A Character's DNA

Monday, March 07, 2022
                                                              image by qimono (Pixabay)

             Five years ago, my WIP began with a teenage boy as the main character. Here's an excerpt from the first page:

On my knee was Jeff Beck, playing at some blues festival in Holland last year. Watching the same riff, again and again, bending my fingers the same as him, I thought, I’d come to a place where my hands would just sync up with his. I mean, how many times would it take for me to get it right?

The first couple of notes were alright. Okay, now I’ve got it, I’d think. Finally. But right after those beginning chords, I'd screw it up.

Sometimes I sounded so bad, I’d hurl my pick across my bed which of course meant I risked screwing myself because occasionally it would disappear. Rooting around under my blanket and pillow… no luck. Another pick bites the dust.

Then I figured I'd better I'd better write from a female's perspective, since I'm female. I'd gotten in trouble with enough agents before when I wrote from the a book with a young Black man as the main character. This girl was a cutter.

The blood droplets lined up like little soldiers, all in a straight row. Redder than rubies, their shade shouted out their richness. So dark and deep of a color, and such perfectly-round globules, they didn’t look like they were in liquid form. They looked more like solid jewels adorning my thigh than something that was leaking out of me.

The release was immediate. Whatever gets let loose when people feel pain—endorphins, I think—flooded my body. No longer was  I ready to sob (again) because of what Gina said to me in front of my locker. In front of a whole bunch of other kids.

In the last few months, I've decided I won't write from the perspective of a cutter, since I've never done it. Instead, I'm writing from the viewpoint of an adopted teenage girl who's depressed... all three things I'm familiar with.

Choosing a pen with a finer point, I added some veins. The veining crackled and spread from the spine of the leaf to its edges. Were some leaves like this? And was that middle hard line on every leaf called a spine? Or was it the vein? I wasn’t sure. Science (and math… definitely math) was the worst. I sucked big time when it came to anything that involved a hypothesis or a hypotenuse.

One leaf, wrenched away and separated from its tree mother. Probably as soon as a leaf’s stem is ripped from the branch, it forgets where it came from. The lone leaf drifted down, suspended on the page, without any knowledge of its origins. I knew what that was like. 

I knew from the time I first remembered anything.

Who would have known--this most recent version is truer... easier to write, somehow. Perhaps because it's closer to the bone?

The evolution of a character takes time. Certainly, it doesn't usually take five years, but I'm a slow learner.

When I post next, I'll share how sketching is getting me in sync with my main character.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a dog rescuer, a freelance writer and a novelist .You can buy her debut book, Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you're curious about more of her writing, check out her blog.


Cathy C. Hall said...

Very glad you've arrived at the adopted teenager who's depressed. Um...I'm not sure that's come out exactly right but what I'm reading in that excerpt has a tone of authenticity. And it's much more interesting. Onward, Sioux, it ain't a race. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Depression is something that so many people have to deal with that I really do think this is going to have reader appeal. Like Cathy said, the authenticity comes through!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--Thanks for the encouragement. I know. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a hike.

Sue--Thank you. I hope so.

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--I love all the excerpts you shared and think you should be proud to have produced them. I'm struggling with the same thing right now, considering changing the family tree/dynamics of the main characters in my NaNoWriMo thriller, and it's because I want to write from a more authentic place. I just try and tell myself we learn from every page we write--nothing is wasted, in my opinion.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--I agree. And putting authenticity into a thriller will make it that much more exciting.

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