When I'm drafting, I'm the most Bonniesh. I let her rip without other voices interfering. Annabel, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who's not un-smart but who has no boundaries, often edges in from my subconscious to loosen me up. If for some reason there's a refrigerator in the bedroom, instead of banning it, I leave it, try to figure out why it's there. If my character wants to drive her Studebaker to the airport and fly to Jot-Em-Down, Texas, after a bad day, so be it.
After that free-spirited start, stealthily, I begin to get more critical. Pilar kicks in, reminding me "stealthily" ain't the best word. No, my character can't wear a leopard bustier to a funeral. But why can't she? Just because I wouldn't? Not a good reason. Sure, let her paint the living room fuchsia, but make her stop saying "rad" so much. And if she can't see the father is doing everything he can, do we really want to read a whole story from her perspective?
My draft is decent enough now that if I were eaten by Big Foot tomorrow and someone probed my belongings, the story would simply look like a rough draft, not meaningless ramblings. Unlike me, largely a recluse, I make my characters confront heinous boyfriends, tell their bosses off, suddenly go to Spain. I describe unusual colors of brown hair, explore what these people are so afraid of, what they think will happen if they don't take action. What's at their core.
When split infinitives start to cross my mind, Theodore, buried in my cerebral cortex, chimes in. He claims never to have seen the piece before—good because I've read it so many times I'm numb. He's been at the New Yorker since the 13th century. He's appalled at many passages. He wants to know why if the story is set during the Vietnam War, the character would say "Googled." Why is the mother contemplating her relationship with her daughter AGAIN on p. 3 when she just did on p. 2? Do I mean further or do I really mean farther? Why is there a space break on p. 12 when it's still the same scene? I've got to shut Theodore up before he goes too far, though, or I'd only be writing technical journals. Shoo, Theodore!
I read the story fourteen more times, lock it in a drawer, then read it again. I find unnecessary phrases, realize that if I move a scene from p. 8 to p. 3, everything opens up faster. How could I have spelled "spontaneous" that way? Okay, I'll cave and put the thing through Spell Check, though I prefer to work alone.
Sparrow, an uber-savvy chick on FaceBook, sneaks in from some cavernous corner of my psyche. However, I hardly know this "friend." She's way too cool for me, so I make her retreat.
My editor self has to decide whether to call the person I'm addressing in my cover letter "Mr.," "Ms.," "Dear Surly Button Review," "Sir," "Madam," or "To Whom," but I'm guessing (hoping) this part doesn't really matter.
I take the word "impish" out, put it back in. I try to decide whether I'd be sympathetic toward this character if I met him on the street. Is there any reason to turn the page? Is there at least a sliver of humor no matter how serious the theme? Is there enough personality going on in that character so he's as Bonniesh as he can be?
Then the story might be ready.
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|Photo by Elsa http://www.photobyelsa.com/|
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