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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Character Envy

Jason, the narrator of my novel, is a poet and teacher of creative writing. He seems to have little respect for his own poetry and he doesn't much care for students. Here's a fragment from one of his poems:

If we touch the magic
That makes us real dissolves
Like bullion in a cup of water
And we become mere parodies
Of what might have been.
Thin, watery imitations
Of a hearty broth.

In the following scene he's walking in the woods with his brother's 14 year old step daughter. Jason's father, a painter, died of a stroke in his studio just a few days before. Jason's been called to New Hampshire by his aunt (who is actually his father's mistress) and this is the first time he's met any of his brother's new family. Candi, the young girl, is a big fan both of Jason's father and of Jason's poetry. She's taken him to a spot in a field where she used to go and watch Jason's father draw.

I sat down beside her. “You liked Pop did you?”

“Very much. It doesn’t seem fair, Jason, that he died so soon after I met him. I danced with him at Howard’s and Mother’s wedding. I was so nervous when he asked me because they were playing a waltz and I was so sure I was going to step on his feet. But he made it easy. I didn’t even have to think about what I was doing. He made it feel like magic.”

“Pop was a good dancer. I can remember when I was little watching him and my mother dance together in our living room. I also remember when they used to go to square dances. He’d wear a cowboy hat and she’d wear this big flared skirt with all these layers of petticoats underneath it.”

“You wrote about that,” Candi said. “’My Mother’s Petticoats.’ It was in your first book. How she would swirl in front of you, fanning you with her skirt and being dissolved in a cyclone of lace.”

I felt humbled. I had actually forgotten that I’d included that poem in my first collection. “You really do know my work better than I do, don’t you?”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Did I get it wrong?”

“No. No. You got it just right. I’m surprised, that’s all. I wish I could remember my work as well as you seem to.”

“I like that poem a lot. The way you describe the air moving so fast around you and you stayed still as a stone, and then how your mother wasn’t even there. Nothing but the moving air and you felt left behind. I kind of know what that feels like. Everybody just comes into your life and goes and it’s like they were never there at all. And if the air didn’t move, you would never know it.” She had it just the way I had meant it when I wrote it. “Aunt Margaret was your mother’s sister?” she asked.


I like that pooem too. In fact, I wish I'd written it. That's what I mean by character envy.


  1. I get the title now. Well done.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  2. I AM all my characters (according to my cousin ;-)

    Comfort Spiral

  3. You give me blogger envy, so I can relate :)

  4. This is wonderful.. thank you!

  5. I AM all my characters (according to my cousin ;-)
    How to make a website