fact finding mission

i learned something new the other day. it started off with boredom. boredom with my hairstyle at the same time i had a very posh wedding to attend. clearly i couldn’t show up with the same old hairdo, but my hair is stick straight. if i can get the ends to bend under, it’s a good day. i thought about what to do and decided i wanted something like this:

one problem. i can’t french braid. trust me, i’ve tried. there’s something so elegant and chic and yet casual about it. my friend carrie has worn her hair in a similar style, but i wasn’t sure if she could recreate it on me. as i sat there on the bed and let her nimble fingers twist and twine my hair, i was struck by the thought that i’ve known her for 16 years and somehow didn’t know this one small fact.

she’s a master french braider.

even after all these years, there was something i didn’t know about her. i loved this, but yet, i am freaked out when the character i’m working with (one i’ve known only for a few months) does something unexpected? why is this? why can’t i embrace that newness like i embraced the news about carrie? sure, my character’s not french braiding my hair for me, but that doesn’t mean she’s any less entertaining.

i realize you’re only going to know what people/characters want you to know, but how do you make sure to ask the right questions? and what do you do when something unanticipated arises in the plot or with a character? do you roll with the punches? do you manipulate things to your satisfaction? do you let yourself (and your hair) get twisted up?

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10 Responses to “fact finding mission”

  1. Linda G. Says:

    I roll with it. Heck, I count on my characters to come up with the unexpected — it’s how I plot. ;)

    Oh, and I can’t French braid, either. In case you were wondering.

    • abby mumford Says:

      maybe i’m being too type A and i need to relinquish control. maybe i should take a step back and let them do their thing. i’ll be over here practicing the french braid.

      maybe you can’t french braid, but you can rock the florescent hair dye!

      • adriana Says:

        I think you’re on to something with the “control.” With friends (and other “real” people in general), we might have certain perceptions that they defy once in a while, but we don’t expect to have control over what they do.

        But with characters — I think it’s unsettling when they do something that surprises us exactly because we expect to have a certain amount of control over them.

        I say follow Linda’s advice and roll with it :) Let them do whatever they want — it’s less work for you :)

        • abby mumford Says:

          i guess the day’s advice is that i have to work on being more roly poly instead of straight edge.

          noted.

  2. Alexis Says:

    Well, I keep hearing advice to conduct interviews with your characters at some point early in the process, and I can *see* how that would be helpful, but I kind of have as little interest in reading Q&A with my characters as I have with people in real life (I’m the worst kind of anti-curious friend – really, really crap at it).

    On the other hand, with my characters, as much as I feel they exist already and work on developing themselves, I still have the sense of who they are overall, and feel in control over qualities and quirks that might never even come up. I mean, I still treat them as fiction – things may organically arise as personality details, passions, etc., but I don’t relinquish all power over the process.

    • abby Says:

      Ah ha. See you seem to possess the balance I seek. It’s like you’re on the see saw of writing with you on one side and temerity & Amy & chess & Emerson perched on the other. Is it okay if I study you for awhile? Stay there. Don’t move.

      • Alexis Says:

        Ha! Just wait until Cockeyed Smile gets a name (chapter 6???) and Edda comes into her own.

        Although, I’m not sure that counts as the kind of balance you are looking for. Maybe. I’ll hold still just in case.

  3. Kelly B Says:

    I roll with it and if that doesn’t work…I kill them off.

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