Not Normal

03 May

So I tried something new this week. Water Pong Wednesday. And it flopped. Granted, I think I chose too hard of a challenge. As much as I love palindromes, it is hard to come up with them off the top of your head! I would like to try another Water Pong Wednesday next month, because I do think it could be fun, but I’ll just have to choose a better challenge. Thanks salsanpeeps (otherwise known as Husband) for thinking of the palindromes. You win! And Mary, the Keep Calm and Paddle On (answer: KAYAK) magnet is yours if you’d like it.

If you’re curious, here are the five-, six-, and seven-letter palindromes (if not, scroll down for the Friday post on discovering new characters):






radar (this one actually has an interesting history, starting as an acronym, see
















Now on to the response to Monday’s post.

My characters introduce themselves to me. Sound nuts? It probably is. And I love it. Here’s how it works:

Usually while my hands or my brain is busy with something else, I’ll hear an unmistakable voice from somewhere inside my own head. I rush to grab something to write on and with and write furiously. I try not to think or move, except for my hand on the page. I’m not even sure I breathe until the character is “finished.”

My first character, Mabel, introduced herself in a college course. I wrote this in the margins of my class notes:

Sometimes there are rules.  They aren’t written down or hung on the wall, but you still have to follow them.  One is not using your school scissors to cut someone’s hair.  Also, girls like pink and dolls.  I don’t follow that rule.  I don’t follow most rules actually.  I’ll tell you more about that later.

I am a tomboy, and you can spot a tomboy from a mile away.  I’m always the one in what some moms would call play clothes: comfortable pants with room to move around; layered shirts for hot and cold control; tennis shoes ready for a race at a moment’s notice; and never, ever any tights.  The tomboy uniform helps me do things like move with lightning fast speed, hit a home run, or climb a tree.

I held on to this introduction for three years before trying to write the story. So even after the character is introduced, the hard work isn’t done. In fact, I’m still revising this story.

After I wrote Mabel’s book, I was afraid that her voice might be the only one I’d ever hear. Then Biz came along. Here is her introduction: 

My name is Elizabeth, but as long as I can remember, everyone has called me Biz. Not Liz or Izzy or Beth. Just Biz. My mom says it fits because I’ve always been busy and Biz sounds like busy. I try to tell her that doesn’t work because busy is B-U-S-Y and Biz is B-I-Z. She tells me I’ll understand what she means someday. I don’t know when someday is but I’m already tired of waiting. Someday my slightly used little sister will be old enough to do more than drool in my books. Someday I’ll be able to ride the bus to school like a normal kid and I won’t have to vacuum the ants off my sister Marcy’s front seat before I get in. Someday, if I’m lucky, I might get to use my brain to do something more than just ace history tests. But it isn’t someday. It’s just Tuesday and I’m just Biz.

I think Biz is becoming the main character of a mystery I’ve been taking notes on and finally just started (I’m 139 words in! Only tens of thousands more to go!)

And just last week, another character introduced herself. As I told my husband, she is a tough one (I deleted her profanity for the sake of the blog):

It is bad enough that I’m a teenager with a baby sister. It’s worse that she was born nine months from my birthday. Exactly. Like I can’t count. I can just picture my parents being all like “aww remember when she was conceived and now she’s a young lady.” Puke. What’s even worse is that my mom thought the occasion would be a good time to have “the talk.” Yeah. That talk. About eight years too late, I think. And she kept using words like “beautiful” and “holy”. She wouldn’t last ten minutes in the back of the bus.

This was the first character whose introduction came more in the form of question and answer. I still have a lot of questions to “ask” her and I have no idea what her story is, but I think she’s got a lot of potential.

It amazes me that all three of these voices, and all three of these characters, came from me. And, at least in the case of Mabel so far, that I can keep “hearing” the unique voice for the duration of an entire manuscript. Maybe I’m not normal. Then again, maybe I am.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said: “Writers aren’t exactly people … they’re a whole lot of people trying to become one person.”

And E.L. Doctorow said: “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

Well, at least if I’m not normal, then I’m in good company.

Related Links:

An interesting pondering about writing and voices from Vivienne Courtoise:

A guest post from Susan Bearman on the Write it Sideways blog on harnessing the voices:



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Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Character


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