“They really like you, Brad,” I informed my husband, “as a character. They want more of you.”
“Dad did well in the focus group, huh?” The Baker chimed in.
“Do I get paid?” my husband asked, hopefully.
“Since when do you get paid for being a character in my stories?” I retorted.
I went on to explain that my fellow MFA workshoppers and our leader, Dan, made special note of how genuine and realistic Brad came across in his scenes from the essays I’d submitted for my evening in the bubble.
I was heartened that he played well, because, let’s face it, dialogue is tough and when a writer hears they nailed it, it’s always good news. I was also glad they liked him because he is wonderful, and that means that I did my job with characterization, too. But what meant the most was that it meant that I was able to be funny without making fun.
I also discovered that the workshop, as a whole, really seems to be warming up to my genre. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, they’ve not had a class clown in the entire history of the program. In a sea of biographies, travelogues, and other meaty works, no one was expecting a comic.
Of course, it’s never all roses and chocolate inside the bubble—although Dan provided me with a tootsie pop upon my arrival to, you know, keep me quiet. The group discussed my controversial habit of capitalizing Important Things for emphasis, the pros and cons of my darker hypochondria jokes, and whether or not my witticisms would wear thin over the course of an entire manuscript. The was even a section where they tried to decipher a cryptically worded scene and somehow decided that a woman was levitating over padded chairs at church—which is NOT at all what happened. I nearly choked on my tootsie pop, offering a strong clue that they’d gotten the scene all wrong.
Most of the time, I imagined I was at a book club featuring my book, hot off the press. It was so exciting to watch people grappling over the text, trying to derive the true meaning of my words and--levitating parishioner aside—getting it right most of the time!
I have been thinking today about one workshopper’s comment. She was musing over my overarching theme of being a frustrated writer. “It’s no wonder she doesn’t get any writing done,” she said. “She’s got all of these interests—gets all excited about something, and the next chapter it’s something else. I think she could make a whole them out of that,” she said.
It amazed me to have someone see through me so thoroughly, based only on just a couple essays. It’s good news, because I communicated my character—but it’s bad news, too, because she’s right. If I stuck to my work, I’d have my book in print by now.
But part of it is knowing what to stick to. Writing isn’t a liner career path. Some days I feel like my best shot is to simply live and amass experience. A week later, I think sending queries to agents is the trick, but a couple rejections in, I think it best to work on my local news story and hope the AP takes notice.
I think everyone’s path is different, but I think it’s time that I find one and walk it long enough to give it time to work. After all, Brad is waiting to get his check for being a great character. I can’t let him down.