I am not easily star struck. Having lived in both Los Angeles and New York, I’ve seen my share of celebrities (usually because I was sliding a plate of Eggs Benedict in front of them—Yes, card-carrying ex-waitress/actress here!). But whenever anyone asks what celebrity had me truly seeing stars, one experience always comes to mind.
It was 1996 and Clive Barker was on tour for his novel Sacrament and scheduled to appear at one of Barnes and Noble’s NYC locations for a signing.
Now I had always considered Mr. Barker a fascinating creative force, but it was only after I watched a feature on him and his work habits, that I fell hard for the man. He did it all! He was a fine artist, a prolific writer, he made films. He had so many ideas, so much creative energy flowing—I was in awe and quite smitten. So when I learned he was coming to sign his new novel, I got in line.
Not surprisingly, that line was LONG. (Apparently, I was not the only person to be crushing on Mr. Barker.) But since it was my first signing, I was grateful for my competition. As we all shuffled and waited, shuffled and waited, I watched my predecessors, trying to learn from their obvious expertise. I would have to have an introductory line, right? Something chatty prepared, yes? I mean, come on! I’d come all this way, for God’s sake. I wasn’t just going to stand there like a blubbering, blushing idiot, was I?
Turns out, I was. As soon as my turn arrived and I stepped up to the table, my brilliant line (you know, the one I’d had over an hour of waiting time to come up with) burst forth in all its graceless glory:
“I’ve never read one of your books but I really love your films.”
At once my skin flushed scarlet with shame. Had I really said that? At a book signing?! Idiot!
I sucked in a rueful breath and steeled myself for the condemning glare. But ever the gentleman, Mr. Barker said simply, and so pleasantly: “Well, then I think this will be a wonderful novel to introduce you to my work.”
Oh, but wait. There’s more.
He then scooped up a book from the pile beside him and opened it to the title page. Spine gently flattened, pen poised, he asked, “And who should I make this out to?”
“Erika,” I said. (Grateful it was a question I could answer.)
“Now is that Erika with a C or with a K?” he asked.
Oh, wow. Now anyone who has a name with multiple spellings will tell you that we are used to misspellings and when we say we don’t care, well, we really don’t—but that said, to be asked is always appreciated. (Especially by a man who could have written my name with a C, a K and an extra I and I’d still have come away glowing.)
So, heart pounding with pleasure and gratitude, I smiled and said, “K.”
And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Mr. Barker looked up, leveled his gaze with mine, smiled and said in a deep, smooth voice that still sends goose bumps (the good kind) down my spine when I recall it:
“With a K. How exotic.”
Now don’t ask me what happened next. I know that I took the book from him and I know I paid for it (see above photo) and I know I somehow even managed to get myself back on the subway. But beyond that, it’s a blur.
A delicious, toe-curling blur.
So thank you, Mr. Barker, for what are perhaps the two sexiest words a man has ever said to me (with the exception of my husband, of course, who can curl my toes with half that.)
From here on out, feel free to call me Exotic Erika.
It really does have a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
# # # #
What writer would you all love to sign your book and/or curl your toes?
This week’s topic is Fan Fare – about meeting an idolized author at a signing. Well, not a lot of authors come to these parts, so my experiences at signings are kind of few and far between. That said, a few years back, I went to a conference in New York hosted by Backspace. For anyone who doesn’t know, Backspace is a great resource for writers and I think the greatest part of being a member is the message board, which is filled with great information and is frequented by writers at all stages of their careers. I’d been an active member on the board for a while, so I ‘knew’ some of the writers who would also be going to the conference, but I’d never met any of them in person.
But I was determined to go and network and pack as much learning and schmoozing as I could into the three days that I was there.
So before I went, I heard about a group signing that was going on at the legendary Books of Wonder store and since members of Backspace would be there, of course I went to support fellow authors and see them in action. Being the shy person that I am, I sat in the back and watched as the five authors in turn read and/or spoke about their books. After that, the authors started signing books, so I ran off to collect and buy their books and get in line. I was SO nervous. I really was. I don’t know why—wait—yes, I do. Because I’m shy and even though I’d interacted with two of these authors online, they were still AUTHORS! PUBLISHED authors who got up in front of people and spoke about their books (something I’m still as in awe of as much as that they wrote the books in the first place). You should know by now that I’m not great in public and I don’t relish meeting strangers, and I really am not the kind of person who thrives in ‘small talk’ situations, so yeah, I was nervous. Which I’m sure meant I had to pee, which would have made me even more nervous. Yikes.
But I was determined, and if anything has gotten me anywhere in this life, it’s that I’m determined and refuse to let my fears stop me from doing anything (except skydiving, but I think that’s prudent, don’t you?) so I stood in line to see Lisa McMann, NYT Bestseller, and have her sign my book and tell her who I was and remind her how we’d joked around on the message board.
And you know what? She actually seemed happy to see me! She thanked me for coming to the event and signed my book and smiled and was genuine. Wow, she was SO nice! I didn’t want to take up her time, so then I moved over to Linda Gerber’s line. And you know what? She was so nice, too! Don’t get me wrong, I never expected these authors to be anything less than nice, but maybe I expected them to be less…human? Genuine? I don’t know. Any sort of pedestal that I put them on was completely my doing, but when I met the humans sitting there, graciously signing books, I saw them as what they really are—normal people just like me.
I also met Melissa Walker that night and then the three authors (the other two authors, who I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember, went their separate ways after the signing, I believe) came to the pre-conference party at the famous Algonquin Hotel where a huge assembly of like-minded people* met and talked (and drank). I still count it among one of the best nights of my life. Because when you meet kindred spirits that may just be further along in their careers than you are, it’s a reminder that we’re all alike and everyone started somewhere and we all have the same passion. I’m also convinced that writers (my fellow Debs, included!) are among the most supportive groups of people out there and that night, I learned it first-hand7. I am so glad I went to that signing and conference, because although I was nervous and it took me out of my comfort zone, I met great people there, and now I don’t just call them published authors anymore, I also call them friends**.
*also including Jenny Gardiner (past Deb), Danielle Younge-Ullman (also past Deb, who I already knew from our little crit group back home), Deb Friend A.S. King, Catherine DiCairano, Carolyn Burns Bass and tons of other amazing people.
**Except for the guy who decided to help himself to my very expensive cheese plate while I was otherwise occupied, talking to awesome writer people. Dude, that was my cheese—not cool.
From the 2012 Debs…
Deb Erika was very excited to see a preliminary cover for her next novel, THE MERMAID COLLECTOR, last week. She’s looking forward to sharing the finished one soon!
Deb Rachel‘s MWF SEEKING BFF made the New York Times extended bestseller list!
Past Deb News
Deb Eileen is pleased to announce the released of her latest book for adults, DO OR DI: A laugh out loud romantic comedy, from the author of Unpredictable and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Erin Callighan has given up on the idea of a fairy tale romance. Having dated her own version of the Seven Dwarves (including Grumpy and Sleepy), she’s letting go of the idea of Prince Charming and settling for Prince Good Enough. Erin’s focused on reaching her dream of having her own talk radio show, even if it means having to temporarily co-host with the annoying “Voice of Seattle”, Colin Stewart. To score points with her station manager, she agrees to be a part of the Positive Partnerships program that matches her with Diana, a troubled pre-teen who swears she’s channeling the spirit of the late Princess Diana. She’s supposed to be mentoring Diana, but the channeled princess has a lot to teach Erin about love and happily ever after endings. You can find it here: A laugh out loud romantic comedy, from the author of Unpredictable and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Erin Callighan has given up on the idea of a fairy tale romance. Having dated her own version of the Seven Dwarves (including Grumpy and Sleepy), she’s letting go of the idea of Prince Charming and settling for Prince Good Enough. Erin’s focused on reaching her dream of having her own talk radio show, even if it means having to temporarily co-host with the annoying “Voice of Seattle”, Colin Stewart. To score points with her station manager, she agrees to be a part of the Positive Partnerships program that matches her with Diana, a troubled pre-teen who swears she’s channeling the spirit of the late Princess Diana. She’s supposed to be mentoring Diana, but the channeled princess has a lot to teach Erin about love and happily ever after endings.
You can buy DO OR DI from Amazon or Smashwords.
Deb Eleanor donated a signed copy of THE WEIRD SISTERS for Atlanta VisionWalk. Yay, Eleanor! What a great prize for a wonderful cause! Read more here!
Deb Kristina gave a look at the advance copies of her upcoming novel KEEPSAKE (out 6/26)!
Deb Dish – Since we’ve been talking characters this week, what is one character (literary or otherwise) that you wish you’d come up with first?
Deb Joanne -I’m going to cheat and pick two from opposite ends of the spectrum – Anne Shirley (surprise, surprise, I know) and Hannibal Lecter. They are both amazing examples of characters–Anne is so human and lovable with flaws that make her even more so and Hannibal is so flawed and broken that we can’t help but loathe him, but at the same time, he is so interesting and complex that we can’t take our eyes off him (probably a good thing, since people who turn their backs on him end up served with fava beans and a nice Chianti).
Deb Erika Oh, there are many. But I second Anne with an E Shirley. I think Ebeneezer Scrooge is genius, and what woman writer doesn’t wish she’d been the one to write Jo March? Or Atticus Finch. I mean, the name alone!
Deb Linda Gosh, so very many! If I had to narrow it down to just one, I’d have to go with Harry Potter. Because he’s, yanno, Harry freakin’ Potter. The cross-generational appeal of Harry is an amazing thing to behold. Love him!
Deb Rachel Owen Meany of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read. Not sure if I could have ever come up with such an amazing, surprising, brilliant protagonist… but man, if I had, it would have been awesome.
We are so excited to welcome Sarah McCoy to the dance floor today!
Sarah is the author of the novels, The Baker’s Daughter and The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico. She has taught at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She currently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas, where she is working on her third novel. You can find out more about Sarah on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Her second novel, The Baker’s Daughter, has just been released from Crown. Take a taste of some of the rave reviews:
“A beautiful, heart-breaking gem of a novel written just the way I like them, with the past coming back to haunt the present, endearing heroines and a sunny, hopeful ending. You’ll wolf it up in one delicious gulp.”
–Tatiana de Rosnay, international bestselling author of Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept
“The Baker’s Daughter was a constant warm companion to me during cross-country travels, a novel I looked forward to returning to night after night. The rare book in which the modern-day story is as compelling as the wartime tale it contains, The Baker’s Daughter offers a look at Nazi Germany through the lens of the immigration issues of our own time. El Paso, TX and Garmisch, Germany make for an unexpected harmony of flavors.”
– Jenna Blum, international bestselling author of The Stormchasers and Those Who Save Us
“A sensitive, multilayered novel, this is a moving examination of the effect war and the politics of exclusion, have on the human heart.”
–Amanda Hodgkinson, New York Times bestselling author of 22 Brittania Road
And here’s more about The Baker’s Daughter: In 1945, Elsie Schmidt was a naive teenager, as eager for her first sip of champagne as she was for her first kiss. She and her family have been protected from the worst of the terror and desperation overtaking her country by a high-ranking Nazi who wishes to marry her. So when an escaped Jewish boy arrives on Elsie’s doorstep in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, Elsie understands that opening the door would put all she loves in danger.
Sixty years later, in El Paso, Texas, Reba Adams is trying to file a feel-good Christmas piece for the local magazine. Reba is perpetually on the run from memories of a turbulent childhood, but she’s been in El Paso long enough to get a full-time job and a fiancé, Riki Chavez. Riki, an agent with the U.S. Border Patrol, finds comfort in strict rules and regulations, whereas Reba feels that lines can often be blurred.
Reba’s latest assignment has brought her to the shop of an elderly baker across town. The interview should take a few hours at most, but the owner of Elsie’s German Bakery is no easy subject. Reba finds herself returning to the bakery again and again, anxious to find the heart of the story. For Elsie, Reba’s questions are a stinging reminder of darker times: her life in Germany during that last bleak year of WWII. And as Elsie, Reba, and Riki’s lives become more intertwined, all are forced to confront the uncomfortable truths of the past and seek out the courage to forgive.
Not only has Sarah agreed to take our Deb Interview, but she’s even answered a BONUS question! So without further ado…
1. Who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters?
My favorite childhood fictional character is Anne Shirley from L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I was completely smitten with her from the first page. She was my literary kindred. Like Anne, I had auburn hair when I was a babe and something of a fiery temper to boot. My dad was in the Army throughout my childhood so I moved a lot and often felt like an orphan in spirit. Sure, I had my family with me, but I was always saying goodbye to friends and places. I vividly remember thinking Anne’s window friend Katie Morris was a brilliant idea, but then I also understood that window people were make-believe. So I settled for Anne. Literary characters are much more realistic, you know. I don’t have any sisters either so I completely empathized with Anne’s search for a bosom friend. And similar to Anne, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
2. What time of day do you love best?
Anytime after noon. Not one atom in my body is a morning person. It repels the dawn in the form of a wicked headache. Yes, perhaps that’s my caffeine addiction more than the sunlight, but the morning takes the blame.
Living in El Paso, I’ve come to adore sunset. Whatever time that falls. My writing office has a window looking out to the Franklin Mountains directly east. So when the sun sets in the west, behind my house, it butters the mountains a magnificent golden red. The contrast between the rock and the night sky is stark and breathtaking. No matter how busy I am, I stop to stare. It only lasts a minute or two before the sun falls away. It reminds me to lift my head and breathe. It reminds me that no matter what’s going on today, tomorrow the sun and sky and mountains will be there, performing the same wondrous spectacle.
3. Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.
I have superhuman olfactory powers. At least that’s what my husband tells me. I can smell things he swears no other human being on earth would typically be able to smell: a burning electrical wire in some hidden wall crook; lavender miles away; bad breath across a room; the flavor of someone’s fruit gum in a crowded subway; a barbecue three cul-de-sacs down; mouthwash hours after it’s been swished and spit; a single burnt hair in the blow-dryer; baked muffins from days earlier; and the list goes on. My husband finds this sniffing power somewhat maddening. I suppose you can only hear, “What’s that smell?” so many times before it nettles the brain.
4. Share something that’s always guaranteed to make you laugh.
An Irish, Scottish, Aussie, or English accent. My husband does them all to perfection and I titter like a schoolgirl every time. He could be cursing me to high heaven or reading the Yellow Pages, it wouldn’t matter; I’d laugh. I have a latent crush on the entire British Isles population. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, all my husband need do is say something—anything—in one of those accents, and I’m a gonner. Maybe it’s the Mc in me. Ay, lassie, ‘tis possible.
5. If you were an animal, which animal would you be, and why?
I’m going to share something now that only my mom and my unlucky freshman-year college poetry class have ever heard. We were asked this very question and instructed to write our answer in poem form, which we then read in front of the class. I was eighteen at the time, so I have no idea what I might’ve been imbibing the night before completing this assignment. (Too much Volt Cola is what I’m implying. Ahem.) Nonetheless, my mom still brings it up for a good laugh. I only share it because I know it’ll stay between us and our sister debs
I am a Skunk by Sarah McCoy
I am a skunk
Yes, a skunk indeed
One of the highest skunk breeding, if you please
I, unlike most,
Have much room to boast:
I spend days amongst the flowers of life
Living and breathing with hardly a strife.
I can be sweet and kind as a new baby kitten.
I fall in love and even find myself smitten.
And like my dear Uncle Sir Pepe Lepeu,
Some say I’m constant and loveable too.
I am patient when the time calls to contend,
But don’t confuse me with Bambie’s best friend.
I am my own persona, independent, it’s true,
And the stripe down my back might give you a clue.
But don’t mistake it with a cowardice mark
I am fearless, the courage of the strongest of heart.
The secret I keep gives no need to fear,
Unless you have made some inappropriate smear.
Or battled my temper or tested my hate.
Or trampled my breeding or lessened my faith.
Or played with my fears or made some remark
Of simple vulgarity and thus lit the spark.
For then I’d unleash the powers within
And move without thinking in one simple spin.
In moments to your unsuspecting dismay
I’d release the pressure and markedly… spray
A regiment of opinions and viewpoints alike,
But only on those who are looking to fight.
My appearance is kitten-like, as sweet as a cat,
But don’t confuse me, I am always mismatched.
The difference is simple and quite easy to catch.
I am a skunk.
So remember that.
(Now, if someone read that with a cockney accent, I might just laugh myself to a heart attack.)
Bonus Question! 6. What’s your next big thing? (new book, new project, etc.)
The Baker’s Daughter is my current “big thing.” Each book is like having a baby. It requires your undivided attention, and she’ll have it for as long as she wants. Meanwhile, I’m a couple hundred pages into writing my third novel. It’s completely different from my first two novels. The story unfolds through the alternating perspectives of a husband and wife. It’s a story about parenthood—about the definitions of mother and father. I like to challenge myself in each novel. I never want to write the same plot, characters, or narrative structure twice. For me, writing books is a discovery of new worlds, and I love nothing better than putting on a Lewis-&-Clark hat and being an explorer of my fictional landscapes.
* * * *
Thank you so much for visiting us today, Sarah! And for yet another bonus, Sarah is offering to give away a copy of The Baker’s Daughter to one lucky commenter so let’s get chatting!
. . . might smell as sweet, but it still wouldn’t be a freaking rose, now would it?
Yeah, you could say names are important to me. I can’t really get to know one of my characters until I know her (or his) name. Once I know it, the rest seems to flow into place.
Names usually come to me first. My process tends to go something like this:
Name –> Character (personality and appearance) –> Plot seed –> Wild seat-of-my-pants ride –> First draft done.
Now, I’m not saying things don’t change with the rewrites, because they do. But if the name of a major character is one of the things I change, then a whole lot of other changes to the character go with it. They become, fundamentally, a different person to me. I changed the name of a minor character in In a Fix at the suggestion of my editor (because she had a point I happened to agree with), and the only way I managed it was to do a blanket search and replace to the finished book. Took me forever to come up with an acceptable name that didn’t warp the whole character out of shape for me. If I’d had to change the name of a major character . . . well, it would have wound up being a different book entirely.
(BTW, my name weirdness doesn’t apply only to my characters. When our son was born, TG and I took one look at him, talked to him a little bit, and both decided he was not the name we had picked out for him. So we decided on a new one, right there in the delivery room. One that fit him. He seems happy with it.)
The main character of In a Fix is Ciel Halligan. The name definitely came first for her—I saw it on a license plate while I was riding down the Fairfax County Parkway. (Vanity plates are popular in northern Virginia.) As soon as I saw that plate, I knew who she was. She was there, in my head, as if she’d been there all along, waiting in the wings for her cue to step on stage.
Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t see this license plate instead:
[If that's a bit obscure, try looking at it upside down. *grin*]
Ciel’s story came to me in a first person POV, but it never felt like it was “me” talking. She has always been herself, sharing her story with me gradually as we went along.
Have you ever met someone in real life who you, from the get-go, felt like you’d known forever? Maybe not all the details (unless you’re psychic), but in your gut knew who they were? That’s how it was for me when Ciel popped into my head. I liked her at once, and knew I had to listen to her. Eventually, Ciel told me about some of her friends (and her not-so-friends). They all came equipped with names, which I didn’t learn until Ciel mentioned them.
Yeah, yeah. I know that sounds like a woo-woo load of bullshite. Trust me, I really do. And I’m not even into crystals or astrology, or anything else remotely woo-woo, either. That’s just the way my subconscious works.
I guess this rambling post is by way of saying I don’t really build characters, at least not consciously. They just are. And, when I’m lucky, I discover them.*
Okay, admit it. You think I’m crazy. It’s okay, I can take it.
*I read a blog post once (sorry, can’t remember which blog, because I never went back to it) where the writer went off on a rant about how writers who “claim” to use what is basically the method I describe above are doing a huge disservice to writers in general by making it seem like we’re “touched by the muse,” and not really working. That “real” writers plan, and plot, and outline, and figure out every tiny detail, and (near as I can tell) impose their will on the paper people they use to hold their stories together.
Naturally, I don’t agree–just because it feels, to me, like I’m discovering characters instead of building them doesn’t mean I’m not working damn hard at what I do. I don’t claim it’s the only way, or even the best way, to write characters. Only that it’s my way.
So, are you a builder or a discoverer? Or maybe a mixture of both?
Have you had any woo-woo moments in real life?
Finally, did you figure out the license plate?
When writing memoir, the issue of creating characters is tricky. These are real people, after all, so you have a responsibility to represent your “characters” honestly. Framing my husband or best friends as characters in a book rather than living, breathing people, was weird. And yet, as much as one can try (perhaps successfully) to translate real-life contacts into three dimensional beings on a page, it’s virtually impossible not to cast people in a role.
In MWF Seeking BFF, I’m the excited, sometimes awkward, often neurotic, hopefully friendly one. My husband is the lovable and supportive guy’s guy. Those adjectives most certainly describe us each in real life. But are also times when I’m tired and shy, or when I’m grumpy and standoffish. My husband is, on the very rare occasion, less than the perfect supporter. (Remember when I asked for the Jillian Michaels Wii game for Christmas? You told me it was stupid. Unsupportive! The fact that I’ve still never used it is irrelevant.)
To compress a full life into the pages between covers can be tricky business. Often memoir writers have no choice but to embrace the traits that represent the essence of a person, even if they aren’t the full picture.
One of my literary role models, AJ Jacobs, talks about this building of non-fiction characters in his book My Life As An Experiment (my apologies to those of you who’ve already seen this quote in the comments of this blog, but it was totally relevant to Deb Linda’s post too!):
“Calvin Trillin, in his wonderful tribute to his late wife Alice, said that every writer portrays his or her family somewhere on the spectrum between sitcom and Lifetime movie. Julie and mine is firmly in the sitcom genre. She’s the sensible one, the straight man to my wacky schemes. She makes the realistic decisions, I do what she says.
Our real marriage is like the one portrayed in my books, and yet it isn’t. I overrepresent the conflict, for one thing. It’s not that the conflict doesn’t exist. The fights happen. But I don’t write about the hours of peaceful, contented coexistence.”
Who wants to read about hours of peaceful coexistence anyway?
Bottom line: When turning real-life people into book characters, and real-life relationships into book relationships, you need to represent them honestly and accurately, while simultaneously paring them down to their core.
And then you just hope those real-life people don’t get real-life mad.
Who out there has represented real-life people in their work? Does the fact they exist in real-life make it harder or easier to write them?
Like most writers, I don’t know where characters begin. A moment in passing, a stranger on the train, a half-remembered story, a what if — characters begin as whispers and shadows, best seen peripherally. Time passes, and you do your best to show up every day, hang out for a few minutes or a few hours, and begin to tease out their stories. I don’t know of any way to do this part other than dreaming and listening and writing. I don’t think there’s a shortcut.
Once you have them on the page, though, pinned down in sentences and paragraphs, you can begin to think analytically about who you’re working with. (My students taught me the concept of a “zero draft” — such an early draft that it hardly counts, so it doesn’t matter if you make huge mistakes or go off on wild tangents or get distracted by unimportant details or subplots — and now my whole workshop has adopted the idea.)
I’ve written before about making sure characters have wants and needs, and this is where I start when I’m moving from zero to first draft. What does my character want? What is her goal? What does she desire? And what’s her big flaw, her psychic and emotional blindspot, the thing that (we hope) will improve at least slightly as she moves toward achieving her goal? How is she feeling as she gets closer to or farther from her goal? How will she deal when people challenge her or get in her way?
And once I know all that, everything else is character building.
Every character comes from somewhere, and every character has a prism of assumptions — cultural, regional, religious, political, familial, social — and emotions through which she views the world. Her assumptions shape the way she sees, how she makes her metaphors, how she speaks, how she reacts, what (and who) she admires, what she loves. Her emotions determine the things she notices and how she processes.
For instance, take two women at a small-town fair. One is in her late seventies, and she’s there because she wants to revisit the place she met her late husband. Her joints hurt, she’s a little cranky, and she grew up in a time when children were taught to be seen and not heard. The way she describes the fair will be filtered through her prism: it is loud and garish, it’s not what it used to be, it’s shabby and small where it used to be magnificent, it’s too hot, it’s vulgar, it’s lonely. Everything she describes, every interaction she has, and every emotional reaction she has reveals her character, because everything she says and notices is filtered through her unique worldview.
The other woman is fourteen, just a girl, who’s spent the summer between eighth and ninth grade selling produce at a roadside farmstand. She’s tan and strong and friendly, with enough cash in her pocket to ride every single ride. For her, the fair is full of possibility: it’s the social scene of the summer, the one time all summer that the teens of the town are all in the same place at the same time. She’s changed, and she can’t wait to see if anyone notices. To her, the hum of the crowd is intoxicating, and in it she hears all the conversations she might have, with newly-interesting boys who never noticed her before. The rides look thrilling and the lights enticing. And because she’s spent the summer hauling produce, she compares the unfamiliar colors and shapes of the fair to the familiar ones of the vegetables. The funhouse is the purplish black of a ripe Black Bell eggplant, and the sweaty tendrils of her hair stick to her face like corn silk.
Everything they notice, everything they say, the way they move and how they interact with the setting — it all reveals character.
With each draft, we have to pay close attention to these details, because often they reveal more about our characters than we know ourselves. And if done well, all these tiny details, many of which will go virtually unnoticed by readers, add up to a greater whole — a living, breathing, complicated person with a history and a future, someone who will live on in your reader’s mind long after he finishes your book.