Several weeks back I wrote something I’ve never written. Something I’ve often found time to scoff. I interviewed one of my characters. You don’t have to look far to find many writing resources which recommend this sort of pre-writing exercise. They argue doing so helps you better understand your character, but to me it smacks of the kind of writer who also turns their dreams into plots—a little out there.
Chargrinned, I found my one attempt generated more words than I’ve written in a while and more character insight than I’d developed so far.
That character has been around for years and has a couple chapters of work to his credit. I know him. Rhoda, the character I intend to interview today, barely has a scene.
“Hello, Miss [Something]. Please take a seat.”
“Rhoda’s fine.” The well-dressed young woman unbuckles her dagger belt and places the weapon across her lap as she drops into the sofa chair. I’m distracted.
“Just call me Rhoda.”
“Oh, OK. Sure.”
“Did you find the place easily enough?”
“I guess. It seemed as if I just appeared in the wings there as you thought up this exercise, so it wasn’t a long walk or anything.”
Rhoda twists her iron black and lavendar hair into a massive bun and stabs it with a pair of viciously elegant pins.
“Sorry. Maybe I should have had a stool instead?”
“I appreciate you taking the time to join me for an interview. I know you’ve been searching for your sister Morgan. I’ll try to get you back to that as soon as I can,” I said. Her lips part to respond, but I figure I don’t want to deal with that barb this early in the interview so I press on. “How do you learn best?”
Rhoda leaves her mouth open for a moment before raising her eyebrows and giving in to the interview. It seems she’s filed away her unspoken thought not lost it. She smiles.
“One of my older brothers tried to teach me to juggle when he was still at home. He wasn’t very good at teaching and I wasn’t any good at learning from him, but the interest in juggling stuck with me. I ended up teaching myself.”
“By watching others?”
“Yes and no. I mean obviously I’d seen others juggle otherwise I’d never have known what it was, but mostly it was just knowing that juggling was a thing. I never really watched to see how they did their tricks. I just concentrated on the end result. Then I spent hours and days practicing. Over and over. Juggling’s mostly about dropping balls until you don’t.”
“So, you’re OK with failure?”
“No. Not at all.” She reaches up with both hands to reset and tighten her hair. I take the moment to glance at her cleavage. The next thing she says sounds like a hint to me, so I make some real obvious eye contact. “I’m OK with dropping balls.”
After I’m certain the amount of eye contact has erased the earlier—and brief—transgression I say, “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Dropping a ball isn’t failure. It’s part of juggling. Good jugglers practice to avoid that part. What I’m saying is that I like to learn by practice.” Her eyes drift upward into a memory I suppose. “Lots.”
“How open are you to new ideas and information?”
“I am as open as the next person I suppose. I’m not locked into one way of thinking like a witch or monk or someone like that, if that’s what you mean.”
“It’s not what I mean, but that’s fine.” I go off the agenda. “What’s wrong with witches and monks?”
“What isn’t?” She laughs to herself and I smile in false conspiracy because she has a dagger and all I have is this notebook and pencil. I stay silent to force her to fill the void with an explanantion. “Well, it’s just that. Witches, for sure, and monks, probably, ony have one way of thinking. Their way. To them the rest of us are tolerable but…confused. I don’t much like being told my opinions are sweet but ultimately misguided.”
“Fair enough. You mentioned an older brother earlier. As I understand, you have seven brothers and one sister. And you’re the youngest. Do you think that’s where you developed your sensibilities?”
“Your feeling that you opinion matters. I assume as the youngest you fought for your place at the table so to speak.”
“First, I’ve got eight brothers and a sister. There are ten of us. I’m the youngest. Morgan’s in the middle of the boys almost. I suspect I did fight for my parents attention, but with a large family there is plenty of attention to go around when everyone’s older than you. My parents made certain that when they couldn’t be there that someone was.” She pauses. “I think that’s how it was with all of them not just me. Number one watched out for two and three. Three watched out for four and five. Something like that.”
855 words on day 591