Tag Archives: novelist

Hiding with Cocktails, Character Development & my Invisible Cloak

I met up with some high school friends over the weekend, some of whom I hadn’t seen in at least 25 years. I needed to gird my self confidence because whenever I go to meet a group of high school folks whom I haven’t seen in a while all my 16 year old insecurities kick into high gear. I don’t think my body is even capable of producing the hormones I had back then, but I swear that as soon as I know I’m going into that situation I get a PMS zit, my hair goes from curly to frizzy and I can’t find anything to wear that looks remotely good on me.

So I decided that I would wear my novelist cloak for this little reunion. No, it’s not an actual cloak. It’s an invisible cloak, (with a hood) that I put on sometimes so I can secretly look at situations as a novelist. I decided my task that night was to study character. I tried, really hard, to do that. Cocktails did not help this exercise. But I found that some people are just naturally “characters.”

The guy who was a stuck up kid (well at least he never gave me the time of day) still sort of blew me off when I said hi. There was a boy who was always very friendly, the kind of kid you knew would grow up to be a nice guy. And he did! His wife’s lucky and so are the people in his community where he works as a police officer. I saw the girl who was so beautiful I kind of hated her (when I was 9) and she looked exactly the same (but then I remembered that she was a nice little girl, despite her prettiness). There were a couple of guys who remembered me but who I wouldn’t have been able to pick out of a lineup. Funny. But after talking with them a bit I could sort of see glimmers of the teenaged boys they once had been. There was one guy who looked exactly the same (great eyes) only totally bald. And then there’s my good buddy from 5th grade, who still has a fabulous smile and a cheery disposition. The neighborhood friend I’ve known since kindergarten was always  one of the kindest people I know, and now she can add hot and smart and funny. (It’s true! I know you’re reading this… Stop protesting!) And my homie who sang Cher songs with me into a hairbrush/microphone: Unbelievable woman. Like a force of nature. And what a character!

It won’t be difficult for me to use the rich material I gathered last night, because when I write my characters they are usually either totally fictitious or composites of people whom I know. And I can’t wait to make some awesome composites out of the people I didn‘t write about in this blog post! (Because maybe I don’t have such nice things to say…)

I had a great time at this reunion because by putting on my invisible  novelist cloak in the beginning I quelled the initial fluttering of butterflies in my stomach and after a while they stopped.

What cloaks do you wear? Do you still break out? How do you create a character?

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I am that I am.

There aren’t too many things that have remained constant over the course of my life, but one of them is that I have (somewhat) consistently been some kind of a writer. When I was younger I wrote poetry, until graduate school squashed 0ut of me any creative urge I might have had. At least for a few years, anyhow. I spent some time exploring memoir. Those were the staring at my navel years. Not. Good. I’m published in a professional journal for nurses, where I condensed research findings into readable news bites for a year or two. I’ve also been a ghost writer, floating around in the background of someone else’s story, helping them find structure and cohesion and the right words. Currently I write proposals for my business clients.

But when I tell people I’m a writer and they ask me what I write, I always answer that I’m a fiction writer. Why? Because I am. My fiction may not be published yet and I may not have earned one penny for it, but my love of writing is firmly grounded in making shit up and writing it down in a clever, interesting, unusual, beautiful, funny or evocative way. Sometimes I do this successfully. Sometimes, not so much. Perhaps if I were a more structured person (or committed?) my second manuscript might be complete. Nevertheless, complete manuscript or not, I’ve walked a long road paved with poetry and research and autobiography, haunted by ghosts. And I’m a fiction writer.

How about you? Do you define yourself by what you produce or by what you say about yourself?

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