Sunday, January 24, 2016
Ghosting vs. Fleshing Out Characters
Many Sundays, she played a Chant CD to wake my sisters and I up and get her rowdy little daughters in a reverent mood to attend church. She loved all kinds of music, from Enya to Santana, the Monkeys to Natalie Merchant, Vivaldi to Vangelis. But my mother is fading now; her voice distorts in my memory, the echoes becoming ever more indistinct since her passing in 2008. Yet, even as I continue her inexorable loss inside myself, I also find her, the very best parts of her, living and breathing along side me. In the songs she shared with me, in the books where Taran Wanderer stands strong and stubborn against the gathering dark, in my awe for the bright black of the universe nurtured during many nights of watching NOVA together. I have come to the conclusion that a body, and a body of work (loves, sorrows, kindnesses, laughs and undone wishes) are two very different things to leave behind. One decays while the other flourishes still . . . just in me. Now it is my turn to play Chant on Sundays.
As I have mulled over what treasures my mother left behind in her leaving, I have also thought about what my characters would leave behind for others to miss and appreciate if their chapter space ran out. Too often, I concentrate on visualizing and fleshing out my characters. But ghosting them can be just as fruitful. For example, if Cinderella died, what would Prince Charming miss most keenly? Her exquisitely small feet? Hardly! Perhaps he would feel her presence most strongly in a little garden space that she had made her own by dirtying her royal princess nails with rich dark loam just because she loved earth and worms and air that smelled like petrichor after rain. So go on and ghost your character:
What aspects of personality and physicality would others miss about them most?
What failing or unfinished goal of your dead character would still anger/exasperate/bemuse others?
What body of materials will they leave behind for others, what trash and treasures?
There are so many ways to find someone who isn't coming back. My mother is gone, I know that . . . but I also know when she is with me.