Sunday, October 17, 2004

Jem

The protagonist of my second vampire novel introduced herself today as I was putting together my notes for writing the synopsis. I've been waiting for her to solidify out of the rather nebulous ideas I had about her, and in keeping with other characters who have popped up out of nowhere (Jericho, Jory, Jadaira) she promptly gave herself a "J" name -- Jema -- and set up house in my head. And she brought all her books and journals and baggage with her.

Lucky me.

There are writers who talk about their characters as if they're real people. I try to avoid that happy state, because when you start believing your own fairytales, it's generally time to seek professional help. Jem is not real. At the same time, Jem has to be real enough for me to make her come alive on the page, or I can't write this book. It's like being Dr. Frankenstein: I know it's not alive, but gimme an Igor, a lab, and some lightning, and let me see what I can do.

Jem presents a number of challenges as a character. At heart she's a true academic, and on my favorite-type-of-person scale, that ranks just above #99, the personal injury attorney and #100, the telephone debt collector. She's also lived an ever-sheltered, uber-protected life of privilege and wealth, another thing I view as unrealistic, utter nonsense. I know it's going to be very hard to choke-chain my dislike long enough to get into Jem's head.

Why don't I like her, and why did she show up? Jem is who I might have been, if things on the life path had taken a couple more left turns. If I'd become a Jem, I know I wouldn't be here. I'd be teaching, or still in college, collecting degrees, or married to some other academic and . . . why can't I imagine it being anything more than an intellectual stupor? Man, I have got to tighten up that choke chain.

The working title I chose for Jem's novel is Private Demon. I didn't know her when I picked it out, but I guess it was meant to be. This time, I think I have to face a few of my own.

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