Friday, August 28, 2009

Pictures in Our Heads

black cat As you know, I had a good-sized revision to make on my manuscript. But—ta-da! I finished it and now have resumed my favorite activity of picking my project to death before I email it off on Tuesday.

Yesterday I created little snippets of behavior, mannerisms, and dialogue that I thought would help a reader picture my characters more clearly.

I also went through and looked critically at my characters. Did they measure up? Were they unlikable? Can people identify with these folks?

When my daughter got home from school yesterday, she had Halloween on the brain. And, wouldn’t you know it, a costume catalog had arrived in the mail that very afternoon. Oddly enough, Miss Priss wants to be a black cat this year. Excellent, I thought. After doing cheerleaders, Hannah Montana, and princesses, a black cat will be a piece of cake.

I flipped through the massive catalog and voila. “Here you are!” I said, slapping the page in triumph. “A black cat.”

She looked at the picture critically. “No. That’s not it.”

“What do you mean? It’s a black cat---tail, ears, everything.”

“It’s not the black cat I’m thinking of. Mine doesn’t look like that.”

You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to find a black cat costume on the internet. But 45 minutes later, there was still no black cat to satisfy Miss Priss. They either had white tummies, looked like a boy costume, were for babies, or were cheetah costumes, not black cat costumes.

Now I do not sew, but I know some people I can pay to turn a black jumpsuit into a costume. And it got me to thinking.

My characters are who they are. I’m like my daughter—I have a picture in my head of these people. Sometimes they’re unlikable, sometimes they’re fun. Sometimes they have rotten days. They’re almost like real people in that respect. That’s what creating complex characters is all about.

The vision in my head is just as clear, but I worry about what other people might think of it. Maybe I should just let it be. If it’s too outlandish (the impossible to locate perfect black cat), then I’ll happily make some modifications. But for right now, I’m going to stop picking at these characters.

But not at the rest of the WIP. :)