Monday, May 12, 2008

Meeting Rose

Posted by Lisa Marnell

Last week, I shared my story in pictures with you. In order to help me visualize the New Hampshire setting where my novel takes place, I googled images of snow and mountains, ski hills and dilapidated houses. I printed the photos and taped them to the wall in my study. Now when I write, I tell my family I'm going to New Hampshire. They understand - thanks for the idea, Lynne!

I started writing this YA novel almost two years ago. It started from a seed, a snippet in time that happened years ago. I was twelve. It was a rainy New Hampshire day, and we wouldn't be water skiing on Lake Winnepasaukee that afternoon. My dad dropped us, my sister, brother, and neighbors, Cathy and Scott at a local bowling alley. He gave us money for lanes and shoes, snacks and drinks, and promised he'd be back in a couple hours to pick us up. It was the stringy-haired girl at the bowling alley that I remember; she's the detail that had an impact on me that day.

She had no money. No one bought her snacks. Her dad was young - late twenties maybe? - and the woman he was with wasn't her mom. Her mom would have commented on her bowling, or at least nagged her to tie back her stringy black hair. That girl was as interested in me as I was in her. The moment that is branded in my mind is the way way she stared as I sipped Coke from the cup my brother delivered to me. No one bought that girl a Coke. And I used two straws!

The protagonist in my work in progress is Rose, the name I gave that girl in the bowling alley. I wrote a full first draft of this novel last year and shared it with our writers' group. They complimented my setting, my use of language in places, but the story, the entire story wasn't working. I scrapped it, for the most part, and started again. Part of the problem was that Rose's story wasn't her own. The bigger problem was that I didn't know Rose. Who was Rose?

I used character sheets at the start of this novel. You know, the lists of a character's physical traits, habits, history, secret longings. They helped, to some extent, but creating a character is not the same as meeting one. It took time to get to know Rose. At this point in this novel, I know her, better. I could fill out a character sheet now for her and have answers for most of the questions.

Now, I'm close to completing a new first draft. The story is RADICALLY different than it was. In keeping with my strategy of using pictures to help me immerse myself in my fiction, I found Rose's picture - another google search. Meet my Rose. She's smart, and kind, sad and frustrated. She's lovely, really, and has a story to tell.


Carleen Brice said...

What a great pic!

I do the same thing. I have a cork board next to my desk with pictures from magazines and newspaper clippings that inspire me about my wip.

Larramie said...

Rose has lived within you such a long time, Lisa, that maybe -- unconsciously -- you didn't want to know her entire story.

And, yes, she's hauntingly beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I do this too. Along with my manuscript notes I keep a folder of pictures. It's funny, though, how I'm not ready to search for those pictures, or sometimes happen upon them without thought, until I reach a certain point in the work. Then, they add a new dimension to my characters, place.

Lisa said...

It's funny that this picture looks more or less exactly as I'd imagined her from the times you'd talked about Rose before. Let me know if you have any questions. I think I might have been Rose! My Uncle Phil used to describe me as looking like "a rag, a bone and a hank of hair". It's yours if you like :)

Lisa Marnell said...

Thanks Colleen and Larramie - the picture seemed to capture my Rose in one way, but also turn her into her own person, too!

Joanne - the lock of hair, colored an orange it seems HAS addede a new dimension to Rose. Now I know she's real.

Lisa, I love that description - it fits. I may indeed borrow it!


Kate said...

I love the idea of using pictures from magazines, google, anywhere, to get to know the setting and characters in one's story. I am currently embarking on my first young adult book and I am having trouble getting to know my protagonist--more importantly , keeping her from getting too close to becoming a description of my younger self. She definitely has a story to tell, but I really think pictures would help her come to life. What a great idea! I think it is amazing when characters "live" inside you for years, pushing you to write their story. I have been trying to develop my protagonist, Iris, for years as well. Hopefully now I can get to know her a bit better. Thanks for that suggestion!