Monday, March 9, 2009

Living Our Characters, and Maya Angelou

This gray, wet weather (and now it's trying to snow!) is influencing my blog today; in fact, I tried briefly to pretend it was Saturday and not write my post. A lot of my thoughts are deep in the Strachan novel, and it's hard to pluck myself away from that, to speak of day-to-day things. Like Strachan, I am being influenced by my own writing, living vicariously through my characters. I do shrug it off to watch TV, where a certain amount of concentration is required (but not much), but in all other activities, the character of Celia from Strachan's Attic travels everywhere with me. I'm trying to hang on to her unique, more reserved, voice from the 40s. Like a method actor, I am inside her head a lot through my day, not dismissing her easily for fear of losing her, which would involve "finding" her all over again. I'll get past this, as the book progresses, but right now I am a bit Celia-obsessed.

All fiction, we know, can be somewhat autobiographical. It's almost impossible for our own experiences and beliefs not to thread their way into our characters. Having pointed that out, Celia is loosely based on someone in my family, whose anecdotes when I was a child always enthralled me. She is elderly now, of course, and I see her rarely (we live in separate countries), but she lived much of the life I attribute to Celia. I would interview her, ask her many, many questions, but it would probably be painful, and I don't even know how to admit to her that I am writing this, stealing her story, as it were. She told me some time back that she still loved her young WWII airman as much today as then, and that rarely a day goes by that she doesn't think about him. This was what triggered the novel.

As the book moves forward, as I gain more confidence, I'll approach her, but I haven't quite reached that stage yet.

For my one or two supportive readers, incidentally, I'm happy to provide a link to Chapter Four, and that same link, in turn, will lead to the rest of the chapters as I finish them.

It was International Women's Day yesterday, borne of Russian imperatives generations ago, but pertinent today. I thought I'd show you a piece written by Maya Angelou, which you've undoubtedly seen before, but is worth reproducing here. It's light enough to get you going for the day, without preaching. For the guys looking, I'm sorry, but it won't hurt you to see what women think about.

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...

enough money within her control to move out
and rent a place of her own,
even if she never wants to or needs to...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
something perfect to wear if the employer,
or date of her dreams wants to see her in an hour...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a youth she's content to leave behind...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a past juicy enough that she's looking forward to
retelling it in her old age...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
one friend who always makes her laugh...and one who lets her cry...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a good piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in her family...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
eight matching plates, wine glasses with stems,
and a recipe for a meal
that will make her guests feel honored...

A WOMAN SHOULD HAVE...
a feeling of control over her destiny...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
how to fall in love without losing herself...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
how to quit a job,
break up with a lover,
and confront a friend without
ruining the friendship...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
when to try harder...and when to walk away...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
that she can't change the length of her calves,
the width of her hips, or the nature of her parents...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
that her childhood may not have been perfect...but it's over...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
what she would and wouldn't do for love...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
how to live alone...even if she doesn't like it...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
whom she can trust,
whom she can't,
and why she shouldn't take it personally...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
where to go...
be it to her best friend's kitchen table,
or a charming inn in the woods,
when her soul needs soothing...

EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW...
what she can and can't accomplish in a day...
a month...and a year.

Maya Angelou

2 comments:

Embee said...

I don't have as much time to read all the blogs I want to, but yours today struck a chord as I'm also currently deep in the head of the characters I'm writing. They're haunting me as I sleep, shower, eat, and go about my daily routine. I'm feeling slightly obsessed myself. But like you said, if I stop being obsessed I'll lose the characters and the momentum and have to find them again! It's been hard enough to get in the zone as it is.

Fran said...

Even my cats look at me in a funny way, as if they wonder where I've gone...