|Scarlet rose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Writers Are Such Thieves
Fiction writers can be like Dr. Frankenstein when it comes to creating characters. Although not exactly grave robbers, we find the bits and pieces we need in the people we know; friends, relatives and even strangers. We might take their childhood memories, the stories about their grandmother, their first love, their first broken heart We will steal their mannerisms, the way they laugh, that striking raise of an eyebrow, that special little tilt of their head they aren’t even aware that they do, and amalgamate them with our imagination. Secrets told in confidence can even work their way into our stories, such thieves we are, us fiction writers. At least, that's how it usually works for me.
Then it all gets sifted through the imagination and molded into a new person that becomes a character. These new imaginary people take their first delicate steps across the page, and as the chapters progress, they will grow into their own individual people, doing and saying things that surprise even their creator. Sometimes these new characters, these Frankenstein monsters we construct, even take over the story. This is precisely what happened in my new psychological thriller, The Truth About Scarlet Rose.
Originally Scarlet Rose, the washed-up burlesque queen from the 1960s, was a secondary character, a mere supporting cast member. But her personality became so huge, and she demanded so much attention, that she somehow managed to bully her way into becoming the main character of the story, even going so far as to get her name in the title.
Scarlet Rose, who’s real name is Sylvia, is based on a friend’s mother from when I was a teen. My friend “Debbie” at the tender age of fourteen was responsible for the care of her two younger sisters and brother. Her mother was a single parent supporting her family on social assistance and went out to the bar with her girlfriends nearly every night. She was a stereotype. Often she’d come home angry and drunk and scream at Debbie like a drill sergeant. She was a tyrant and Debbie feared her. Yet she was desperate to please her mother and win her love and approval which always seemed to elude her. It was this mother and daughter dynamic that fascinated me. The perversion of the parent-child relationship, that I found so curious in my friend’s relationship with her mother, plays out in my novel between Scarlet Rose and her daughter. Scarlet has my friend’s mother’s beautiful red hair, her dark piercing eyes that can shred you to pieces, reduce your very being to tatters with a single look. She has elements from other people too. Like how she throws back her head and releases her throaty booming laugh. I stole that from my sister-in-law. Her scoliosis, the result from a crushed disc in her spine from being hit by a car at age five, was taken from an ex-coworker.
Plenty of bits and pieces of other people went into the creation of the monster that Scarlet Rose is in the story. When her black little heart began to beat, dripping it's venom all over the page, like the narcissistic psychopath that she is, she went and stole the entire story.
“Let us not forget that the greatest composers were also the greatest thieves. They stole from everyone and everywhere.” - Pablo Casals