Sunday, January 30, 2011

When life gives you lemons, create a character

Not really feeling the sample Sunday love today. Thought maybe I'd veer from that this week. Sure I have a little bit I could put up. It's not a scene from Being Human, not even a cut chapter. It's a little scene I wrote in my head that would introduce Rissa, Dan's wife. But as I said, I'm not feeling the sample love so I'll skip in favor of something that's been on my mind all weekend.

I recently read my buddy Chris's story. It was one I've been dying to read, wanting to know what happens after reading HIS samples on his blog, curious about the characters. He sent it to me and I devoured it in one night. I did stop a few times to make suggestions or corrections. One chapter was full of them because I felt it went too fast. I'm happy to say I loved the story and irritated the sequel hasn't been finished. (I've been threatening to kidnap him and lock him in my closet until he's done!)

And out of his characters, who have done a great job of burying themselves in my mind, a character came to me. I think I was dreaming, not quite sure. I saw a boy, he was seventeen, almost eighteen. Tall and well built from lifting weights with his friends. He was a cutie, definitely able to turn girls' heads. His hands were in his pockets like he didn't have a care in the world. He sighed and said to me, "I'm not like other boys you know. I'm gay."

At that point I was skeptic, "Um, no. I know a few."

But he insisted, telling me his story. How terrifying it was to figure it out at fourteen, how for a long time he tried to be 'normal'. It was a bit heartbreaking but he perked me up, saying he accepted his differences. Even if he had yet to tell a soul.

I woke up with JJ stuck in my head and wrote 5000 words that day. Characters emerged, JJ's one friend, Mason, shocking me with how caring and understanding he was. A vampire appeared at one point to stay because obviously any story I write can't be done without a supernatural element. (I swear it's not my fault, it's how the stories all come to me!) I had the beginning mapped out and the end. The middle was a little blurry, but I'm getting through it.

It's been my current obsession, a lot of waking moments spent thinking about JJ, Cage (the vampire) and his friends and how JJ will face world. As I lay in bed, thinking I should have stayed up to keep writing in fear of forgetting the words flowing in my head, I realized something. It was a strange something, but it was true and I knew it's why I was able to write JJ's story out so well.

When I was in seventh grade, the whole class went to a camp for three days at the end of the year. It was the highlight of seventh grade. The start was fine, we quickly discovered the cabin my friends and I bunked in were freezing! But it was better than school. Then disaster hit. Someone, and to this day I have no idea who, spread a rumor that I kissed another girl in my cabin.

As adults we roll our eyes, knowing rumors are silly and while there's still debate over homosexuality, I have nothing against it.

But I was thirteen! In middle school! You remember what that was like. Everyone broke off into cliques and anyone left out was fresh meat to be ripped apart. If you had asked any kid if being okay was gay they probably would have said yes, but actually being gay? No kid wanted that because it meant they were different, left out and vulnerable.

I remember feeling like that, knowing everyone was looking at me and laughing. I had another girl try to get me and the other girl that was victim of the rumor to fight, someone vandalized our cabin, writing insults on the mirrors and walls, people I thought were my friends refused to acknowledge me. What was suppose to be a fun three day vacation turned into a nightmare. I don't think I ever told my parents either. When camp was over I remember being terrified of going back to school. What if my older sister heard the rumor?

By the next school year, everyone had forgotten. Everyone but me (and probably the other girl. We never talked much after.) And I'll never forget. I'll never forget the shame and humiliation. I also never forget my friends, the real ones that didn't care and stood by my side. That weekend I discovered who they were and that was the only way I got through it.

So what does this have to do with JJ and his story? I empathize with JJ. I know what he's scared of going through because I've been through a form of it. I'm tapping on those fears of seventh grade camp, remembering how it felt and using it to find the right words. Life gave me a lemon all those years ago and I've been carrying it since. Now I'm ready to make some lemonade. Want a glass?


  1. Mwahahaa... I'm working on the sequel right now. Almost 11k words in and Ash is getting quite agitated by Violet's reluctance to let him see Mik. But we're up to the funeral, so the meet is gonna happen soon =p

    Anyway, great post. It's nice to see how something bad can be turned around and made it something as awesome as the scenes you've sent me so far. It's nice to see gay characters portrayed in a totally normal way, and with the depth you've given JJ. Now, less blogging and more writing! Feed my addiction!

  2. Back at ya! Go write and feed my addiction!

  3. Glad to see you found your writing mojo!!!!

  4. That's an excellent idea- make a character! I've almost same feelings and made a Haiku and told when life gives lemons- rock the boat, my man!

    I would need to get back to read some of your old posts- Have a great week ahead.

  5. kids can be so cruel at times, liked your post and it's sensitivity...nice writing

  6. I don't think it's necessarily kids are cruel, I think they just don't understand yet how hurtful words are at times. We've all been told "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." That is a lie, words hurt, they leave scars on your mind! Then you have the small child, making an honest observation about an overweight person, "Look mommy she looks like a whale!" The child didn't mean any harm, the child was making a comparison.

    The most any parent can do (and I am not one btw) is talk to their kids, teach them that yes words can hurt and to be gentle with them.

  7. This was a great post! Keep working with those voices in your head. :) I've given you an award on my blog. Happy Monday!

  8. Hmm... a very interesting idea. Makes me wonder if my own deepest traumas from my teenage years will ever show up in my YA writing in the form of completely different characters!

    Good luck to both of us on the A-Z blogging challenge!