Writing is akin to playing dolls

Writing is akin to Playing Dolls

I woke up this morning in an “aha!” moment- I had the great realization that writing is akin to playing dolls. This goes for the guys too! I played with Tressy, Penny Brite and Barbie-I am also showing my age.  The men I know played with GI Joe and then there was He Man and Skeletor and, well, you can name the others.

Writing was not something that I did as a child. I marvel at those of us who say they were writing their first stories and creating their own books as little ones. I read. And read. And read. The other thing I loved to do was play dolls and to create rooms, whole apartments, out of construction paper. Probably my first dolls were made of paper. The first were those my mother made by folding paper and, magically, after making a few cuts, voila! A string of paper dolls! I would talk for them and, boy, would they have conversations. These conversations I found were known as dialogue when I began taking my first writing classes as an adult.

In one particular class, the instructor concentrated on the dialogue. There should be no scenery, no back ground. The object was to prove that I could write those spare sentences that sounded as though there was more than one voice, two, or sometimes three. That was simple. I’d been talking in my head and sometimes aloud for my dolls, paper, plastic or otherwise for years as a kid.

The next thing was character development. I created the whole of my characters histories just as intricately involved as though they were people that really existed. All of my dolls had personalities. Would who expect Skipper, Barbie’s little sister, to ever say the same thing as Midge, her best friend, would? Really! Each doll and each character I’ve written about has their own special take on life, their own quirks and their own wardrobes-even if they occasionally shared shoes. Don’t best friends share clothes? In my first novel, Woman Found, Daisy and Letty are close. Letty puts up with Daisy’s shenanigans because they go way back. Their relationship goes further than the first page, they have a history that bolsters the story that we read and that is apparent.

Those apartments I made out of construction paper and, sometimes loose-leaf paper, comprised the background scenery for my characters. The dolls managed to walk through the 3-D walls I created with the aid of scotch tape. These structures didn’t have ceilings so I could place my characters where I wanted them. But just as in my writing I’d find my dolls where I hadn’t purposely placed them and then I just sat back and listened. Where do my dolls, ahem, my characters want to go? If I’m smart enough I follow them around-sometimes they know just a little bit more than me. Whole new storylines are created because I let my characters tell me what they want or who they really are-just as my Beautiful Crissy did!

So, I’m glad I had those dolls to start me in creating dialogue, character development and background/scenery creation. I’m happy that I learned to ‘talk in my head’ and that I’ve transferred that ability to talking on paper.

Choosing Books


Choosing Books

 Once I’ve mashed the black pepper and the fresh garlic cloves together in the pilón I find it hard pressed (no pun intended) to separate the two out. That’s how it is being a Latina who loves to write and loves to read. It took a while for me to identify that I was a writer or (insert dramatic drum role) a Latina! I was just a kid who liked to read books. I collected plenty of them! Along with our 45 records, we were as excited receiving books as when we were given ice cream treats from Dairy Queen. I especially liked girl stories. It’s sad to say that over the years I haven’t read a lot of what I considered boy books. The books with the Hardy boys on the cover never made it to my house. I guess I still have time to make an amends there but do I really want to?

Recently pitching my latest novel I came to realize that the pitch for the book is as important as the book itself-maybe more so. Picking out a book based on its cover is something I use as an initial tool in my decision making. I then pick out a couple of random paragraphs to read and listen for its singing in my heart. I recently read someone write that you may not be able to judge a book by its cover but you can certainly prejudge it. Well, I guess I prejudge. Is the title catchy? What is the picture on the cover? What are its colors? Can I carry it in my bag on my way to work? I still like the feel of paper in my hands despite the fact that I own a Kindle in my iphone. Somehow I like to visually see where my book mark is and move it aside knowing I have four train stops to finish my book. Sometimes I want to savor the ending and replace the bookmark closing my eyes two stops before its time for me to get off the train.

On my book list of favorite reads I wrote down Dracula by Brahm Stoker. I hadn’t read it in a very long time and I recently reread it on my Kindle. There were so many moments throughout the book that marked the probability of the anticlimax that when it actually happened I wasn’t prepared. I could have paid attention to the moving bar at the bottom of the device that shows me where I am in my reading but I didn’t. Needless to say, I loved every inch of the book but felt it finished prematurely. That was frustrating, if you know what I mean.

Recently I have been thinking of the Latina characters that I have come to know. A strong heroine is someone I have been missing. Strong Latino heroes are just a bit easier to come by. An Anglo author I have recently begun reading has Latino characters sprinkled in her book. I felt caught up short when one of the characters was a maid- just a tad bit recalcitrant in her job duties. Why did the character have to be a maid?  Why did she have just the right mix of arrogance and lazy in her attitude? Initially, I was a bit annoyed but then I thought- I know so many people like this that I needed to take it in stride. Was my feeling as a Latina author a fact? Shouldn’t I be true to realities? Just because the author had the character down ‘dead on’ did it mean I had to get on a soap box about the unfairness toward Latinas in writing? She had also written about a Latino character that is exudes Sexy with a capital S. Well, he may not be my cup of tea, but I can name you forty women I know who would be salivating over him. Okay. Fair enough. The characters are authentic and the story is a fun read. That is what I am looking for in a book.

In choosing books I can say my eyes are opening up! Peel back those layers, authors! I am starting to see in a whole new way. Characters must be real. They must be more than a one dimensional picture on the cover depicts them to be. I’ve taken pride in making sure my characters are just that, characters, not caricatures of people. It’s unfortunate that the book jackets don’t tell us who the protagonist’s best friends forever are and what makes them tick. Sometimes these characters have strong roles that we are just going to miss because we don’t know they exist. So for today, I’ve decided to shake it up and research more on the books I may pick up to read. I’ve started perusing book blogs and reading more about the possibilities available to me. I may actually begin to read the list of ‘recommendeds’ that others suggest.  I promise myself not to just depend on the cover picture of a boy or a girl anymore. Now, I think I may get to cook something, the thought of black pepper and garlic is enticing me into the kitchen.