Dead Characters … puzzles, love and loss


I have had a couple of conversations today about the books progress.  (Possible spoilers ahead, though I don’t really think so.)

It is actually getting to kind of a fun place because puzzle pieces are starting to snap into place. 

The outline helped tremendously.

Maybe that means I should outline sooner … except that isn’t how my head works.  I don’t start with a solid plan.  I start with a seed, but I never actually know what type of plant that seed will grow into.  Usually I *think* I know what kind of plant it will be, but it has happened that I wound up with tomatoes when I thought I was planting cantaloup.  Usually it is more like I wind up with Roma when I thought I was getting beef-steak, but, whatever.

Okay, enough of *that* metaphor!  *laugh*

I am deep enough into the story now that I am starting to see a deeper pattern.  The other day I had an internal monologue that went something like this:  “How did he get past her defenses?  Something had to have happened to turn him into that person for her. 

Oh!  That is totally how Ivan shows up.  If he were in trouble and …”  Ivan was just an ancillary character up until that moment.  He started as a vehicle for a snap-shot scene that I wanted to write to show a facet of Jill.  Now, suddenly, his presence makes a whole lot more sense.  I know who he is, and he is a whole lot more important than I realized when I first plopped him into the story. 

I love those moments.  It really is a bit like solving one side of a Rubik’s cube though.  It might be one step in solving the whole thing, or I might wind up having to completely scramble it again in order to get the rest of the pieces aligned properly for the final solution.  We’ll see. 

I am really mad at myself right now though, because I have realized that Jack is like that too.  The working title is Jack and Jill, but really Jack was just the launching pad for Jill’s story.  He was dead before the book began.   Thing is, their relationship is integral to who she is during the course of the book.  I have realized that it is really necessary to get to know him, and more importantly *them* for the aftermath to make any sense at all. 

So now I am in the position of fleshing out, and as a result falling in love with, a character who is ALREADY DEAD!  Why did I do that?  I don’t want him to be dead.  I want to hang out with him.  It is like I set myself up from the very beginning to be tortured.  I certainly wasn’t thinking that at the time, but how could I have not realized that I’d have to go there? 

I guess somewhere deep down I really am more than a bit of a masochist. 

It will be alright though, because I can wallow in all of the yummy goodness of Jack and Jill while it is time.  His loss?  Well, I know all of the yummy goodness that will come after that too, so it can’t be all that bad, right? 

*rolling my eyes*  Right.



Grumpy old men

On my lunch break today I walked down to the gas station on the corner.  The first thing I noticed was that there is a new cashier and I thought, “Oh, where is the grumpy old man?”  I know, that sounds awful, but in my head it was actually sort of affectionate and I was genuinely disappointed that he wasn’t there.  I realized that I actually am quite fond of several curmudgeonly “old” men, and that the applicability of that adjective is part and parcel of the relationships.

When I was a very little girl (under 5) , my mother tells me, I was afraid of men; specifically there were several men in our lives who were quite loud, boisterous and large, both in physicality and in presence.   My parents came up with all kinds of strategies to help me overcome this.   One of their friends had a particularly impressive handle-bar mustache and to this day I think of him as “funny man Joe”, the nickname they gave him to make him seem less intimidating.

Fortunately as I got a little bigger I outgrew my fear.   As a matter of fact, growing up I was something of a tom-boy and my closest friends always tended to be guys.  By the time that hormones hit, I thought that the male half of the species was pretty nifty.  🙂

Somewhere in my early twenties, however, I realized that while I liked men well enough, I seemed to have a prejudice against older men.  (My own grandfather being a notable exception, and a  man I was exceedingly fond of.)  Not ageist really, as I liked and admired (still do!)  a number of older women and the idea of the crone has always been quite appealing to me.  I couldn’t easily define an age or reason … but something about elderly men made me extremely uncomfortable.

I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded, loving and accepting person so this realization really bothered me a lot.   I started talking to those close to me about my unexpected and semi-shocking prejudice.   My mom speculated that I may have been mildly traumatized by a neighbor from  early childhood.  He was the stereotypical slightly creepy old man who would invite the neighborhood kids to sit in his lap.  I do remember the neighbor – mostly I remember that I really liked his wife – but I don’t have any specifically good or bad memories about him.   I don’t know about the traumatized theory.  Regardless of its source – once I had identified this quality, which I categorically classified as a character flaw and personal failing, I set out to “fix” it.

I haven’t thought about it in a long time.  I am now in my early forties, and it seems that somewhere along the way I not only stopped avoiding older men, but have in fact grown a bit of a soft spot for them.  I don’t know if it is because of the closing age gap  or because I actually overcame some sort of personal issues along the way.  Perhaps it has to do with missing my grandpa who passed away some ten years ago now; or maybe I’ve just made a point of meeting some pretty cool old guys along the way.

Whatever it is – I missed seeing the “grumpy old guy” who works the counter at the gas station down the street.   Next time I see him I think I will make an effort to learn his name so I can stop calling him that in my head, and maybe I’ll let him know that I appreciate his presence.  🙂

Happy Tuesday.