It is eleven-thirty at night. I’ve been asleep for two hours when my phone rings. It’s Veronica Bishop, the main character of my WIP, Synthesis. Veronica says she couldn’t sleep and wants to know if she can come over. Since I have a bone to pick with her anyway, I say yes.
“Good thing you said yes,” she says. “I’m already standing outside your door.”
* * *
Me: [opens door] Couldn’t sleep again, huh? Typical.
Veronica: [pushes past me into the house] We need to talk. But first, you’re going to have to explain your hair.
Me: [reaches up to feel impressive Hair Mountain on one side of head] You woke me up in the middle of the night. I don’t have to explain anything, missy.
Veronica: [raises one eyebrow] Missy?
Me: I can do that too, you know. [raises one eyebrow] You got that from me.
Veronica: Well, that’s pretty much my only defining characteristic at this point. I mean, look at me. I’m all blurry. [gestures at her body, which is indeed fuzzy around the edges, as if she’s out of focus]
Me: I know. I’m sorry. I just… I can’t figure out who you are, exactly.
Veronica: [runs a hand through her dark hair] Psssh. Tell me about it. Am I serious or am I goofy? Mature or childish? Sassy or straitlaced?
Me: Sassy. Definitely sassy. And as for the rest of it, why don’t you tell me?
Veronica: [paces around the room] I don’t think I’m as silly as you’re making me. It seems a little forced, you know? Like you’re trying to make me funnier than I am.
Me: Well, I like funny stuff. I want you to be funny.
Veronica: But the plot of the book isn’t exactly a knee-slapper.
Me: True. But I thought it might be good if you added some comic relief.
Veronica: Maybe every once in a while, sure. But this book just doesn’t lend itself to humor. You’re trying to make me someone I’m not. I’m sassy, but I’m no Tina Fey. I won’t be doing crazy impressions or making everybody double over in giggles. That’s just not me. Got it?
Me: But what if people don’t like you?
Veronica: People like Katniss Everdeen, and she isn’t funny at all. Believe me, I’ve met her.
Me: Yeah, but I don’t want you to be Katniss, or Bella, or Hermione, or anyone else.
Veronica: I’m not. I’m me. We just have to figure out who that is.
Me: [sighs] Alright. Get some paper and let’s figure this out.
– three hours later –
Veronica is sprawled on the floor, face down. My forehead rests on the kitchen table. Empty cartons of orange juice lie strewn about the room. An elaborate chart of Veronica’s character development sits on the table. It is spattered with a combination of tears, sweat, and blood (not sure how that got there).
Veronica: Ugh, this is soooooooooo annoying!
Me: [raises head with a weary expression] See? That right there. You sounded like a spoiled teeny-bopper. But I always think of you as a mature young adult.
Veronica: Well then make me sound like one! Don’t let me say things that sound spoiled! Don’t write them in the first place, but if you do write them, delete them! Get to know the backspace key!
Me: Okay. So instead of “This is soooooooooo annoying,” you would have said…
Veronica: [sits up] I would have said something like, “Hey, let’s push through until we finish this,” or, “Hey, we’ve almost decided who I am, how about that?” or, “Hey, maybe we should mainline some caffeine so we don’t pass out.”
Me: [leaps to feet] YES! That last one! That’s you!
Veronica: The thing about mainlining caffeine? Yeah, that did sound like me! Does this mean we’ve found my voice?
Me: [breathless] I don’t know. Maybe. Say something else.
Veronica: Like what? Want me to comment on your Ace Ventura hair again?
Me: [maniacal laughter] YES! THAT’S PERFECT! So you are mature, but you’re also funny in a non-silly way. You’ve got a knack for metaphors, similes, and allusions. Your sense of humor is the clever kind, one that not everybody will get.
Veronica: [gets to her feet] Yes! And I’m also a great problem solver!
Me: [takes Veronica’s hands] And a quick decision maker!
Veronica: [as we spin around in circles while holding hands] And I’m independent, but maybe a little too independent for my own good!
Me: [puts a stop to the spinning because it is getting out of control] Yes, but you have your needy moments, too. Otherwise you would be too flat.
Veronica: [scowls, arms crossed] I don’t want to be needy.
Me: Exactly. Hey, check it out!
Veronica: [head swivels wildly] What? Where? Who is it?
Me: Um… I was talking about your lines. They’re much sharper now. I guess we really have made some progress on your character.
Veronica: [looks at hands] Oh, right. Maybe add “paranoid” to my list of character qualities.
Me: Well, you have reason to be paranoid. Not many people make it through a hostage situation like yours without going a little bit crazy. Now, about your background. What do we know about your home life?
Veronica: I think I have to leave now. You’re on your own for this one.
And she is gone before I can stop her – my dark-haired, sassy yet mature, funny yet problem-solving main character.