Friday, January 29, 2010

The Island of MisFit Characters

This morning while walking Silly Little Girl and Not Quite Fat Dog and the ghost of Fat Dog, my thoughts swirlity swirled. I figure about 80-90% of my errant flippity thoughts are tossed out as trash. The leftover 10-20% goes into different folders or whatever. There's the folder that I hate opening, the one that is marked "DO NOT OPEN!" but I open it occasionally anyway and out flies the negative crapity-doo-dah-day.

There are folders where I stick other things too . . . thoughts and people and voices and characters. I sometimes have these flashes of characters and a tiny scene—I’m sure many of us have this happen. So, here is the snippet that flashed in my head, how as I thought it as I walked:

She named the child Praline, pronounced Pray-Leen. What got his goat was how stupid a name that was—clich├ęd Southern for one thing, but the other thing was how that name could be pronounced in two ways according to where a person lived: Pray-leen could just as well be Prah-leen, and that shot to hell her theory her child would have “pray” in her name. She did other things to get a hold of his goat, things that sent his spine straight up and his fingers to curl into a fist, a fist he never used on her of course, a fist that tightened all the way up to his jaw and caused his teeth to clench before he gave it up and let go. His thoughts stomped on his brain as he pushed the bullets into his gun. “Me or her,” he said, “which it’s gonna be, me or her . . .”

I thought that scene, went, huhn, well where’d that come from?, then tossed it. Maybe one day that man’ll come back around, or maybe he’ll go to the Island of MisFit Characters. That’s where all the snippets of characters go, and they can’t get off the island—oh a few of them may have built little boats and tried and maybe even made it back to my brain, but most stay there, building little communities and living their lives without me to interfere. The ones who don’t go to the Island of MisFit Characters end up in a waiting room folder, I suppose (and here my brain imagines a woman sitting in a room that is all white—nothing around her but white—and she’s reading a magazine, waiting waiting).

There’s simply no way to keep every little thought, every little scene, every little snippet of a character. Eventually, I need to focus on one character, and that’s the one who is the loudest, or the most persuasive or endearing or...whatever—or the one who sneaks in when I put my fingers on the keys. I wish I could be the type who writes outlines and knows exactly what their plot is and the beginning-middle-end and who will be and what they look like and where they are. Instead, I open the black hole in my head, and one of the folders opens, and it feeds me what it wants me to do a bit at a time, and some things are never ever clear, even after I finish the work, even after it is published-that's right, there are some things I can't picture clearly even in TG or SG because of my weird brain.

Now, as for that Island of MisFit Characters—imagine rowing out to it and stepping onto that island and all these characters surround you and they’re clawing at you, yelling, “MEMEMEME ME! Me Next! Me Next! Write about ME ME ME!” *shudder* gives me the willies. Nope, rather stay away from there. That’s why I don’t make notes. Huhn, the notes end up mostly unread anyway.

I just have to trust my own way, my own instincts, my own writing personality. People may be surprised at what I can’t do, how my brain sometimes works against me, and what I can’t envision and can’t can’t can’t—but, if I let the way my brain works (or doesn’t work) stop me, if I concentrate on the CAN’Ts then I’d never get anything done, I’d never have Tender Graces and Secret Graces or the Sweetie novel; I’d never have my other works. Sometimes you just have to embrace who and what you are, your limitations if you will. Maybe in some way my limitations are my greatest strengths when it comes to my writing and characters.

And you? Do you have an Island of MisFit Characters? Are you organized in your writing life? Or do you pull it out your as—umm, I mean, your folders tucked somewhere in your head? Do you embrace your way of doing what you do, even if it sometimes feels frustrating, even if you wish you could do it in another way?

Open up the way, quieten the doubts, and do what you love. Find that balance. Find what feels Real to you, what feels True, and then –well, then let nothing stop you from doing what you are called to do.

Folks, we are expecting that winter storm here in the mountains of western North Carolina. GMR and I are battening down our hatches, so to speak. We have no idea what to expect, but, if we are really dumped on with snow, we could lose power—and for how long, we don’t know. So, if you don’t see me around for a few days (hope not more!) then you know why. For those of you in this storm’s path—be careful and weather-wise!


Teresa said...

I keep them in a folder where I write the first line or paragraph of the story. Billy Cohen popped into my head recently while I was driving home from work.

Billy is sitting at the kitchen window of an old farmhouse with a rifle. There's a poster of Superman on the wall, and Superman is crying.

I don't know what to do with that! Except sometimes, if I think on them long enough, they tell me their stories. ;-D

Great post, Kat! Good luck in the storm; we're ready for here too!


Karen said...

First, I hope the storm just passes through with no damage. Yes, I have notes and note pads all over, but do I go back to read them??? Hmmmm, once in a while. I too wish to be organized more, but.... Back to the ole keyboard..

Char said...

Sometimes I write them down. But mostly, I just can't remember where I put them! ha

Take care and stay warm, the snow is headed that way!


Anonymous said...

Snuggle for warmth and don't eat each other. ;O) Hope the brunt of the storm misses you. :O)

Jill of All Trades said...

I applaud your thinking and writing. I have a few characters in my head and have attempted to get them in black and white but they don't go to far. I have some great stories in my head but they just don't materialize well. Someday.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

Love the way your brain works Kat! This reminded me (not sure why) of my brother and his wife, sitting in the maternity ward, choosing a name for their second daughter. They agreed upon the name Denise, but as neither of them knew how to spell it... they called her Cindy :D

Barry said...

I'm not a writer of fiction so have no Island of Misfit characters. Although it looks like fun, but a little scary.

Melinda said...

Hi Kathryn, my fellow Idol junkie!
Your book sounds awesome. I am going to make it my next pick for my book club! ;0)

Loved this post ... As I told you, I'm working on my first non-fiction book. I just get paralyzed sometimes and think I don't have what it takes sometimes. I have to remember I don't but He does. He can work in spite of MY limitations.

Can't wait to read your novel!! ;0)

Debbie said...

We got one whopping inch down here in the valley. I thought of you yesterday as I was coming home from the library with my boys (since we own no books we had to go borrow some - ha!) and saw a low cloud hanging around your side of the hill. I wondered then how much you would get.
I have ideas for posts that go to that island. Problem is, my island is more like the one in Lost. I forget how to get back there to pick up my ideas:)

colbymarshall said...

There is one character I was writing I LOVED, but I was recently forced to admit he just could not, would not, fit into the story. I will file hima way, though...because he's going to fit somewhere, dang it!

Vodka Mom said...

You are a doll.

I can't find you on Twitter!!! What's your twitter name? The button on the left won't get me there. It says "page doesn't exist!!"

Kathryn Magendie said...

VM - I just fixed it - I've had it wrong since I put it up there *laughing* -- I put in my entire twitter address instead of just my user name *sigh*
but it's fixed now!

t i m said...

Well, I’m not exactly a writer but if I was, I guess I’d be the organised chaos type capable of pulling it out of my erm... mental rolodex. :)

Rick said...

My God, you have a busy mental life! When I have such thoughts and snippets, I never write them down because I don't want them to show up in court during a sanity trial.