Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Genius Starts Like This-

I have a story I began writing my junior year in college, about a girl who loses her mother and then ends up murdering her father's new wife. This might have been around the time Law & Order started but I can't be sure. Either way, I started this story with the interrogation scene- the protagonist, in that room with the two-way mirror, answering questions calmly, maintaining her innocence even though we ALL KNEW her ass was guilty.

And she had this friend, a guy who was in love with her that she used as an alibi. Except the guilt was crumbling him, I think. I can't remember and I'm not about to fish out those pages from my files right this minute.

About a year (or five) after I wrote that and a few other scenes I tried starting from the beginning of the story, and it became less genre and more literary. I now had the protagonist deciding to leave home on her 18th birthday. Just clean out her bank account and move to South America with her mother's family. No murder or interrogation, just moving back 'home' and getting reacquainted with the mother she lost through the experience. And it was pretty good.

Then in 2005 it evolved again, and I had this something in me that insisted all my characters be Dominican. I can't explain it. So now I wasn't going to have her be from one of the 'Guays but from DR. And THEN at the last minute I might have made the mom Cuban and the dad Dominican. Lord help me, there have been so may revisions I can't recall, but they were Island folk for sure.

Fast forward to September (2010): I was breaking in a brand new notebook, writing my to do lists, jotting down books I wanted to get and food that needed to be bought and plans for the Jaded Empire when the first line of what I thought was a random story came to me:

This will not be the story of how I killed my stepmother in the basement of our brownstone.

It was a little crazy, and not really the type of story or voice I normally used but it kept coming nonetheless:

No, no one wants to know about that terrible ordeal. It was messy, loud and gruesome, and it’s enough for the memory to play itself out in my dreams every night.

And then the details started coming to me faster than I could write it down... there is a murder...she is narrating the whole thing ala "Dolores Claiborne" she in jail? Nut house? Not sure. But she's young... this story is young... it's not for grown ups:

No, this won’t be about that day in July when, as my dad’s new wife, Marcia, got the linen from the dryer I grabbed her from behind and stabbed her in the throat. Or about how the blood went everywhere—on her new front-loading, high-capacity washer, her fancy cotton sheets, her dainty Prada sandals. Or about how she struggled with me for her life; how she scratched at my face and arms, convulsing as her poor, adrenalized heart pumped more and more blood out of her wound.

I mean, it ain't for babies, either, but I do believe that out of the blue, while riding the F-train home, I made a commitment to myself to try my hand at a young adult novel:

And I really don’t want to talk about the look in her eyes as she realized and accepted the inevitable. She would not be saved in time to see another day, another minute even. I had won our little domestic war.

So this wouldn't be a Grisham mystery, or a Morrison tome or a typical Penzo tale.

This is, instead, the story of how Marcia ruined my life.

This one will sit on the shelf next to Lois Duncan or Christopher Pike or Judy Blume. And it will be called awesome.

*smooches...letting you peek into the creative process*
The Voices and I like to be generous from time to time...