Finding Liza

I’m nearing the end of my first week of Teachers Write, and the most challenging part of it is just being able to find time to write. I’m working during the day, so I feel like I’m constantly behind, since I haven’t been writing consistently in the evenings. Today, since I have the day off, I’m catching up with some of the prompts from this week. The writing that came from Thursday’s prompt (see my writing below) is about finding a character’s voice, by exploring that character in different situations. I wrote many of the chunks below in a very short time frame, which is why they’re not fully developed, but this did help me think about the characters I’m trying to create. Caution: SUPER rough! If you want to see the prompts, you can check here: Teachers Write.

Visualization through a door (2 minutes):

The bright June sun makes Liza’s body a silhouette as she walks carefully through the door. She steps tentatively across the threshold, and the other girls stare at her, their new housemate (at least for a few months).

Wearing a light blue sleeveless maternity frock that skims her four-month pregnant belly makes her look like an even younger version of a pregnant Audrey Hepburn.

Moving into the room (2 minutes):

Liza moves forward looking at all the wide-eyed girls, guessing that most of them are close to her age: 17. Frilly home accessories fill the room–curtains, pillows, lampshades. They betray the reality of what this place really is: a home where girls come to give away their children.

Meeting other people (4 minutes):

Mrs. Johnson greens Liza first.

“Hello, dear, and welcome to Fairview. You are making such a loving decision for your unborn baby. You are doing God’s will. Bless you.”

The rising nausea Liza felt made Mrs. Johnson’s words sound far away and muffled. She wanted to turn and run, hide at her sister’s nearby home, have her baby, and disappear forever.

Interviewing your character:

What do you love the most? My unborn baby

What do you hate the most? My parents for making me come here

Who are you jealous of? The “loving couple” that will get to see my child grow into an adult

If you could do anything right now, what would it be? Run away. Live alone. Raise my child by myself.

What is your biggest secret? I’m pregnant at 17. It’s a secret I’ll never be able to tell when I return to my normal life.

Interviewing your character’s after an opposite ray hits him/her:

What do you love the most? Power. Control.

What do you hate the most? Children.

Who are you jealous of? Chairman Mao.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be? Stage a revolution and rule the world.

Stripping away the emotion of a scene (Scene: Liza’s book)

Susan opens the door so that it hits Liza’s wall.

“What are you doing?” She sees the book on Liza’s stomach and assumes she’s been reading.

“Why do you read?”

“Helps pass the time,” Liza replies.

Susan sits on the bed and picks up Liza’s book. Ramona the Brave? Why not Carrie? Liza shrugs.

Susan gets up and walks out, letting the door swing shut behind her.

My Reflection

This one was challenging–first of all, because of the time limit. Two minutes is not enough time at all! Neither is four! I think it’s because I’m constantly second-guessing my choices as a writer. That certainly takes time.

Oddly enough, one of my favorite parts of this was interviewing my character who had been hit by an “opposite ray.” I discovered that the opposite of loving and nurturing children might be the idea of power, yet I think Liza does wants some power and control because at this point, she has none. She has been sent away from her home by her parents to have a baby in a strange city. When the baby comes, she will have no choice but to say goodbye to it and never look back. She does want to control this situation, but she can’t. It feels like this opposite-ray version of Liza could become hardened as a result of her experience and truly hate children when she’s older.

Then I was intrigued by this person who hates children but has a secret–that she’s pregnant. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a twist! It would test the character and possibly change her. I’m sort of fascinated in this tension. I want to determine how to add some of this tension into Liza’s character.

Advertisements

Liza’s Book

The sun came through the window, and Liza looked up from her book to see particles of dust suspended in the air. The heat of July was already creeping through the glass as she sat in her threadbare armchair.

She turned the open book over and laid it on her growing belly and yawned. Six months pregnant, and she was already having trouble sleeping. October felt like a lifetime away.

Susan threw open the bedroom door with a crash, assaulting Liza’s calm.

“What the fuck you doing?” Susan asked, her words distorted by her smacking gum.

Still in a haze, Liza blinked and glanced at her book, rising and falling with the momentum of her breath, and looked back at Susan.

“Oh goddamn. Why you always gotta be reading a fucking book?”

Liza never knew how to react to Susan’s sharp tongue. “Helps pass the time.”

Susan moved her way to Liza’s bed and heaved her body down, shaking the cheap frame and causing the bed to shriek in pain. “Fuck, I’m fat. This kid has got to go. What’s the book this time?” She didn’t wait for an answer and picked it up. “Ramona the Brave? This a goddamn kiddie book. Fuck. You could at least be reading Carrie or some shit. That bitch is crazy. She’d never end up in no maternity home. She’d burn the motherfucker down first.”

Liza shrugged in passive agreement and held her hand out in a silent command for Ramona. 

Susan let out a heavy sigh, dropped-threw the book on Liza’s stomach, and pushed her way out of the room.

My White Page Day

She’s 17.

Adopted.

With no information about her birth family.

She wants to find them but can’t

Not until she’s 18.

She has always thought about who they are.

Famous?

Next door?

Her best friend?

She wants to know.

But she doesn’t want to hurt those that love her.

Doesn’t she have a right to know?

Someday they find her

It’s lucky

It’s complicated

She thought it’s what she wanted

She has a sister; she’s always wanted one

Sister doesn’t want her

But it’s not my fault!

I didn’t ask for this!

She shuts them out

It’s too much

She’s always shut people out

When things get complicated

It’s easier that way

She doesn’t need anyone

Then she realizes that she does.

Wonderings

I wonder–

what it will feel like to cross the finish line after my half marathon

how elite runners get their start

if there’s a “running gene” or if anyone can be an elite runner with enough practice

why some children and teens cut themselves

about the origin of the narwahl

if any mythological creatures have any basis in fact

why some cats fetch and some don’t

why my 9-year-old never wears matching clothes

if I’m a good parent

if being a cat or dog person says something about you

what it’s like to live in a palace

if my purpose is the same as everybody else’s purple

Taking Flight

In her book about writing, Anne Lamott recounts a story about her ten year old brother who was frustrated with a bird report he was trying to write. Having three months to write it, he had waited until the night before it was due (how many of us have done that?) Understandably frustrated, his father sat next to him and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

I can relate to this when I think about my own writing life. I love writing. Love. It. However, you wouldn’t actually know that about me because I never do it. I, too, procrastinate, find excuses, fill my time with The Bachelor and Bravo TV, and throw myself into work and family. I write in fits and spurts. I’m good for awhile and then just stop.

This summer, though, inspired by Teachers Write, a virtual writing camp for educators, I made a commitment to writing regularly (for thirty days, at least) and sharing my writing here–the good, bad, and ugly.

Hey, we all have to start somewhere. We all have to take it bird by bird sometimes.