Last night was my third class and it keeps getting better, more informative, inspiring. Shawn taught about several different things that are important when developing your character and creating short stories. Here are a few of the things that I wrote down, that spoke to me:
- be open to small details about my characters ~ surprising things that can change the direction of the story.
- as a writer i'm creating little lives!
- pacing is important.
- if you hit a roadblock go back to one of the 5 commonalities in all humans: birth, love, sleeping, eating and death and go from there. if you want your story to resonate with people in a true way, these things need to stay within the bounds of reason. in other words, don't have your character eating all day or being so in love for the entire writing. it gets old.
- keep your reader off balance. they love that! make your characters REAL.
“Lining up Walnuts”There was blood. A lot of it. Not the kind that trickles, like when you fall down as a little kid and it feels like a lot, but it really isn’t. And not the kind like after you have a baby and you think you’re insides are going to come out. But, it was the kind that isn’t natural, the spurting kind. You know, like when your faucet isn’t working right and the water is turned on, you try to stop it with your fingers, but it doesn’t help because every time you block one place it squeezes out the other side, the unplugged side.
That’s a lot like my life, trying to stop the ugliness from coming to the surface and throwing it up on everyone I know. It’s hard work trying to not look broken. Broken and scared. I’m pretty sure I was born this way, it would make sense that I became like what I came out of. I came out of a broken and scared woman. I was put there in a broken and scared moment, conceived in brokenness. My Mom said she wasn’t sure if she could bring me into this world because of the way I was placed inside her. Nice way to enter earth wouldn’t you say? Welcome Baby Girl, welcome. I am broken. I am scared. It’s WHO I am. Sometimes I want to really freak people out when they ask me my name; I want to just say, “Hi. I’m Broken Scared, what’s your name?” But, like I said earlier, I’m working hard at looking normal. Instead, when I say my name ninety five percent of people say they’ve never heard that name before, they think it’s so beautiful, so unique. Reminds them of happy times, warm and safe times, the South of my North.
So I guess that’s how it began for me, trying to undo what I was brought into. It started early on, maybe when I was six or seven. I would make sure that my bed was made perfectly, not a wrinkle, nothing off level; no pillow turned the slightest degree. It brought me relief to have it look so together. And in school, I use to throw away my yellow number two pencil if the eraser had the slightest unevenness to it. My Mom use to wonder why I always needed new pencils, “Katie keeps forgetting hers and asks to use mine.”
Age ten was the worst because I couldn’t understand why I was acting the way I was. I just thought I was as weird as everyone believed me to be; keeping the food on my plate from touching any of its neighbors; having to blink three times before opening any door, even the refrigerator.
When I was twelve I use to count the squares of toilet paper I would use each time I went to the bathroom, fourteen and no more, even if I needed it. I would make it work, somehow. That’s what I did with life. Made it work somehow. One day I came home for school to an empty house, the door was locked and the key wasn’t under the fake rock. You know what I did; I spent the next one hundred twenty minutes lining up the English walnuts that had fallen off the big tree out back. I lined them up until dark, until my fingers were black and my back was sore. I don’t even know why I did it. No one ever said anything about it either and it was a long line of walnuts. Well, until I heard my Dad mow over it, shotgun under the blade. He cussed at me for seven minutes straight. I remember because there was something in the oven and there was seven minutes left on the oven timer. I stood outside the kitchen door while he screamed one eye on him and one eye watching the countdown.
On my sixteenth birthday I spent most of the night in the bathroom of that swanky restaurant my parent’s took me too. I pretended I was sick when I was actually counting the tiles, two thousand three hundred twenty nine of them. I wanted to stop, but each time I would return to the dinner table there was something inside me that was going to burst, was going to thrash out if I didn’t finish counting. So I kept going back and back and back. You know, it’s my garage door code to this day: 2329.
My throat was sore a lot when I was eighteen years old. I never told anyone, but I know now it was from the stomach acid that was eating at the back of my mouth, my teeth, and my soul. You’re only given one set of teeth and mine are ruined now. You’re only given one soul too. There was a poster in one of my high school classrooms that read, “It’s choice, not chance that determines your destiny.” I always thought that was a stupid quote until one choice-filled night.
It was a summer night when things changed for me. The kind of night that should have had me outside watching the fireflies start their glow session. I was inside though, in the dark, just the way I liked it, soul matching my surroundings. I was flipping through the channels aimlessly when suddenly my eyes saw blood, my fingers stopping their perpetually pumping motion. I had never seen it like this before. Real, live, raw, passion. I couldn’t turn away; it resonated with me, the pain and the intensity, the gore. It wasn’t perfect, it was messy. And I was okay with it, with watching it spill out of the screen into my eyes, seeping down, deep down. I kept watching until the early morning hours. Suddenly I found myself on my knees, head throbbing from so many tears.
You know those head numbing cry sessions? For once in my life True Perfectionism was what I saw and all I wanted. In that dark moment, that broken and scared moment it made sense. He was broken, He was scared, but it wasn’t Who He was.
It wasn’t an easy process, being restored from decay. My obsessions put on new clothing, a costume change behind the stage of my life. My tendency to be obsessive about things is still there, like a birthmark. My desire for perfectionism in weird things always calls out to me, it’s just that now I have a choice as to whether I answer back. I got a tattoo a few weeks ago, across my upper back. There are three sparrows flying around the words “beauty for ashes”.
“And He is pierced for our transgressions,
bruised for our iniquities.
bruised for our iniquities.
The chastisement of our peace is on him,
and by His bruise there is healing to us.”