- from Susan, adapted from a piece I wrote for my blog in April 2010
Whoops - I thought I was on the rotation assigned to write about where we find our charaters. So, even though the topic has shifted, here's my take on last week's subject, which was covered so well by other LadyKillers.
The color photo on The New York Times social page shows a couple walking into a gala. She is strikingly lovely, with long hair and a sophisticated evening gown. Her hand is looped gently around his elbow. He’s tall, with a tanned face, the hint of jowls on the way into being, a relaxed grin, and a classic tux.
I know them, although not well. I know a little of their histories, their courtship, and their good fortune. Our paths haven’t crossed in years, however, so I don’t know much about how they’re doing these days except that they are still married and on the social A Lists in a handful of major cities. He gives major money to prominent charities and cultural organizations. She makes Best Dressed lists. Still, I can recall each of them before they married, recall the intensity with which other women pursued him, and the lively personality with which she won him.
They are real and I have found it useful to think about aspects of their lives, only bits and pieces of which I know. Not Them but small and incomplete shadows are morphing into my fiction. For my purposes, I need to answer questions about the make-believe characters I’ve created: Was she scared when she had to face the society crowd at first? Is he afraid she married him for his money? Did she take riding lessons in secret so she could impress his friends? Is he prideful? Do they love each other?
I’m interested in the fictional answers about the fictional characters I’ve created from this photo and my memories. That’s what a writer does, takes the thinnest wisp of something real and spins it into a series of “what ifs” that don’t depend on facts to be intriguing.