Ever accidentally create characters that have very strong resemblances to real people in your life? I figured out yesterday, while working on my second novel, that the horrible mother of my main character is really … my grandmother. *gasp*
I didn’t intentionally do it. I needed the mother to be antagonistic and a constant creator of strife in her daughter’s life. My brain had zero problem imagining such a person’s personality or the jabs she would take. I named her Joann.
She only appears briefly in a few parts, thus far, but she bothers me. She bothers me to the point that I considered having Joann’s daughter punch her in the face just to make me feel better. I mean, it’s my story, and I can do what I want. Right? Unfortunately, punches to Joann’s face don’t fit the narrative at this point. Can’t have my main character going off to jail on assault charges.
I was rereading some sections yesterday and gave up on writing for the day because I was stuck on the story line. Instead, I spent some time on Twitter and had some back-and-forth with some authors about disliking characters. And then it hit me.
I knew exactly why Joann was getting under my skin. I didn’t see it at first. But it’s so obvious. Joann is my father’s mother, in a younger package.
I know, I know. It’s not right to speak ill of the dead. But I didn’t set out to make some sort of statement about my family in my book. It’s a romantic comedy, for Pete’s sake. And who the hell is Pete, anyway?? I don’t like not knowing things.
The deceased in question was young when she had my dad. She was a fun grandma, more of a buddy at first than a grandmother. In fact, we weren’t allowed to call her ‘Grandma.’
I didn’t see the bites she was taking out of people until I was much older. I was ten when she offered me money to lose weight. $2 a pound. I was a chunky monkey at the time, but I was on the verge of a growth spurt where I would become the tallest girl in my grade. I guess my body needed the fuel…and some Little Debbies. But I just thought there must be something wrong with me because she said so. Oh, and she constantly asked what size I was (for years) so she could tell me what size she wore. She was 5’2″ and 95 lbs. I haven’t seen 95 lbs. since I was 9.
She was the queen of back-handed complements and hidden insults. “You cut your hair, didn’t you?” “Yes, m’am.” “Well, your cousin Marylynn has the prettiest head of hair I’ve ever seen.” WTF? I was 24 when that jab hit me. It was the turning point in our relationship and I started to distance myself. I never did confront her. No one did.
And now she’s in my book. And now I can choose to have Jen confront her mother, Joann. Or I can let it stay dysfunctional with no resolution where everyone dies in a zombie apocalypse. Kidding. No zombies in this book.
In short, I think this is my subconscious self figuring out how to deal with what I haven’t dealt with. Maybe it’s time to punch Grandma. Figuratively, of course. My God, you’re a blood thirsty reader, wanting me to have Jen punch Joann. (That’s me talking to my subconscious self again).
p.s. You cannot tell my father. I’m trusting you with my secrets, Universe. Your turn to confide. *waiting patiently, tapping foot*