Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

Alice through the Looking Glass--Lewis Carroll--1872

Have you ever had a day when you felt like Alice?

I had an Alice moment yesterday when everything turned into nonsense. Of course, I was writing at the time that my cell phone rang. It takes me a while to reconnect with real life, so the fact I was writing didn’t help.

The call was from an art studio. Their art teachers had switched days for teaching classes, due to personal conflicts. Would my daughter want to change to Tuesdays to stay with the same art teacher?

My mind whirled. What?

“My daughter took art from you two years ago, but she’s not taking now,” I said, still really inside my manuscript, but attempting to communicate.

“Your daughter is Charlotte.” This in a very matter-of-fact voice.

“No, no. She’s not Charlotte.”

“We have Charlotte down.” The soothing tone of the caller seemed to indicate a general lack of confidence in my sanity.

“We’re in a suburb of Charlotte, the town. No daughters named Charlotte.”

“But your last name is Gregg.”

“Noooo.” She was so certain-sounding that I nearly hesitated on this very basic information. “No….it’s Craig.”

“So,” (she’s now somewhat impatient), " is Tuesday good for you?”


At this point I could only start from the beginning. My daughter had taken art classes from them a couple of years ago. She was no longer taking art, she was taking drama. She is not Charlotte. I’m not Gregg. But then there was the matter of our automatic draft for the class 2 years ago. Were they—God forbid—drafting our account to pay for little Charlotte Gregg’s classes? I never could get a good answer from the rather confused artist on the phone with me, so I’ll have to pick through my account. Sigh.

It got me to thinking about my sleuths. They’re falling over dead bodies all the time. Don’t they feel like they’ve stepped through the looking glass, too?

Mine seem to take it in their stride. They’re concerned. They may even be a little shaken. But they don’t seem nearly as confused as I was yesterday. And they had something much more complicated to digest.

If we have conflict in our book (and by-golly, we should have conflict in our book or the poor manuscript won’t ever leave the nest), then our characters are dealing with big, baffling issues: whether it’s murder, divorce, Alzheimer's disease, or Armageddon. Are we showing their state of mind? Are they reacting? Can they react or are they too stunned?

Our characters have walked through the looking glass. Their lives are turning upside down. Are we capturing that? Because I’m thinking that maybe my characters are way too blasé about their challenges. Maybe some extra internal turmoil will help to spice things up a bit.


And now….well, y’all—I’m somewhere else today! :) Yes, I’m the Traveling Elizabeth this week. If you want to check in with me today (and this might be more of a genre-specific thingy, so y’all non-mystery writers are certainly excused), I’m over at Cozy Murder Mysteries today, explaining why I love writing mysteries.