Thursday, March 19, 2009

"And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anais Nin

Officer, that quotation is following me. Not that I mind. It's beautiful. It's touching. I saw it first at mouse medicine , then at The Truth as I Know It, which I just visited for the first time. I am particularly drawn to the quote because I'm old, and I'm just now finally coming out of the closet where I've kept my pen and ink all these years. Not that I've done anything so brave as to submit my poems to anybody, but I'm getting there, and in the meantime, I'm engaging in this extended TMI exercise online. For me, that's more than half the battle.

When I reported that I had followed Alexandra Sokoloff's advice and imagined famous actors in the roles I wanted to fill, Willow made an intriguing suggestion. She said "You can match the zodiac sign of the actor up with the personality of your character!" It was great advice, and I am grateful, but I laughed when I read it, because I knew it was Way Too Late. I had already lost control.

I had brought in my dream team of actors, settled them comfortably all in a row, on the very long casting couch in my head, and assigned them their parts. As I said the other day, that seemed to be a great solution to the problem of creating characters. But there was more to it than that. What Alexandra hadn't told me (and in fairness, I hadn't thought to ask) was that as soon as the actors put on their name tags, they would use the force of their, well, their characters, to affect - nay, to control the behaviour of the people they were meant to portray.

Take Hugh, for example. My central character is a woman named Bridget, and Hugh is Bridget's husband. He is supposed to be a hell of a nice guy, but rather weak, ineffectual, and not very supportive. In a fit of sentimentality, I cast John Cusack in the role. I like John Cusack, and I cast him because I wanted "a hell of a nice guy". Wrong decision. No sooner had I pasted a picture of John above my description of Hugh, than I imagined a scene in which Bridget went a bit postal, and instead of falling to pieces, Hugh (John) put his arms around her, waited patiently while her breathing slowed, and then said softly, "It's okay, Bridget. Everything will be fine. We'll get through this together," or something equally comforting.


"John, John, John," I protested. " I mean, Hugh, Hugh, Hugh. You're not supposed to be strong and dependable, just nice, and kind of namby-pamby. This is when you remember that you have an important meeting, and you flee the scene, because you can't deal with Bridget's drama."

"Ah, Sandra," he replied, gazing soulfully into my eyes, "If you didn't want me to be me, why did you cast me? I think you're a little conflicted. Maybe we should talk this out."

So now I'm on the horns of a dilemma. Do I fire John for insubordination, which he richly deserves, or do I rethink Hugh, who isn't nearly as attractive? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, I'll write "He should have been a Pisces!" in huge red letters on my whiteboard, as a reminder for the next time.


John Hayes said...

Hi Sandra:

I must say I never quite "got" novel writing-- that's Eberle's balliwick. But I do want to say that I'm very happy for you setting yourself these goals & working toward them. I actually took up the guitar a lot later in life than most folks realize & have gotten to be a pretty fair country player thru perserverance & always wanting to work to improve. You're a good writer as witness this blog & I'm sure those skills will/do translate into your other writing.

Best luck with this!

Sandra Leigh said...

Thank you for the compliment, John. I forget now which blog I was reading last night - I wandered pretty far afield! - but somebody was saying we should keep track of every compliment we receive, tack it up to the wall by the computer, and refer to it frequently, to overcome those feelings of inadequacy that attack all too often.

And no, I didn't realize that you had taken up the guitar 'later in life' - it doesn't show. I truly enjoy listening to you play.

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