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Meanwhile, I’m still laying in the land of revision with namesake, trying to get the whole backstory set in my mind before I go any further. Sometimes it’s amazing how much writing I do that never makes it into the actual tale. Here’s a sample of something I wrote about namesake that isn’t really part of the story but rather background information, part of the character sketches for my two mcs. I saw it somewhere, this series of questions you ask your characters. This is what I wrote about Louis and Arlen:
1. How old are you? Eighteen.
2. If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you? The Voynich Manuscript, said as if it should be obvious.
3. Describe your hands. Pale, white, short nails, long fingers, said looking down at hands resting on lap.
4. Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it? Very little, said with a wry a laugh; my cell, my wallet and the two books Alice loaned me.
5. What is your favorite food? Fish and chips, after some thought.
6. Describe your economic/political status. I come from a fairly well-to-do family but I have no personal wealth of my own, said disparagingly.
7. Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars. I have no fingerprints on my right hand. I burnt them off in the fire, looking at finger tips, remembering…
8. What is the last book you read? What did you think of it? Probably the manuscript but I also remember enjoying Dead Souls by Gogol my last semester, said in a brighter tone.
9. Do you have an embarrassing habit? Probably the way I tune people out when I’m focused on something, unapologetic.
10. Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure. I remember the night of the fire. I was in the library with the manuscript; my mother had already gone to bed. A moment later one of the windows crashed in. I…I felt that someone was there and I panicked. The fire spread almost instantly and for a short while I was trapped in the library. Then all of a sudden my mother was there and she grabbed me and then the book and the next thing I know we’re outside on the lawn somewhere. I remember her face, all smudged with soot, and bright red from the heat, tears streaming down her face. I’ve never seen anyone so sad. I didn’t know it at the time but her familiar died in the fire, a dog. His face is pained as he speaks.
11. What is a dream (in sleep) you often have? I often dream of fire and of being trapped somewhere hot, said matter of factly.
12. Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? To decipher the Voynich Manuscript or, at least a part of it. Another obvious answer, he thinks.
13. How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.) I usually fall asleep on my stomach and wake up with the covers askew on my back. He shrugs a little, as if restless nights are just his lot.
14. What is the last thing you wrote? An English paper on Hard Times by Dickens, maybe a hint of pride.
15. What grosses you out? I’m not squeamish.
16. Who is the person you like the least? Why? I never used to think there was anyone I disliked because I never stuck around long enough to get to that point. But in the last six months I’ve changed my mind. There are actually seven of them, but I suppose I hate my father most, for placing ambition over blood.
17. Tell me about the last time you cried. It was at De Gaulle, when I discovered my familiar dead. Said stiffly.
18. What is something you feel guilty about? The fire, he says simply.
19. Describe what you do when you look in a mirror. Brush my hair out of my eyes, practice smiling sometimes, said with a grim laugh.
20. Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot. A long thoughtful pause. I suppose it would be Toronto, anywhere really. I was there almost nine months. I almost made a friend. He smiles a little, adding, that was before I noticed I was being watched.
21. Tell me about a very treasured item. The book (referring to the manuscript).
22. Do you have a nervous tic or habit? I don’t know, do I? He smiles again, but it’s fake.
23. Tell me about your siblings…if you have them. I’m an only child, said with a hint of longing.
24. What is your favorite sound? Rain.
25. What is your favorite smell? The sea.
1. How old are you? I turned seventeen last August.
2. If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you? Definitely my headset.
3. Describe your hands. She looks down at them, noting the nails bitten down, makes an apologetic face. Not pretty, she says.
4. Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it? She closes her eyes, there’s a lamp on my dresser, a painted lamp I’ve had since I can remember, and a wooden jewelry box with two narrow drawers and a lid. Candles, of course, incense, and a clay bowl I made in art class last year.
5. What is your favorite food? Black raspberry kashi bars, pomegranate tea, almond bars…
6. Describe your economic/political status. I haven’t graduated yet but I own one third share in a site with a view on Damariscotta, which just made the top ten according to cnet.
7. Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars. I have a scar on my right knee that I don’t know how I got, she frowns a little. I keep meaning to ask my mom about it.
8. What is the last book you read? What did you think of it? Something for school, I think, King Lear. She shrugs. It was ok I guess.
9. Do you have an embarrassing habit? Biting my nails.
10. Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure. She cringes inwardly, remembering, almost reliving those last moments before she stepped back away from the fire, called back by the voice of her mother screaming her name. How bright it was, she thought, how hot! And then both her parents were running toward her, pulling her away, asking her what had happened. But all she wanted was to watch it burn. The fire, she says, they pulled me back.
11. What is a dream (in sleep) you often have? She shudders. I dream they don’t reach me in time.
12. Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration? I just want to graduate and move as far away from here as possible.
13. How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.) I usually start off all curled up - unless it’s really hot, then I sprawl out – and I almost always end up on one side.
14. What is the last thing you wrote? An essay about Cordelia in King Lear.
15. What grosses you out? Not much, maybe a vat of beetles. That would be gross.
16. Who is the person you like the least? Why? She stiffens, her eyes going hard and cold. Arnoux. Because he tricked me.
17. Tell me about the last time you cried. That night.
18. What is something you feel guilty about? She hesitates and whispers. That night.
19. Describe what you do when you look in a mirror. She smiles a little, sometimes I stick my tongue out at myself.
20. Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot. At home I like my chair in the corner of my room. It’s sooo comfortable. Here at Alice’s I like the rattan chair.
21. Tell me about a very treasured item. I’d have to say my headset. I don’t have much but it’s the one thing I wouldn’t want to lose. Not that I couldn't get another one, but...
22. Do you have a nervous tic or habit? Beside the nail biting? Gosh, I hope not.
23. Tell me about your siblings…if you have them. Only child, said with regret.
24. What is your favorite sound? The peepers in spring.
25. What is your favorite smell? Lilacs.