-assness can be best exposed).

For example, I have really tall characters. My shorter characters are pixie-like, or children. My characters are beautiful, with the faults beautiful people have: a mole (beauty mark) here, and maybe their eyes are too green. I know it isn’t right to picture only beautiful people. But what if I want my movie to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster? What if I want to have crushes on all my characters?

My characters all speak with concise wit. I try to make the bad ones speak a little less concisely, a little less witty. Maybe they swear once. Maybe they say something inappropriate to the moment. But still: bad-asses, all of them.

I here present a problem: reality. How far from it can I get? I understand that dialogue shouldn’t mimic speech exactly. I understand that characters shouldn’t go to the bathroom within my book. I understand that time needs to jump and place needs to shift and events need to be extraordinary and my protagonist needs to be put down consistently so he can rise up triumphantly, but how far can this book get from reality?

Like, can all my characters be bad-asses?

I ask this question with the presumption that we all want to be bad-asses. And I’m sure we don’t. Some of us want to be boring. But when I’m allowed to dream (which I am every night, and since I’ve started writing, every day too) I dream big. I become big.

I become too big for the scope of a regular me. I need to be a stronger me, a taller me, a more tragic me. And that’s where my characters come in. They are all facets of my ideal me.

What if I had been adopted by parents who never really loved me (not in the way I think parents should) and I had only become more loving and stronger from it?

What if I had grown up in Nova Scotia, dreaming of the Westcoast, and when I came here I realized I had lost myself?

What if I had dropped out of high school and driven across Canada?

What if I had to make the choice between two men who loved me?

I love empathizing with these people I have created, stretching the nuggets of my emotions to places they haven’t been but have dreamt of. I love that, building characters out of me.