Friday, February 3, 2012

Am I Ready to Ride?

“Everyone must have a fantasy.”
Andy Warhol
It’s a fine line for me between fantasy and reality, much like when I’m driving and make that choice to cross over the limit.  The reality - the posted speed signs, the fantasy - the gray area where I make a conscious choice and decide just how far over I can go.  What level of risk I’m willing to take; what pushes me to go beyond what’s “allowed”.  Always the question of will there be a reward or consequence for the risk? 
In every fiction piece I write, the fantasy that evolves has roots in the reality of my life.  I find I can’t write any other way.  My fiction doesn’t involve Middle Earth or alien life forms.  It doesn’t have characters that cast spells or engage mystical powers.  It’s human nature.  It delves into and dallies amongst the hopes, fears, dreams, desires and flaws that drive us forward each day and of course, the rewards or consequences of our choices.     
I wrote a short story a few years back about two strangers at an airport terminal. It’s written in the first person point of view from the woman’s perspective.  It opens:  “His face is serene. From the bottom of the large window that looks out onto the runway, the sunrise creeps in.  Its rays, broken by branches of a large leafed plant, lay across him at odd angles.  They settle on his face like a soft blanket and I take in the long lashes that rest at the top of his cheeks.  I shift in my seat, clasp my hands in my lap, and swallow against the dryness in my mouth... I feel my body soften into the vinyl-cushioned chair beneath me in response to the passive invitation he offers.  In my chest, a hollow ache forms.  I close my eyes for a moment to indulge in the harmless fantasy. 
Harmless fantasy?  For the most part, my belief is that fantasy is harmless and also that it’s essential to our well-being to have a little rush of it every now and then.  We can label it anything we like - imagination, daydreams, creativity, hopes, brainstorming….for me, it’s writing. 

Who knows what lies around the curve?

Somewhere around 6 or 7, I loved to take out my Barbie doll and set up house.  The thick Sears & Roebuck catalog covered in one of my dad’s white handkerchiefs became a regal four poster canopy bed, the top of the hairspray can a living room chair for beautiful poised Barbie with her incredibly long legs crossed in front of her.  Pencils on the carpet outlined the rooms of her home and the hallways where she was allowed to walk.  In my imagination, she lived in the palace I’d made her.  Never mind that Barbie always had to wear shoes and gloves because I had a compulsion to chew off her toes and fingers.  There was something about her perfection that even then I realized just wasn’t right.   Long before I started writing, I created for my Barbie, a flaw, my fantasy for her.  I longed to take her perfect self, give her a taste of the human condition and see where it took her. 
Now when I write, my characters all have flaws woven into who they are. They lie.  They dream.  They have goals.  They’re abused or lack self-confidence. They love and hate and feel jealous and have kindness in their hearts.  They’re good and they’re evil. They overcome disappointments and obstacles and sometimes grow to become better people (and sometimes not). 
I strive to stay true to the nugget of reality as the fantasy and my characters grow.  But I’ll be honest here and admit that my writing, much like my driving, only pushes to the “acceptable” limits.  Flowing along with the rest of the pack, hesitant (scared maybe?) to lay it all on line, rush forward and feel the exhilaration of no limitations. 
My strangers in the airport story ends with them never speaking. They go their separate ways, choosing to not travel the road their fantasy beckons them to.
Steve always said I'd look good in a red convertible...maybe he's right!
But what if…..what if they indulged and went for it?  What reward or consequence of their risk awaits them?  What if I risked it and went for it with my writing? Hmmm.  Maybe I’m ready.  Maybe it's time I brush off their story, (gather up some other pieces while I’m at it), take a detour, put the pedal to the floor and feel the rush.


  1. I hope you are ready to ride, bring the flavours of your characters up to full speed, we want to wonder whether they will survive the next corner... and if they do, what will be there waiting for them. Contrast... GO FOR IT! (whispers softly... ) and then let us see what you come up with ;-)

  2. The possibilities are endless, but where would we go if we didn't take our character flaws with us? Can't wait to see what you post next.

  3. I love your reflections here, Amy, and I'd like to read your airport story, even before you revise it; I like the beginning.

    You're right that flaws make a character interesting; no one wants to read about (or be around!) "perfect" people. I try to give my characters interesting flaws in my writing, and sometimes it's fun to write about an unlikeable character and see what happens.

    I love what you did with your Barbie doll, creating her environment with what you had available instead of buying an expensive "dream house" that leaves nothing to the imagination.

    Yes, do pull out those old stories and push down that pedal! Great post.