"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cranking things up a notch

“You know what I regret? I regret that my cell phone doesn’t make that slamming sound when I hang up on you.”

That's my main character, Peri, talking. She's having a fight with her boyfriend, Skip, in my short story, Cleaning Up at the Franks. If you want to read the whole story, you're going to have to buy MISSING from Echelon Press. I highly recommend the book for three reasons: 1. it's full of great stories by some really good writers; 2. all proceeds from the sale of the book go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; and 3. my story is in it. So it's all good, yes?

Any, Peri has a way of saying what she thinks, something that I'd like to do a little more often, but don't. You can think of her as my alter-ego. I know I do.

The other day, I was running errands, and was feeling a little cranky. Maybe it was my allergies, maybe it was the fact that the pharmacy was late re-filling my hormonal medication, but I wasn't my usual self. To keep this blog G-rated, I'll just say I was a bad witch. I noticed this when I entered a parking lot and had to stop while a woman walked in front of me. The car coming my way had already stopped, so I stopped too. As I watched her saunter across, talking on her cell phone and sort of parading her royal status as Pedestrian to us, I thought, "You pain in the ass, the only reason I stopped was because the other car was already stopped and I didn't want to look like a jerk."

This is not my normal thought process. I'm the nice person, the one who stops to let people by, who lets the woman with one item go in front of her in line, and who does it happily. So it surprised me to have that reaction to one harried woman, probably on her cell phone because her daughter called at the last minute to say they were also out of toilet paper.

See how I usually try to find an excuse for people?

But at that moment, I wanted to lean out of my window and yell, "Could ya walk a little slower? I have NOTHING on my schedule today." Or even better - I wanted to continue to drive past, making her stop and wait for me. But I did neither, not because I was feeling generous, but because I cared about what other people thought. This realization made me even crankier. Why should I care what the collective 'they' think? They don't seem to care what I think of them.

Part of me knows, begrudgingly, that as soon as I speed past some clueless pedestrian or mouth off to the man who waits until the cashier tells him the total before he starts fumbling for his checkbook, someone will find that moment to recognize me. "Aren't you the columnist for the Placentia newspaper? Wow, you're a real jerk." Of course, once Freezer Burn is published, it will be, "Aren't you the local author? Wow, you're a (bad witch)."

So Peri will have to be my alter-ego and say all the things I wish I could say when I'm feeling cranky.

As readers, or TV/movie viewers, is there any character you secretly wish you could be, but know you can't? As writers, have you ever created a character you'd like to be, but suspect you couldn't pull off? Tell me about them, why you want to identify with them and why you think you can't step into their shoes.


Diana Black said...

Have I told you lately I love your writing?!??! Even when you're cranky. Maybe mostly when you're cranky! Cuz I can relate so well (not with the writing, but the crankiness!)

Keep cranking, gurl.


Marian Allen said...

I used to wish I could be Margo Channing, Bette Davis' character in ALL ABOUT EVE. Then I wanted to be Slappy the Squirrel. Now I blog. Har! I do have a character into whom I channeled all my snottiness and shoulda-saids: Connie, in SIDESHOW (hoping for re-publication). Maybe I need to work on a sequel so I'll have somewhere to put what I think it prudent to leave out of the blog....

Gayle Carline said...

Marian - I, too, adore Margo Channing. Murphy Brown, Maude, Julia Sugarbaker (Designing Women) - I lived vicariously through them all. But tell me, what is this prudency rule of which you speak for blogging? Should I be behaving myself?

Marian Allen said...

Depends on how small a town you live in....

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