Building Character

“What made you decide to make him gay?”


It took me a minute to understand the question, which was a minute longer than it should have taken, but I sometimes forget not everyone is a writer, and those who aren’t sometimes have strange ideas about how writing is done.

“I didn’t build him out of LEGOs or anything,” I said. “I don’t create characters by using a blueprint. Maybe some writers do, but I don’t.

“For me, creating a character is like meeting someone new. They’re already who they are, complete. They might be blond, they might be short, and they might be gay.

“Peter Stoller is gay because he’s gay. I didn’t ‘decide’ it. That’s just how he is.”

A Tisket, A Tasket

Today is May Day, also known as Beltane, or Walpurgis, or by any number of other names. It’s one of my favorite sub-holidays because it brings warm weather and sun and flowers. When I was a child, our town had an annual May Fair. Artisans would set up tents and booths to sell their wares, and there would be games and food and music and a May Pole, and we would go to greet one another and enjoy that singular sense of community. I almost always ended up buying a garland of flowers for my hair.

There is an old tradition of May Baskets, not much observed any longer, wherein someone would leave a basket of flowers and treats on a doorstep, ring the bell, and run away. The object was to catch the person, and if you succeeded, kiss them. Call it an old homage to spring fever, the adolescence of the year, and all old fertility rites—in any case, great fun.

So in the spirit of the season, this year I leave a basket of words and thoughts on your doorstep to consider. It’s hardly fair, I realize, since you are unable to catch me from here. Though I suppose if you were enterprising enough, you could come find me.

You, who are like a magpie of a man, gathering the shiny bits and pieces of others whom you admire and making their words and affectations your own . . . I don’t think you do it out of malice, no, and maybe it comes so naturally, this mimicry, that you don’t always realize you are doing it. But you are sensitive enough, and deep enough, to be able to look within yourself and know the truth at the heart of the matter. You do these things, appropriate these gestures, in part out of honest esteem for those from whom you steal, but also because you want very much to fit in and to be liked, and maybe just a little because it feels safer to use others’ words and actions instead of your own. Every one of these little trinkets that you gather from the pockets of friends, acquaintances, coworkers, adds to the shell you build for yourself, something for you to hide in. Even now, reading this, you might feel exposed and vulnerable.

But here are the roses I give you: I love you anyway. And so do they. And were you ever to summon the strength and courage to step out of the shade of their shadows, you would be welcomed with open hearts and arms. You have much to offer on your own terms, and in your own words. Remember that you are friendly, and likable, and capable of more than superficial conversation. You might spend your days with other people’s words in your mouth, but to be heard you will need to speak for yourself. You fear being overlooked yet hide in plain sight.
Don’t be afraid to show yourself. Inside and out. Because you are loved. Inside and out.

Chasing Victory

I plan to have the Nike of Samothrace in my garden.

Let me see if I can explain this without sounding like a complete and utter nerd . . . Well, no, I can’t. So I’ll just own up. When I was a child—we’re talking ages 7 through about 11—my idea of fun during the summer break was to choose a topic and research it extensively at the local library. I would check out stacks and stacks of books on whatever subject I’d chosen, and I’d keep notebooks of information until, at the end of the summer, I would write a lengthy report. These reports were not just reiterations of what I’d learned, though; I sprinkled them with my own ideas about the matter at hand. And sometimes I’d also write stories.

You see, my love of writing in any and all forms began very early.

So the Nike of Samothrace came up one summer when I was studying ancient Greek and Roman culture and mythology. Now, I’ve always loved classical history (minored in it as an undergrad), and I’ve always loved angels (because I think they’re pretty—not cherubs, though, which I find irritating). And to a seven-year-old girl, the Nike of Samothrace, though headless, embodies an ethereal beauty. So while I loved many of the ancient statues I witnessed in all those books, the Nike held a special place in my heart. Angel + Goddess, it occupied the sweet spot in the Venn Diagram of my soul. (Yes, I really did just say that. I am a nerd.)

That might have been enough, but then my summer sitter (the woman who watched me during the summer while my parents worked) took her church youth group, all high schoolers, on a tour of UT Austin, and since she couldn’t just ditch me, I got to go too. The campus made quite an impact on me, but I was especially wowed by the Harry Ransom Center. They had a Gutenberg Bible, for one thing. And also: a plaster cast of the Nike of Samothrace.

When I saw that, I vowed I would attend UT. (And, yes, I did. After being accepted at places like Oberlin and UCLA, I still went to UT. When I get something in my head, folks, I don’t let go easily.)

When I was 22, I visited the Louvre for the first time, and I only had one item on my agenda. The Mona Lisa? Bah. My goal was to see the Nike of Samothrace. And when I got to that staircase . . . Well, I almost wept, I was so happy to see her.

So now we’ve come to the point where I admit I’ve always dreamed of the kind of yard and garden where I can have benches and statues. And that will become a reality for me at the end of May. So I’ve been looking at websites featuring various fountains and statues and bistro sets, &c. And I found one that has a Nike of Samothrace. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before to have her for my very own. But now that I’ve realized I can, I’m determined to, as they say in the ads, just do it.

I only hope a headless, winged woman in the yard doesn’t frighten the kids.

20 Questions

1. When do you think it’s appropriate to change your relationship status on Facebook after becoming “official”?
I don’t know. After you’ve established that it’s exclusive, I guess.

2. How easy is it to open up about your feelings?
I’m pretty introspective, and I’m fine talking about my feelings except that I always think I’m either boring people or making them uncomfortable. I probably need a therapist. At least then they’re getting paid to listen.

3. Are you in school right now? What classes are you taking?

4. If you are in school, what is your campus like?

5. What do you want for your birthday this year?
My birthday isn’t until December, so I have no idea. Benedict Cumberbatch? But seriously, I don’t count on getting anything very interesting for my birthday because it’s too close to Christmas. So I never get a party or anything. Maybe I’d like to travel for my birthday.

6. When did you/do you want to move out of your parents house?
I moved out when I went away to university, though I guess I still had a lot of stuff there and went home most summers. In fact, my parents still have a lot of my stuff in storage . . .

7. How do you like your current job? Or if you’re unemployed, have you been looking for employment?
I’m a writer, and I love writing. Most of the time, anyway.

8. Do you have plans for Valentine’s Day?
Uh, no. Not yet.

9. How many times did you take the driving test before you passed?
The road test? Only the once. I don’t remember about the written test. A couple times, I think?

10. What are winters like where you live?
I haven’t had a winter here yet. I’ve been told it’s rainy. But at least there’s no snow!

11. What are some big changes that you want to make in your life?
Um . . .

12. How do you deal with arguments with your significant other?
We’re pretty good about talking things out most of the time. Though I have a tendency to shut down when I’m really angry.

13. Have you ever tweeted for anyone before?

14. What do you do when you’re really bored?
Poke around online.

15. Are there any books that you’ve been meaning to read?
Stacks of them.

16. What tv shows do you usually watch during the week?
Smash, Modern Family, 30 Rock, The Office, Grimm, and Mad Men now that it’s back.

17. Is there anything that you need to buy soon?
More ink for the printer.

18. What would your ideal job be right at this exact moment (ex: a restaurant, not what you want to do in the future)?
A writer.

19. What colors do you usually like to paint your nails?
I go somewhat neutral on my fingernails so if the paint chips it’s not so noticeable. But I do fun, sparkly things with my toes.

20. How well do you get along with your mom?
Fair. I’m closer to my father.

Teaser Tuesday: The Raising

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Should Be Reading. The idea is to pick up your current read, go to a page at random, and post two teaser sentences. I picked up The Raising by Laura Kasischke at Target because I was desperate for something to read and the selection was limited. (Well, I should say, there were plenty of Harlequin-type romances and a lot of Nicholas Sparks books, plus a ton of YA supernatural stuff, but . . . my options were limited.)

I’ve been enjoying this book, though, and the quote on the back cover likens it to Tartt’s The Secret History, which I also really liked. This is the story of Craig, a college student who survived a car accident in which his girlfriend died . . . Except maybe she’s back . . .

From page 58:

Craig knew where he was now, but would he ever be able to shake the sense that the other world, the one he’d spent months living in, was still there? That back in that world, animals could talk, just not with their mouths?

St. Patrick’s Day

Although really this post has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day. I’m just acknowledging that today is, in fact, St. Patrick’s Day.

I took this from Christine Rains’ blog. I think I’m supposed to pick 10 people or whatever, but I don’t really do well with those kinds of things, so I’m just going to answer the questions.

Favorite color: Okay, this is tricky because it’s a very particular shade of blue that I’m not even sure has a name, but I know it when I see it—it’s a deep blue like the sky just before it goes full night.
Favorite animal: falcon
Favorite number: 4
Favorite non-alcoholic drink: soda
Facebook or Twitter: Hmm. You know, for me they fill two separate needs or desires, so . . . both.
My passions: writing, music, history
Getting or giving presents: Now that I’m a grown up and can buy myself stuff, giving is usually more fun. Though I do still like to receive presents.
Favorite pattern: Um . . . Depends on what it’s on? For example, I like things that look like star-spangled sky, but I wouldn’t drape a couch in it. Hate florals for the most part, but have a couple lovely dresses with nice floral patterns. So . . . Just depends.
Favorite day of the week: Saturday
Favorite flower: I like daffodils because they come back each year and I always know it’s spring when I see them. And I love the smell of hydrangeas. And gardenias. And jasmine. And honeysuckle. More to the point, I just really like flowers.

Teaser Tuesday: Midnight Riot

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Should Be Reading. The idea is to pick up your current read, go to a page at random, and post two teaser sentences. This book was recommended by . . . I can’t remember now. Neil Gaiman, maybe? But I don’t want to put words in his mouth. Anyway, the UK version is titled Rivers of London, which I think is a much better title than Midnight Riot, but unpopular opinions like that are probably why I’m not a publishing executive.

Author Diana Gabaldon says this about the book: “Midnight Riot is what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.” What more could you want from a book?

I’ve only just started reading it myself, so I hope I don’t spoil something for me, much less anyone else. (I’ll have to read it quickly, though, since it’s a library book and I’m moving in a week.)

From page 102:

An hour into my practice I stopped, took a deep breath and opened my hand.

And there it was, the size of a golf ball and as brilliant as the morning sun—a globe of light.

Teaser Tuesday: The House of Silk

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Should Be Reading. The idea is to pick up your current read, go to a page at random, and post two teaser sentences. I was given Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk as a birthday or holiday gift (these things might as well be one and the same when you have a birthday in December) but have only just cracked it open. With all the writing and packing and planning to move, there have been fewer chances to read.

The House of Silk is a Sherlock Holmes novel, the only one to be authorized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate. This teaser comes from page 146:

‘And this is Sherlock Holmes! Well, I rather doubt we’ll be reading of this in one of your famous chronicles, will we, unless it comes under the heading of The Adventure of the Psychotic Opium Addict. . .’

It’s not at all a long book, and the print is rather large besides, so I anticipate it’s a quick read.


Had surgery this morning on my right index finger. Complicates my writing a bit, but the alternative would have been a permanently painful and deformed finger.

It’s not even that I injured myself or anything; my fingernail started growing a weird, subcutaneous spur. Huh.

Anyway, huge bandage on my right hand for the next week. And pain meds. Should be fun, make my writing a tad more colorful.

And tonight my play is premiering, so . . . Let’s hope I don’t make a fool of myself or anything.