Thursday, April 29, 2010

Grass: Not always greener. Just...grassier

Is the grass really greener or have our yards (in our minds) started to suck ass?

I was playing with Lilliana today, and through the window, across the street, lives this picture-perfect family. The husband is good looking, smiles a lot, but rarely home, and the wife is a beautiful blond who prances around the yard in tiny tanks with a cig hanging from her glossy lip.

They have a little blond boy, he waves at Lilliana from their yard, who seems to be a good kid. I watched the mother, (like a creepy creeperton) strut across the drive, tossing her locks from shoulder to back, and suddenly wondered what it felt like to be her.

I wouldn't trade my life. But it got me thinking about the characters we write about, fall in love with, hate, cry for, etc. Isn't it all about empathy, slipping into your character's skin, knowing how they'll talk and what they'll feel? That's why I wondered about "Tiny Tank," across the street.

 I didn't want to be her, I wanted to know why she chose the white tank, why she kept bending over for no reason, what she had for breakfast, what her dreams and fears were growing up compared to where she is now, and what makes her tick. Like really, really tick in the center of her gut.

I don't know her, never met her in the year we've been in this house. But today, there was a dull spark in her eye, something diluted and sallow. Maybe, loneliness. Maybe fatigue ( I can relate). Maybe post-Bert blues (holla). Whatever it was, it made her, for the first time to me, relatable.

And then it hit me. Every character must be flawed. No one is perfect. At least, no one I care to know. Flaws make us real. I never really noticed Tiny Tank before, outside of her excessive showing of skin. And all it took was one strange gaze, flinging ashes to the grass, that made her real to me. I could be making the whole thing up. She could be totally perfect, with her perfect husband who's never home. With her blond boy who may be a night mare. With her tiny tanks and tiny figure she may have to work really hard at.

What I'm trying to say is, if you're going to judge a book by its literal cover, at least try to pry the pages open for a glimpse at the prologue. It may surprise you. I may never talk to Tiny Tank in person, but as a character in the book of my life, one vulnerable glare took her from "who cares" to "what's she like."

Read everyone like a character, a real, fleshed-out person with feelings and motivations. Forget about what you think they might be like and dig in to their stories.
And. Your. Grass. Might. Just. Perk. Up.

Candyland. OUT.

P.S.When I hit 100, watch out boys and girls. It's getting close. So close, I'm planning the perfect contestestes *snickers* because I couldn't have done it without YOU...(and you, and you, and you... and Bert and you...)

P.P.S. Seriously? No pictures yet? Send them to me. Anything that means something to you.
candaceganger@yahoo.com

16 comments:

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

That was a really great post Candace. I've been doing the same thing lately when I go out. I'm always noticing a lot of subtext going on around me. It's almost like I'm hearing the complete opposite to what people are saying. You know, I'm probably not far off base. The economy here is beyond sucky now, maybe people are trying to pretend everything is going to be ok. Love the post. Can really relate to it.

PS: In the 17 May please join me in the Fifteen fantasy island favorties blog fest. You have to choose 15 albums which you can't live without - and write a bit about them and why you chose them. Very fun :)

Jen said...

Tiny tank made me giggle first off, but I can relate to this post which is what made it so FANTASTIC! Everywhere I've been going lately I've wondered why people chose what they wore, or what made their eye's sparkle or seem empty. Was it something really awful or merely just the fact that they were tired... Hmmm, I wonder if there will be story soon to creep up!

Matthew Rush said...

Great post as usual Candace. So true and really a good reminder not to judge people TOO much.

I'm sending you a picture now.

salarsenッ said...

This is getting creepy, girlfriend. How could it be that we both wrote about the same topic yet again today?? Weird. I think we have a channel or something. Hey, *winking eye*, I think we have a story here. Seriously. Let's collaborate. ";-)

Great post.

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm a people-watcher (man, why can't there be a job where you could sit in your house and just watch people all day long?). I always wonder why people say/do/act the way they do - sometimes making up elaborate fantasies of events that are happening in their life.

Lola Sharp said...

I people-watch and create character sketches of them ALL the time, everywhere I go. I never think their grass is greener (because my life is pretty damn awesome), it's more like I'm painting a picture in my head of who they are. I love listening to their dialogue and watching their mannerisms. Fascinating fodder.

Great post!

Kelly said...

Pobody's nerfect. Seriously no one has a perfect life. Just the fact that a cigarette was dangling from Tiny Tank's pout can tell you that.
I like the nickname Tiny Tank though! We had one just like her down the road, but they moved to vegas...

Carolyn V. said...

Now I'm super interested in your tiny neighbor with her tiny tank! I love your quote about not judging a book until you've opened the pages. Very cool.

Dawn said...

This is a wonderful post. And yeah, I'm curious about your neighbor - and your blog. Tick me off as a new follower.

Anne said...

What a great post! It makes me want to find the flaw in every character I've written. Tiny Tank sounds like the best thriller/mystery ever. Where can I pre-order?

What type of pictures are you looking for?

Tawna Fenske said...

Excellent post! And timely, too, as I'm digging into the manuscript and getting to know my new characters.

Tawna

Elana Johnson said...

Yeah, this should've been my post yesterday. You said it so much better. :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I seriously see Tiny Tank appearing in an upcoming writing piece from you. Tiny Tank, Perfect Blond Boy, and Traveling Husband, along with the neighbor who watches them and thinks their life must be perfect until she finds out ...

... you're already thinking, aren't you?

Natalie said...

I love people watching. It's fun to imagine what people might be like (although I'm pretty sure what I imagine is never very close to the truth).

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love doing this, watching people and making up stories, wondering what their day was like before they crossed my path. Learning to write flawed characters though, that was hard.

Lisa and Laura said...

This is a beautiful post Candace! I love that you're appreciating the shade of your own grass and I'm totally with you on being curious about what makes other people tick. It's fascinating, right? Guess that's one thing all of us writers have in common.