A Pleasant Surprise – A Writer’s Tale

I tell people that I write. Because I do. But I have a hard time calling myself a writer. I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone I was an author, either, even though I’m working on my third novel right now.

However, I just had one of the coolest writing experiences I’ve ever had, and one which I’m eager to remember in years to come. Which is why I’m writing a second blog post today, something I rarely, if ever, do. Ready? My tale might not be exciting to anyone who isn’t me, but here goes.

My current work in progress includes some six main characters. I wrote the first ten pages of it about a year ago, in this blog in fact [if you’re interested, search for “Mr. and Mrs. Adams,” “Amanda,” and “Heather.”] During my semester at Sarah Lawrence this year, I took a writing class, and began to write this novel in earnest.

About five months ago, I wrote a scene in which Amanda, one of my characters, is drunk and having a breakdown of sorts. She has never been drunk before, is introverted, is scared of her own passions and hides behind her instincts as a caregiver much of the time. As the listener, she can remain safe and closed off while still maintaining meaningful relationships with people she cares about.

Now, this scene I wrote so many months ago was, I knew, going to fit in only towards the very end of the novel. I haven’t looked at the scene in months, waiting for the right time to go back to it and insert it where I wanted it to go. The day before yesterday, I was writing the scene that I knew would directly precede it, in which Amanda’s friend makes her a drink, and Amanda, for the first time ever, decides to be reckless and takes it.

In the scene I wrote the other day, I had her friend making her a White Russian. The next scene I wrote was about other characters. Today, I wanted to put in the scene I’d written all those months ago, and so I scrolled to the very bottom of my file to reread it and see what I was going to have to change. And here’s the kicker. I’d written there that Amanda was drunk on “milky White Russians.”

!!!

I had NO IDEA that I’d specified in that scene what she’d been drinking! I didn’t remember AT ALL that I’d already had the idea of what I wanted her to be drunk on! When I’d written the scene a couple days ago, I’d decided to go for White Russians because I thought it was the kind of yummy alcoholic drink that her friend would mix in order to lure Amanda into drinking!

But it seems that Amanda told me ages ago that she wanted her first experience with alcohol to be with this particular drink. It seems that even her friend, a relatively minor side-character, knew in February already that she was going to make Amanda a White Russian for her first alcoholic beverage. It seems that I know my characters even better than I thought, or else that they’ve been driving me to write what they feel is the truth for them.

So. Maybe not the most exciting tale for anyone who hasn’t had the experience of their writing taking on a life of its own. But let me tell you, I’m going to be grinning about this revelation all day long.

EDIT: Another thing – in this same scene, written months ago, I’d mentioned homesickness for her mother. In a scene I wrote about a week ago, Amanda was missing her father and feeling homesick. So yeah, I think Amanda is really quite alive in my mind. Which is exciting.

1. Mr. and Mrs. Adams [2]

By about seven, the sky had darkened enough that Mr. Adams was squinting hard at his crossword puzzle and Mrs. Adams had given up on her needlepoint, staring instead at her husband with amused eyes.

“Come on, old man,” she said. “It’s officially night. Let’s go inside.”

“Oh, alright,” grumbled Mr. Adams. “I need to Google a few of these clues anyway. I swear, whoever writes this crossword is either getting smarter or just obnoxiously obscure.”

Mr. and Mrs. Adams both got out of their rocking chairs with ease and grace – ballroom dancing and standing in lecture halls for hours kept them spry – and headed into the house. Their home was warm, cozy and lived in. It wasn’t filled with antiques, nor did it exclude technology from within its walls, but nevertheless, the furniture was worn and squishy and the clutter looked homey and comfortable.

Mr. Adams went right into his study and began to search furiously for the answers he was missing. Mrs. Adams went into the kitchen and put water on to boil. She made herself a cup of tea and sat down at the kitchen table, picking up the latest novel she was reading. Before she finished reading a page, however, the phone rang shrilly.

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Adams were the kind of people who had an answering machine and expected people to leave messages if they ever wanted to speak to them. They didn’t like picking up the phone when it rang, because it seemed to them both that people usually called when they weren’t in the mood to talk to them. This is one of those unnatural occurrences that seem to plague people who enjoy relaxing at home – the phone always rings during dinner, or when they’re in the shower, or when the film is reaching a particularly engaging point.

So Mrs. Adams, as usual, raised her eyes from her book and waited for the machine to kick in so she could hear who was calling and decide whether or not she wanted to pick up.

“Hi,” her own voice rang through the house. “This is the Adams residence. Please leave a message, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. If this is an issue regarding academics, please call our offices at Valley University and leave the message there. Thank you!” A shrill beep sounded. Then-

“Uh – Caroline? Dan? Anyone home?”

Mrs. Adams leaped from her seat and grabbed at the phone. Mr. Adams emerged from his study, his face white. He stared at his wife as she spoke into the mouthpiece.

“Marty?!” She shrieked.

Victoria’s Secret [Part III]

“…And then,” Debbie concluded, “he said he knew I didn’t aprove of his art and that I was ashamed of him. Since then, it’s been hard convincing him to see me at all.”

“But it sounds to me like you’re proud of him!” Victoria exclaimed. She’d just listened to Debbie describing her son’s rollercoaster-style life for the last ten minutes, and Debbie’s eyes had shown in the faint glow of the cellphone screen with a deep love and admiration of her scattered boy.

“I am. I think his sculptures are beautiful. He thinks I’m full of it, though,” Debbie’s eyes filled again with tears. “I don’t know how to convince him differently. But,” she collected herself. “I do the best I can, as often as I can. I hope he’ll understand about today.”

Victoria nodded somberly. The man in the corner of the elevator gave a sudden phlegm-based cough and both Victoria and Debbie jumped. They’d almost forgotten he was there; he’d been utterly silent while Debbie spoke. Now, Debbie looked up at him with a half smile.

“Rob, sit down, Hun,” She said. “They’ll get us out of here eventually, but there’s no use standing like a lump in the corner. It isn’t going to make anything go any faster.” Victoria smiled inwardly at the motherly tone that Debbie used with this stout, stuffy little man. Rob wore an impeccable suit, obviously expensive, in charcoal grey, and his hair, so obviously oiled, had a little spike standing up out of it, as if he’d begun to run his hand through it before remembering that he mustn’t ruin his exquisite hairstyle.

“No, thank you, Debra, I’d rather stand,” he answered. Despite his look of calm snootiness, his voice sounded strained. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, and Victoria could tell that he was playing with something in his right hand, twisting something around and around in the pocket.

“What have you got there – Rob, is it?” she asked.

“It’s Robert. And it’s nothing.”

“Seems like something,” Victoria smiled at him. She had a way of smiling which she’d used on her younger brother when they were young – she still remembered how to do it. It had made her brother tremble with fear and then submission, and it did the same thing to Mr. It’s-Robert. He looked at her strangely, not sure of what her smile meant, and broke eye contact. He took his hand out of his pocket and showed Victoria a smooth, round stone, the kind that’s abundant on riverbanks. It was, Victoria noted, the perfect skipping stone, because it was smooth and rather flat. But then Rob held it out and the light caught it, and she saw that the stone wasn’t grey, as she’d thought at first, but rather a deep green. Then she saw that through the green were thick veins of a very dark red.

“What is it?” she asked wonderingly. It was beautiful.

“It’s a bloodstone,” Rob answered. “It’s the birthstone for March, and it’s very rare to find such fine specimans as this one. My wife and I went to India for our second honeymoon, and she bought me this as a surprise. It’s actually a funny story – we’d been in the market, and this old man without a word of English tried to sell it to us…” Rob’s voice trailed off. Victoria stared at him in wonder. Here was a man who she would never guess would have gone to India. For a second honeymoon, no less! People only have second honeymoons if they’re married for a while, right? Her thoughts were in a whirl at the image of this stuffy, haughty little man galavanting around Indian markets.

Vicky! she chided herself. You mean thing. As if you know anything about people by looking at them… If the world worked quite so simply you’d never have gotten to where you are. So say something nice now, and close your mouth.

“It’s a beautiful stone,” she murmered.

“Yes,” Rob seemed about to smile but then rearranged his facial expression into a frown. “When will they come to get us the hell out of here?”

“Soon, Hun,” Debbie answered wearily, pulling a bottle of water out of her purse. It was really getting hot in the small space. “I hope. Want some water, folks?”

Victoria’s Secret [Part II]

Victoria stood stock still in the dark of the elevator. She felt one of the people with her fumble towards the door, brushing her sleeve as he or she went. The unmistakable sound of buttons being frantically pushed followed, until the man [for, apparently, it had been the man] swore loudly again.

“What do we do?” asked the woman.

“Call someone – do either of you have your cellphone with you?” the man sounded hopeful.

“No,” said the woman, just as Victoria said “Yes,” and whipped her cellphone out of the pocket of her coat. She flipped it open, and the screen lit up, suddenly illuminated the scene. The woman was leaning against the wall opposite Victoria and looked, for all the world, bored. The man was still standing by the door and trying to press the elevator buttons. He finally found the alarm button and rang it – a tinny bell sounded, but not very loudly.

“Damn cheap alarms,” he grumbled angrily. He pressed the button a few more times, and then gave up. “If anyone heard that, I’ll eat your cellphone,” he muttered at Victoria. She saw that beads of sweat were standing out on the man’s forehead. She looked back at the screen of her cellphone and her heart sank.

“No reception here – look,” and she showed the man the little symbol on the screen showing that they were in a zero reception area.

“Damn it!” the man barked. “What the hell are we supposed to do?”

“Wait, I guess,” said the woman. Then, surprisingly, she burst into tears. Victoria shuffled over to her and awkwardly patted her arm.

“Don’t worry,” she said in what she hoped was a reassuring voice. “They’ll figure out the elevator’s stuck even if they didn’t hear the alarm and someone will get us out of here.” She continued to pat the woman’s arm in a there-there gesture and then realized she didn’t know the woman’s name, although she recognized her as someone who worked on the floor above her in a different department. “What’s your name?” she asked, in an effort to distract the woman from her distress.

“Debbie,” she sniffled. “And I’m not scared or anything, I mean I’ve been stuck in elevators before and someone always comes eventually. It’s just that it always takes so long! My son is waiting for me downstairs and we were supposed to have lunch together. And now he’ll think I’ve forgotten about him, and he’ll get mad and go back home and I won’t manage to see him a-a-again!” Debbie broke into a fresh wave of sobs.

“But you’ll explain you were stuck in an elevator and he’ll understand, won’t he?” Victoria said kindly.

“No!” Debbie wailed. “He thinks that every time I’ve had to cancel with him I’ve just been making excuses not to see him! He’s an artist, my sweet talented boy, and he doesn’t understand the pressures and last minute things in a job like mine.” Debbie leaned against the wall and let her body sink down until she was sitting awkwardly on the floor, her knees bent strangely because of the tight suit-skirt she was wearing.

Victoria closed her cell and opened it again to light the screen up once more. She sat down on the floor beside Debbie, silently blessing her fashion sense that made her wear pant-suits with wide and airy pants that were comfortable to sit in, and put the cellphone in the center of the elevator so it softly illuminated the whole space.

“Well,” she said. “It seems we’re going to be here a while. Why don’t you tell me a bit about your son, Debbie?”