As a writer, I am still learning and working on my craft. But sometimes I read something I haven’t worked on in a while and I laugh in the right spots, or I feel something. I’m working on the manuscript I had to put aside when I started getting serious about writing.
I recently listened to a podcast that suggesting “shelving your darlings” in order to get through NaNoWriMo. I didn’t know anything about it when I shelved this manuscript, but I knew that I was getting too close to it, I wanted it to be something bigger than it could be, and I needed to finish a book.
A lot of it is really indicative of the time when I last worked on it, my skill level and my influences of the time. Some of it is really good.
One scene I read from the first few chapters was magical. Nothing special happened, the main character gets out of the shower and sees her brother and his friends lazily watching TV downstairs and smiles. The description was only a few sentences, but it made me forget that she literally just died, violently, before waking up in the shower. I have no idea if that was my intention when I wrote it, but it happened. It doesn’t read like some cliched sunset after a funeral, or a beautiful flower on the battlefield. It doesn’t draw attention to death or the beauty of life.
What it does is takes the reader on a journey, with the character, to remembering that she died.
I love moments like this, and I can only hope that other people who read it will have the same experience. This is why I write. I want people to feel things and to think about it. I want them to have those moments where they have to take a moment to regain their composure or to savor the moment before they read the next sentence. I want people to have those moments where they realize the book is over and they start bothering me to write the sequel.
My “darling” is going to be finished and released eventually. It won’t be my life’s masterpiece. But it does remind me that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. It is special to me, but I need to keep it from becoming too precious.
The Beast is linked to that manuscript. There is another part of the story that comes before my “darling” and Jade is a minor character in it. I have a lot of “Works in Progress in My Head” that are linked to this. A lot of my lore is very apparent in it. There is a kind of subtle, sexless (so far) love triangle between a human, vampire, werewolf, and a ghost. There are high school mean girls, a chick named Bitch Jenny, a “derewolf”, a magical library, vampire recruitment, teenage girls on motorcycles, shapeshifting into tigers, a homeless teenage werewolf, snake-vamp assassins (ok, there’s only one of those), dancing princesses including the cruel and creative “Indian princess”, some semi-permanent body shifting, and dragons.
The main characters name is Farida and her biological brother is Josef. They were fostered, then adopted into the Makenna family and have four younger siblings, all being raised by a single mom. I didn’t write these things with the intention of being PC or being edgy or being forward thinking. I wrote them because they exist. They work for the characters involved and they’re interesting. Farida and her brother were adopted by the Makenna’s, who didn’t think they could have their own children. Then Mrs. Makenna (herself the daughter of a single, alcoholic mother) got pregnant. With triplets. Years later she accidentally got pregnant again. Then Mr. Makenna died. So there are six kids and one mom who is determined not to be like her own mother.
The story isn’t about that. It’s not about what it’s like to be an “ethnic” looking, almost-goth girl in a school full of “Amanda’s” and “Jenny’s”, but they play a part in the main character’s life.
The books I grew up on were the typical “assume it’s a straight white male unless otherwise specified” novels. Usually they were about girls because I looked for books about girls. But girls were blonde, brunette or redhead, because obviously they were all white. The ones who weren’t white were so NOT white that the story was about whatever color they are, and I didn’t want to read that. I still usually don’t. It turns into a caricature of their circumstances or some kind of message of “overcoming” their skin color, sexual orientation, or whatever makes them “other”.
“Other” is normal. “Other” happens.
A character in Great Minds is gay. It’s not a thing that is discussed ever, by anyone. The assumption in Sky Town is that hetero is the way to go, but there isn’t anything explicitly saying that anything else is “deviant” or wrong. The story isn’t about that relationship, and they don’t have time to dwell on whether it’s right or wrong or okay or not. There are more important things happening, and no one really knows except the characters involved.
I guess what I’m saying is that I grew up on characters like “insert your personality here” brunettes like Bella Swan, and equally homogeneous “female or male? Blonde or brunette?” characters with anything else being “evil” or “other”. I also grew up hearing “Where are you from? No, but like, where are your parents from?” (Apparently “California” isn’t a satisfactory answer to either). In fact, just about a month ago, an old white guy (just image an old white Texas guy. That was this big older white guy with white hair, a white shirt, and a white cowboy hat) asked my husband and me where we were from. We had to say several times “We were literally born in this exact city and have lived in the surrounding area for both of our entire lives”. He still said something about how expensive it is to raise kids “in this country”. I want to think that there was something missing. Maybe he was from another country and was talking about his own experience. But I doubt it. To him, we were just “other” and it did not compute that we are not white AND we aren’t from a different country.
Life and fiction should be about those moments when you forget all the noise and you forget the things that seemed so important and you can appreciate the little things for just a moment.It’s not about ebony vs. ivory. It’s about your choices, your path, and the things that really make you an individual. The things that make you more real are those details- being called “illegal alien” in elementary school, or “Triple Z” for your early breast development, or being told that your dad is “really articulate” when there is no way in hell that would be said about a white guy.
Those little things that are said to or about you are not you. But they are a part of you. They help shape you. What you do about it and what you do with it is what defines you.