Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Secret Therapy

I decided to go with the idea that my character was talking to a therapist, and, for some reason it came to me as if they were talking on the phone and I could hear only the character's voice.
Thanks for taking time with me today. I need to talk this through with someone. I can’t keep going over and over it alone in my head, round and round with no end.
No, apart from Dr. Stevens, and now you, no one else knows. Nancy’s the only one I think I could talk to about this and I’m not about to do that long distance while she's in a combat zone. I only have one other close friend and Rachel will be there for me no matter which way I go, but she’ll wonder if I’ve lost my mind to even consider... well, she as driven as I’ve been so I’m not sure if she could be objective.
My family?
Sorry... I didn’t mean to sigh like that. I hate that; my cousin Jeanine almost makes a career out of sighing. No, I haven’t said anything to my family. I can’t, not now, maybe not ever, depending on what I decide. My mother is gone... Mm mmn, thank you. I was eight when she died, and my memories are spotty, but yes, she was one of Canada’s most famous ballerinas. Adored, in fact, and she still has fans. When I’m interviewed I’m often asked what she was like, and told how similar we are. It’s what Father says, too, especially after he’s watched a video of one of her performances or attended one of the classic productions our company does. I seldom hear comments on our contemporary versions.
No, I can’t talk to him about this, not yet, and my sisters—they love me but I can almost see the looks on their faces if they knew. Neither of them has had a moment’s doubt about their direction from the time they set their goals. Leine will be—
Leine? No, that’s a nickname, my baby-talk for Madeleine, and it somehow stuck. Which she prefers, actually. She’s not one for form or tradition, at least not in some areas, not like me. At any rate, I haven’t said anything to her. She’d be sympathetic, but wouldn’t see why I’m “dithering” as she’d call it. She’d tell me to follow my heart, and mean it, as that’s what she’s done even though she and Father aren’t on speaking terms any more. I... don’t know how I’d handle that.
Isabelle wouldn’t be so quick to assume she had the right answer. But then again, she would have faced up to it much sooner, thought it through, and done the same thing Leine would tell me to do, albeit with less drama. Belle followed her own path but unlike Leine she was diplomatic enough to do it without alienating Father. She’s quiet but determined, and no coward. She’s not like me, either.
What kind of person wants to walk away from years of struggle without a fight? What’s wrong with me that the first thing I thought of when Dr. Stevens told me the break wasn‘t as severe as first indicated, that there’s a good chance I may be able to return to the stage, was that he can't tell anyone else without my permission?
I learned a bit more about Anais doing this, but I learned even more about her sisters, and I think that was more interesting for me. Looking forward to hearing how everyone else makes out.


Janet said...

OOH, I like this. I liked that you used the phone conversation (one way) to have Anais talk about the situation. That would be a great exercise in itself - a kind of free writing just from the head of the character with a small bit of direction coming though via the phone. I'm keeping that in my "What the hell do I do with these characters now?" file - for when they need an avenue to speak their minds.

And I love the idea of a famous ballerina wanting to keep her not so serious injury a secret. Speaks volumes about her passion for the art, her conflict with her father, and the differences between she and her sisters. Is this going to be more of a woman's fiction, Molli? I could really see Anais' story unfolding, her struggle to become her own person in the shadow of her mother.

Great job :)

Anonymous said...

Great information.

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

Wow Molli!
Great idea and I like that it is on two levels - what she is saying on the phone and how she is working it out for herself as she talks. Her swing from one person's to another person's seems to me as though she is building up her own tension. And talk about tension per page!
I'd steal your idea if I could, but for 1430? Kidding, but like Janet, I will file it away.
Has - is - ballet part of your background? Is this story suspense, romance, or?

Karyn Good said...

I really loved the one way phone conversation idea and it was amazing how much information you packed into it about Anais and her relationships not only with family and friends but dance, too. It will be very interesting to see how she deals with her secret, personally and professionally.

Thanks for the peak!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

This was such an intriguing way of approaching the exercise, Molli. I loved it! Giving us one side of the conversation and the way it both jumps around and flows along, depending on train of thought and the other speaker's questions creates such an excellent effect. Definitely something to keep in mind when any of us gets stuck, or wants to create an interesting eavesdropping scene.

I also love how you offer us the secret, but it's still wrapped within the layers of the conversation and we have to work for it. Secrets are better that way, with a bit of tension in the mix ;)

Karyn Good said...

Do I suck at spelling or what?

Thanks for the peek!

Helena said...

Amazing how much can be learned from one side of a telephone conversation! And yet not as much as one would want to know. Excellent technique -- for the exercise, but I'm one of the ones that would like to use it in a story some day. Very effective.

I'm thinking, after just two days of reading about characters with secrets, that secrets are essential to create tension in a story. They don't have to be monumental in scope, could be tiny yet hold the key to moving ahead. They can be a simple misunderstanding which is viewed as a secret, or whatever twist you want to put on the crucial piece of info that one person has and another doesn't. They can be deliberate or inadvertent. It's all in the perception.

Whose life is completely an open book anyway? Everyone has something to protect, or keep secret.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Molli,
This is great stuff. I'm glad you were able to take this exercise and run with it.

We learned a lot about Anais' family and friends. And a lot about how she feels about herself. She says she's "dithering" and also says she doesn't have courage like her sister Belle. She's not the kind of person to cut herself any slack, even facing a life altering decision.

I hope the exercise helps you to take your story forward.


Molli said...

Thanks all for checking in and responding with such encouraging comments. I often feel as if I'm not really offering much to the group so it's good to know you're taking away something of value in this approach.
Janet, I don't know yet if this will be more women's fiction than category, and I've stopped trying to figure it out. I'm just going to write it as it comes and then figure out what to do with it (not necessarily the recommended approach, I know, but what the hey!). And yes, she is struggling to become her own person, and seriously afraid that she hasn't enough to offer to anyone outside of the dance.
April, your reaction helps me keep my inner critic in check--thank you.
Connie, she's doing exactly what you say (and so am I), working things out as she talks. Other than dance lessons for a few years as a child I don't have a background in ballet, but I remember wanting to be a ballerina and am enjoying the research I've done so far.
Karen, the relationships came clearer for me when I went back over the exercise, and since the story's set in the mountains I may yet get to a "peak".
Hayley, layers are definitely involved in this story, so I'll take your words to heart and remember them the next time I'm discouraged.
Helena, as Hayley said, secrets add a bit of tension to the mix and I agree that they don't have to be monumental to be effective.
Jana, I think the exercise did help with forward movement for the story. I learned more about her relationships than I knew before, and I can see how that knowledge is going to come into play already. You picked up on an aspect of her character that she doesn't recognize but that I want the reader to see, so it's good to know that's coming across.

I'm off to a book signing now (not mine of course, yet--it's with General Rick Hillier (retired) and I expect you can all figure out why DH and I want to hear what he has to say. I'll try to check in again when we're back, but if it's too late I'll do that tomorrow.

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

wish I had known Hillier was abroad. He is right on from my POV If the solution hasn't been found in 2,000 years of trying to sort the Afghans, the Canadians can be forgiven for not doing it either. If the righteous really care, let them do it and leave the morale of those who aren't in armchairs alone.
Damn they make me angry.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Molli, I agree with the rest that using a telephone conversation is a unique way of figuring out a secret. I kept thinking this was a good way to slip backstory in as well.

When I was in the CAF, Rick Hillier was still a Col or Lt Col but it didn't take him long to get up the ranks after that. Hubby served 6 months in Bosnia back in '92. I'm very thankful he came home safe. Especially since we had 2 more babies after his return. :D