The Page a Day Writers Group

Show yourself!

Posted on: December 27, 2009

Friday is my day to post and I am woefully behind. I’ll blame it on the holiday haze. Now that the big day has passed and I’m looking forward to seven more days of vacation, hallelujah, I can start to catch up and get back to work on what really matters–storytelling.

As I write that, I’m again reminded that storytelling can be a pejorative meaning “to lie.” “Don’t tell stories,” I remember being warned as a child when my version of the truth was in doubt. Sometimes that pops into mind, especially when I’m manipulating and molding real-world situations into fantasy. Am I telling stories? Well, yes, I am, and getting paid for it, too, so there! Like a good lie, a good story is stronger and more believable when it incorporates as much truth as is possible without revealing a much less glamorous or interesting reality.

But being a glib, silver-tongued devil is not my topic for today, no. I’ve been quite vexed by a particular character’s refusal to show himself to me. This hardly ever happens. In fact, I can only recall a similar difficulty with the main character from my first novel “Flesh Hell” (distinction: first novel (unpublished/self-published) vs “First Novel” (published)). Joely was incredibly slippery and truculent. It took a lot of meditative visualization to get a fix on her, but once I did, she rooted quickly and blossomed like a strong, flowering tree.

Bodkin, you old devil. What are you hiding? I just want him to hold still long enough to study his face, but he’s pixellated himself into anonymity. Bodkin is Matuk the Collector’s former assistant, with designs of his own. Think of a devious, deceptive Benson. Robert Guillaume giving us his best evil I-will-take-over-the-world cackle. Mwa ha ha ha! I was getting quite annoyed with him. Everytime I tried to describe Bodkin, I summoned an image of Alan Rickman in his Severus p costume. No, that would not do. Leonid Brezhnev got thrown in and stirred around a bit. Bodkin looks like a Yashimi diplomat, I thought. Apparently, Yashimi diplomats bear a striking resemblance to the former Communist leader. No, no, that wasn’t it. Was he tall, short, or somewhere in between? I began examining men on the street. Was his skin florid or sallow? Did he have a hunch, a gimpy leg, palsy? Was he strong? Talkative or quiet? Did he wear a particular fellow’s air of insignificance and neglect, or was he full of self-importance?

The more I pondered, the elusive he became. I could not describe him and stopped trying. I have read books where characters are never physically described, their every intimate detail left to the reader’s imagination. But that’s not my way. Finally, I let it go and trusted that it would work itself out. Then while writing about him, I typed something about “the inscrutable Bodkin, who had a face like a brick” and that was it. Maybe that’s all we need to know. I don’t really like him well enough to want to get to know him much better, to investigate how many dental fillings he has and start identifying moles and birth marks. Clearly, he is meant to be nondescript and pedestrian, which better serves his purpose. He is one of those people best described by his actions, rather than his looks, something which can be said for all of us.

Kirsten Imani Kasai

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2 Responses to "Show yourself!"

Fun post, Kirsten. I’m so impressed that you relentlessly keep up your writing and love the attention you give to each character.

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Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!

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