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Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Lucifer and his cheeky red-headed stripper. Both of whom are minor characters in my current WIP. Key word: minor.
I’m supposed to be writing about Adam & Eve. Yet every time I go to sit and write about them, I stare at my screen, going, “How do you write a married/divorced couple?” I mean, talk about research deficient. Las Vegas is nothing compared to the deficit of knowledge I have on marriage. My problem is I’m certain I could write about a stripper with more authority than I could a wife.
I’ve never been married, engaged, or even dated for a long period of time. Of late, my dates have been one-timers, with a sprinkling of engagements that were good. Anomalies, I call those. Therefore, I don’t exactly sit around imagining my life if I was married because the idea seems…well…science fiction. The collection of the proposals I have received in my short life have been from married men. Men married to other women, just so we’re clear. More than one, in case the plural of “men” was lost on everyone.
So you might surmise, I don’t have a lot of faith, understanding, or much more than fearful respect for Matrimony. And I know my limitations: I know I’d make a better stripper than a wife. I can take off my clothes, and sometimes I can even keep my balance while doing it. But a wife? What does a wife do again?
I just can’t imagine marriage. (And if you’ll notice: a lot of fairy tales don’t seem to imagine it either because there is never information about what happens to the couple after they’re married.) Just what exactly is the expectation? With a stripper, you expect to see a naked girl. With a wife, well, I suspect the expectation is something similar…but it doesn’t seem as well defined. I like things well-defined. Abs, the food in the Chinese buffet line, lots of things. I like to know what I’m getting into.
So here I am. Trying to write a story about Eve, the original wife. Talk about writing fiction if I’m writing from the perspective of a woman who’d lived with one guy for over fifty years. Bore his children. Made love with him, fought with him…and well, all those things you do in marriage. Whatever those are. She probably peed right in front of him. (Who does that?)
And then there is this other problem: Eve is an optimist.
If you’ve met me, virtual or otherwise, you know I’m by no means a natural optimist. Or even a well-learned optimist. I try, again and again I try, but optimism in my brain is a lot like “light” in Terry Prachett’s world: No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. That's just the way I roll.
So here I have a character I need to channel who’s a complete 180 from me. I’m at a loss. I was so utterly spoiled to writing from first person perspective of a character who, if she wasn’t me, was my twin. Names and circumstances somewhat changed to protect the guilty and all that. In fact, I’m dawdling on the damned revisions for GOGU so I don’t have to let go of the one character I know I can write well. (Currently on chapter 20; only four more to go!)
So, what do I do? I don’t exactly want to write a string of books where all the heroines are cynical, neurotic, twitchy pessimists and all the heroes are charming, dangerous, and great in bed. Okay, I do want all my heroes to be rather charming, dangerous, and great in bed. But I’ve got to vary up the heroines. I can do this. Surely. Besides, there is every hope that if I write an optimistic heroine, some of her will rub off on me.
So I need to do some research on marriage, I suppose. [FYI: the first crew member who suggests I go get married will be marooned without any rum rations.] I’m going to try for something less combat-intensive and hunt for some good marriage stories: but I don’t want sappy ones. I want marriage stories.
Like one of my favorite married couples got into a fight about money (God, do couples fight about money!), and she was taking too long on her long-distance phone call. She hung up, they fought, then he went to bed while she finished up the dishes. Mistake. Still pissed, she eyed the cookie jar and knew he would be back in the middle of the night to get a cookie. She eyed the bedroom door, then the cookie jar—then promptly squirt Palmolive all over the cookies. She went to bed, justice served. Days pass; and not a word from him. She knew he must know, but he acted like everything was fine. Not a care in the world. Then three days later, after she thought the moment had passed, she took a bite of her sandwich at lunch (he frequently packed it for her—again, saving money), just as her husband called. She couldn’t spit it out fast enough. Paybacks are hell. This is my Adam & Eve couple. I mean, these two love each other to death—but they’re so mean. I love it. I may have to do a Jane Goodall. I wonder if they’d mind….
Please tell me your best ANNOYING marriage story, for the sake of my writing research. And just what is a wife supposed to do anyway? I mean, I see that 50s Handbook, but that was clearly written by a crack addict. Is it me, or does it seem like marriage is just a daily test in practicing not killing someone else who is completely neurotic?
And how do you write characters who aren't like you at all? I mean, I know fiction writing is lying, but I'm not a very good liar. I'm a great exaggerator, but a poor liar. All my lies are truths in masquerade...but how do you write a lie when you have no truth to base it on?