The Roommate That Launched 100,000 Words by Deb Mia

Deidre McIntosh, the 40-something cooking-and-lifestyle maven of my debut novel, GOOD THINGS, is my second protagonist. Third, if you want to nit pick, since my first unpublished novel, TERRACOTTA WOMEN, flipped between the POV of two sisters, Anna and Amelia Chi (Deb Anna, how’s that for a small world?!).

We won’t get into the whoosie-whatsit of that book, but suffice it to say that I exorcised a few demons with those two characters. Let’s see … they were Chinese-American (like me – check!), one of them worked overseas in Asia (check!), one of them was a management consultant (check!), one of them was a writer (check!), one of them was ambivalent about relationships (check!), one of them had to deal with getting pregnant and managing work (check!), they both had an interesting set of parents (check!), and they were both competitive and slightly insecure (check, check and double-check!).

Deidre, on the other hand, came to me fresh. When I wrote the first line for GOOD THINGS, “These corn fritters are simply orgasmic!” (spoken by another character), Deidre showed up in her ruched scoop neck dress and Cole Haan slingbacks and that was the end of that.

It’s sort of like being assigned a roommate in college – there she is, like her or not. All her stuff is out, her pictures are up on the walls, her clothes are hanging in the closet you share … and you’re stuck with her for the WHOLE year. You hear her telephone conversations, you meet her friends, you know what she stashes in the sock drawer of her dresser. As the months progress, she becomes more familiar. You watch her put on makeup, you know her annoying habits, you know when she gets her period. You end up knowing a lot about her, but she’s not you. You have no control over what she ultimately ends up doing.

You don’t have to love your protagonist all the time. I didn’t. But I was always rooting for Deidre, and by the end of the novel, I was definitely ready to throw her a party. You can’t always choose your roommates, but it’s a good thing when she turns out to be someone you like and end up connecting with.

Do you keep up with your college roommates?

6 Replies to “The Roommate That Launched 100,000 Words by Deb Mia”

  1. It’s interesting thinking of your protag as a college roommate. I hadn’t thought of plumbing that resource for my writing. I was lucky to have the best college roommates in 1979. One was a gorgeous California girl with hair down to her waist and the sweetest disposition. The other, an Iowan farm girl who wanted to be the next biggest fashion designer. The three of us stayed up late nights binge eating and talking trash. I went back to L.A. two years after graduating and saw them, but have lost track of them over the last twenty-five years. You’ve inspired me to write some of their quirky traits down as notes for my next protagonist. Thanks Mia.

  2. I love the comparison of protagonist and college roommate! And I agree –you don’t have to love your protagonist all the time. In fact, I think it makes for a better book (and a far more interesting one to write) if you don’t.

    Oh, also… I love the title TERRACOTTA WOMEN!

  3. When I went to college, I was literally the only freshman assigned a single. I couldn’t believe it and theorized that I’d sounded so freaky on the forms I filled out that they simply couldn’t think of anyone I’d fit with. The next year, I was in a triple — yes, three girls in one bedroom of all inhumane concepts and one of them would sleepwalk up to my toe shoes (which I had nailed to the wall above my bed) and point at them and I’d wake up and scream.

    And I love that you named a character Anna. You have my permission to continue using the name…

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