Friday, January 8, 2010

A Character without a Story

It's been said many times, many ways that inspiration comes in different forms. I have watched television shows and wondered how the story might have changed if the characters were gay, or what if a character followed up on his/her threat to leave. I have read classics and thought the same thing; hmmmm, Romeo and Julius? My first unfinished novel was inspired by a dream I had.

I teach. My students have inspired me. I recall working on my first novel, it was without title at that point, a work in progress. (It still is in progress three years later.) I walked over to help a student, and (I kid you not) it felt like a marble rolled from the back of my head dropped into my frontal lobes and the title just came to me. Kind of like that marble-in-a-maze game that sits on some tables in restaurants to help you pass the time while you wait for your order.

One of my students this year has inspired me again. Just before Winter Break, we saw a play at school. It was written just for kids, kind of a generic "Santa saves Christmas" with the strange assortment of characters at the North Pole you don't find anywhere else but these contrived stories. Still, for the kids it was cute. As is custom, upon returning to the classroom, I asked the students to write a thank you letter. After all, these people came and put on their play for free. Thank you notes were obligatory, (probably to be used as evidence in renewing their grant, or something like that.)

Anyway, back to the notes. I had the students, write their own rough draft, and I would help them edit and revise it. My students come from an English-as-a-Second-Language background. It may be their first language, but there may also be a second language at home. This said, I am treated to some very creative spelling when my students write unfamiliar words for the first time.

I was reading one note and came across a unique spelling for one of the characters' titles. She was known only by her title. The student was describing the "Beariness." Images of a large hairy man in a gown, evening gloves and tiara came screaming to mind. As I tried not to laugh at the image in my head, while correcting the spelling, "B-a-r-o-n-e-s-s" the idea of a large hairy man, dressing in drag (and possibly leather, though not necessarily simultaneously) thinking of himself as royalty, is too much not to work on.

As of now, s/he is without a home.

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