Friday, May 22, 2009

Creating All Those Character Names, and Descriptions - A day in the life

We've been talking about the writing process this week - talking characters! Sharon kicked us off by sharing her wisdom and insight about character description, Debbie helped us understand the richness and depth that can be found in a well chosen name.
Maybe you're like me and thinking, "If I need to put so much time and effort into just a few aspects of my book - how long and how much effort does it take to write an entire book??"

Well, jump in my dune buggy and I'll take you along with me as I struggle with concepts, wrestle with words, and fights to get each sentence to behave itself!

There are dishes in my sink, kids to be picked up, laundry to be washed, friends waiting to hear back from me. . . but, I’m busy thinking.

My husband, Steve, rushes in the room. “I’m taking the van in to be serviced, Ben needs to be picked up at school and Heather has swimming lessons.”

“Hmm?” I say, not looking up from my computer screen. “Do you think zinnias grow well this far north?”

“What are zinnias?” says Steve.

I flip to another screen. “Would you describe this color as ‘gun metal’ or ‘stainless steel’?”

“Bonnie,” he sighs. “We really need to get going.”

“Where?” I ask, as I follow him out the door. We climb into the van and I say, “Have you ever picked a lock with a pencil? I mean, do you think it can be done?”

“What are you doing in the van?” says Steve. “You have to take the car to get Ben. And where is Heather?”

I get out of the van and walk around to the driver’s side. I tap on the window. “Do you think people eat bunt cake at funerals most often, or are brownies more common?”

“Finger sandwiches, and don’t forget to pick me up at the garage when you are done at Heather’s swim lesson,” Steve hollers as he drives off.

Pretty good. I fish for the notebook I always keep on me and write ‘fgr sands’. I’m sure I’ll know what it means when I read it later. My daughter, Heather, finds me standing on the driveway scribbling in my notebook. “I’m ready,” she says.

“For what? Hey, Heather, do you think someone could climb up that lattice?” I say, pointing to the structure leaning against the house. “Or do you think it would break?”

“Sure. You could do it, Mommy.” She climbs into the backseat of the car.

I hesitate. She could be right, but she’s only four, and I doubt she knows much about it. I write it down anyway. I’m walking back to the house when I hear Heather call, “Mommy? I have swimming lessons.”

“Oh yeah, uh, I know. I was just going to call Ben.” I holler into the house, “Ben!”

“Ben is at school,” Heather says.

I check my watch. 3:45. I’m fifteen minutes late picking him up.

“How was school?” I say to Ben when I finally reach him.

“We had a substitute teacher. He had a big nose,” He says

“How big,” I say. “Big like a ball of dough, or big like a ski slope?”

“Big like a pickle,” says Ben.

“Wow. That’s really good Ben.”

“It is?”

“Yes. Big like a pickle. Good for you,” I jot it down in my notebook, put the car in gear, and head it toward the pool.

I leave my daughter with a girl I'm reasonably sure is her swimming instructor and sit by the poolside. Soon, I'm transfixed by the movement of the water. I mumble to myself and scratch in my notebook. “Hey Ben, what do you think that water looks like? Besides wavy. You can’t say wavy.”

He thinks for a moment, head tilted to one side. “Bumpy.”

I roll my eyes. Six year olds. But I write it down anyway.

After swimming, I head to the library. The kids run for the children’s section while I get lost in the instructional books. I’m immersed in a passage detailing the invention of toilet paper when my son pokes his head around the book shelf. “I’m hungry, when are we going home?”

“Soon,” I mumble as, once again, I hear the theme song from The Pink Panther playing loudly. “Why on earth do they keep playing that song over and over again?” I say as I write down the name Joseph Gayette.

“Mommy, your purse is playing that song,” Ben says.

Oh, yeah. Steve downloaded it as a ring tone for my new phone. Rats. “Hello?”

“Bonnie,” says Steve. “Where are you?”

“The library, of course. Did you know the ancient Romans used wool soaked in rose water as toilet paper?”

“No. I’ve been waiting for over an hour. I’ve called and called.”

“Waiting for what? Hey, Steve, only fourteen percent of households had bathtubs in 1907.”

“Good to know. Please come and pick me up at the garage.”

“The garage? What are you doing there?”

Later that night, I lay in bed exhausted. I lean over and kiss my husband goodnight. “I’ll be glad when this book is done,” I say. “You don’t know how consuming writing is.”

He smiles and says, “Oh, I think I do.”


Anonymous said...

That was hilarious -- and uncomfortably true to life!

But I see now, Bonnie, that you have a secret weapon -- you have those kids to serve as thesauri (is that the plural of thesaurus??) and, like me, a husband who supports your habits.

Loved this post!

Latayne C Scott

Michelle Ule said...

My son would come in the door, "what's for dinner?"

I look up with wonder in my voice: "Dinner."

"Yeah, what are we having?"

From the sands of time, that morning, I recall working in the kitchen. "I made dinner."

"What is it?"

Immersed in 19th century Texas, I can't recall that detail.


"It's in the refrigerator. I think."

And it was good. But that's why I can't sit down to write until my household is in order.

Too hard on the kids. :-)

Carla Gade said...

That was so true to form! Looks like I'm not alone. My family either!

Bonnie Grove said...

Latayne: Eekk! Don't tell my secrets! :) You are glorious. Mwah!

Michelle: Ah, I know, it's tough on kids when Mom is so preoccupied, but in my house it isn't all the time. Uh, at least that's what I tell myself.

Carla: You're not alone! Together we will create the "new normal!"

Patti Hill said...

If I'd been drinking milk when I read your post, Bonnie, surely it would be spraying out my nose! Ha!

A conversation between uber supportive husband and me:

"Did you know that the Lone Ranger wasn't a Texas Ranger until the television show went on the air in '52?" I ask.

"The Lone Ranger?"

"Silver was a wild horse who got in a tiff with a buffalo, and when the Lone Ranger nursed him back to health, he let him ride on his back. And then, later, Silver disappeared for a few days, and when he came back, he brought Scout for Tonto."

"And this is important because...?

Dare I enumerate the steps of curiosities that led me finally to a web site for the Lone Ranger fan club?

"Just research."

He nods knowingly and goes back to his crossword puzzle.

Steve G said...

I'm still at the garage, waiting...

texted from Blackberry

word verification - holdbe: What I say to my wife when I'm feeling down and sick with a cold in my nose...

Bonnie Grove said...

Patti: Please feel free to e-mail me all the neat-o Lone Ranger reseach tid-bits you'd like! I sooo understand! (glad you weren't drinking milk)

Steve: Still at the garage! I'll be right there! I just have to finish this ONE scene and then I'll come get you.......... (when did you get a blackberry?????)

Kathleen Popa said...

Finger sandwiches always sounded gruesome to me. Especially at a funeral.

Southern-fried Fiction said...

How utterly familiar. And I had to laugh at Michelle's comment. In my house, unless the hubs else thinks it up or the son cooks it, we don't eat. I forget about those things until the stomach drowns out my characters. Then I go open the fridge and graze.
Do you think I should ask them what they ate? I might have missed something good.

Wendy Lawton said...

Sometimes you scare me, Bonnie, (she says, laughing). Forget career planning. maybe the best thing your agent can do for you is to take possession of those little gaffers for a week or so. (I'll leave Steve and his stuffed nose for you.)

Nichole Osborn said...

Loved this post! :0D So true! My kids are old enough that if I'm preoccupied "Oh Momma's writing, where's the pizza store's number?"
Kathleen: I so agree! sounds kinda morbid. But I love 'em.

Rachael Phillips said...

Your Steve and my Steve should never, ever meet to compare writer-wife psychoses!

Phoebe said...

I'm feeling a little better that I'm not the only one who does this. If I'm deep into my writing I'll stare at my kids and have no clue what they just said. Mine are teenagers, so that's coming back to bite me, as they swear I give permission for them to do something when I have absolutely no idea if I did or not. Yeah, writing is definitely all consuming.

Bonnie Grove said...

Katy: You are a scream, girl.

Ane: Yes, ask! Maybe they'll bring you some leftovers!

Wendy: My wee gaffers would love a week in California - but you have to take Heather to Disneyland. She wants to go SO BAD. Umm..but let's not forget career planning (laughing)

Nichole: Pizza joint on speed dial - oh, I'm there girl! I'm there!

Rachael: Aren't "Steve's" just the best? I'm so fond of mine. :)

Judy Gann said...

Oh, no, Bonnie, so this is what I have ahead of me?? LOL

I've only been working on a novel a month or so, and so far I've had a dream about my characters and missed a freeway off-ramp because my mind was on the plot.

Thank you for this hilarious (and probably too true) look at the road ahead. I think. :-)

Laura J. Davis said...

Bonnie, you are a hoot! I have this problem too, only my kids and my hubby keep telling me it's Alzheimer's!

Bonnie Grove said...

Judy: Oh welcome, my friend into the hazy world of fiction writing! And hurry up with that book, I can't wait to read it!

Laura: Now you have something you can point your family to and say, "See? I'm normal!"

Amy Sorrells said...

My dear husband DID read it and I do believe he's quite thankkful to know he's "not the only one" anymore. And actually, I'm quite grateful to know I'm not the only writer running around with 1/2 my brain lost in a completely different dimension. The heck with Star Trek having the "final frontier." I say the final frontier is the mind of a writer. Thanks for this hilarious post!