I took the liberty yesterday of nominating myself for an Academy Award. Consider my performance:
The role I embraced is that of Karen Wylie, age fifteen going on thirty. I have bleached blonde hair and black roots and I never met a make-up product I didn't like. I chew my nails. I wear a small heart on a silver chain and my clothes are too tight. Hey, if you got it, flaunt it. My mother has lost heart with me (I also play her part, catch that performance a chapter earlier…) and I guess I don't blame her, but honestly, she wants to know EVERYTHING. So I tell her nothing.
Today the hero and heroine (I also play their parts. They have a running performance) asked me a few questions about my shot up ex-boyfriend and I don't mind telling you, I got a little spooked. I called the new guy in my life, and boy, that's a whole other story. He said it was time for us to run away together.
Now, I'm just a Junior in high-school and he's a lot older but the things I have done with him…well, anyway, he said he didn't want anyone spoiling our plans so I should just ride a bus two towns down the river and he'd pick me up and we'd go get married, he'd fix all the details. I can't believe this is happening to me!
Okay, I couldn't tell Mom where I was going. I took a hundred dollars out of her wallet and bought a bus ticket to Portland so if she tries to find me, she'll get it wrong. It wasn't really my idea, my boyfriend came up with it. He's knows all that kind of stuff.
He wasn't waiting for me when I got off the bus so I stood on a corner across from some bum asking for money cause he ran out of gas for his car. Sure. Like he has a car. (I know he doesn't, because I will play him in the immediate future.) After awhile, it got hot so I walked down the street toward the river. My boyfriend had told me not to use my cell phone, so all I could do was wait out in front of an old warehouse. The old bag across the street kept staring at me. She finally went away from the window (as I will also play her, I know she went to answer the phone) right when my boyfriend showed up. We walked down the block to his car.
The fact is I won't ever get out of this car alive, but of course, I don't know that. The fact is my mother is going to think I ran away for good until way later when they find my body. The fact is, my last thought is going to be of my mother and how she was actually right about some things and my last sight is going to be my boyfriend's face…
I can't go into that. It upsets me and I'm not supposed to know it, anyway. In fact, other than the part when the hero and heroine talk to me at my job at the pharmacy and I get spooked, the rest happens off screen.
Which means all my dying hopes and fears have to exist in the mind of my audience just as they do in the mind of my creator.
So, yesterday, I was that girl. And all this happened to me.
Can you do this with a character in your WIP or do you do something similar? Do you get inside them, even if for only a few moments as you write and "live" their parts? Not a major character, and not a chain of events you show in the book, but the off stage stuff that has to be as real as the printed word. It chilled me to get inside Karen Wylie's vacant head. It made me sad for her. For the years she won't have, for her short life (one lousy conversation where she, frankly, didn't come off that well) and then nothing. On the other hand, she will be avenged, her killer will pay.
But, of course, I also play his role.