Consolidated Characters: 5 People Without Whom My Book Wouldn’t Exist

Loopholes. I love ’em.

In creative writing, we sometimes consolidate several people into one in the interest of not driving the reader crazy with an over-populated cast of characters. I’m doing so here to stretch my five people into many more because I have an inordinate love of finding loopholes. Here are five consolidated characters without whom Girlish wouldn’t exist.

The Advisor: I was talking to a mentor about writing, and he said, “when are you going to stop fucking around and get your MFA?” So I did. That was the beginning. Next was the professor mentioned in last week’s blog, who asked me, “When are you going to stop writing all this boring shit and write about your family?” Apparently I am motivated by people swear a lot, but that makes sense, because I swear a lot. Added into this consolidated character are the other writing instructors who read pages and pages of my drafts and reassured me that my work was not unsalvageable crap and helped me make it better.

The Spouse: This book would not have come into the world as quickly as it did without my significant other. I know, everyone says that. It’s a yawn. But that doesn’t stop it from being true. He’ll read everything I send him and listen to me read chapters aloud, but his one requirement is that I don’t bore him. He also reads comments on my published work for me because I am a giant wuss, and then lets me know if I should read the thread or avoid it. He’s also very good about encouraging me to be brave, something I need to hear more often than should be necessary.

The Writing Partner: As great as SigO is about reading my work, he really only wants to read it once. My writing partner will read draft after draft and get into long discussions with me over whether adding or removing one sentence will improve the chapter. She also reassures me that my writing isn’t total crap when I lose confidence, and listens to all my happy news without jealousy. Then she reassures me again that my writing really isn’t crap and I do deserve to be published. As an added benefit, she is better at grammar than I am. When I discovered that my title was taken by someone else, she graciously came up with the name Girlish for me, which is even better than my original. Also, I have two writing partners but I sneakily made them one without telling you. Consolidated characters are tricky like that.

The Family of Origin: Some people say that writing a memoir is an act of betrayal—after all no one asked to be in the book or is even given much opportunity to determine how they are portrayed on the page. My brother, mother, and stepmother are all central characters in my memoir, and although they haven’t read the final version yet, they all have given me their blessing. This was particularly meaningful coming from my stepmother, who is bipolar. We spoke just a few weeks ago about some of the worst things that happened in my childhood, and she told me once again that it was my truth and I had the right to write all of it. There is no bigger gift she could have given me. Besides, without my family, I wouldn’t have had much material to write about in the first place.

The Publisher: A book is not a book without someone who believes in it enough to bring it into the world. Once again I am cheating and expanding the number of people in this list, but I have to include all of the team members at Skyhorse Publishing. I can’t narrow it down to just one person. Cover design, marketing, editing, proof reading…they have had to sit through many meetings about my work, and then answer all my emails, which I’m sure can be annoying. Not that I’m annoying by nature, but I’m sure once or twice I might have been mildly irritating at least. Probably.

So that is how you take 16+ people and consolidate them into 5.  Now to look at my novel-in-progress and see if I can do the same there, as well.

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Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. Her memoir, Girlish, available for preorder on Amazon, is slated for release in February 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Pure Slush Vol. 11, Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Hippocampus, Crab Fat Magazine, Luna Luna, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and Airplane Reading, among others. Read her work at www.LaraLillibridge.com

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