The Author Part 4
Meeting The Author
Andy reaches towards the dozing figure, then hesitates. 'Maybe I shouldn't. Some people don’t like being touched.’ She clears her throat then says, ‘Excuse me.’ No response. ‘Hello. Sorry to bother you but are you the Author?’
The woman opens her eyes and shifts her body, swivelling the chair to face her visitor.
‘Andy,’ she greets her, the corners of her lips turned up in a small smile. ‘So glad you stopped by. Thanks for respecting my personal space. I’m not into that whole ‘touchy-feely’ thing. Anyway, yes, I’m The Author. Capital T, if you please. So, what do you think? I did the whole place myself.’
‘Yeah, it’s, uh, really something,’ says Andy. ‘Thomas tells me you’re a writer. And you’re the one who created me. I’m a character from your imagination.’
‘Correct on all counts. I know why you’re here. You’re blowing about like a leaf in a whirlwind and other stuff is off kilter. Thomas was concerned, and he sent you here to sort it out, yes?
‘That’s right,’ says Andy. ‘How did you know?’
‘I’m The Author, remember.’
Origin of a Character
‘Okay. The reason you’re on this merry-go-round is that I’m not sure what to do with you. You need my help to get home, and I need your help to get you there.’
‘My help? With what?’
‘Remember when you woke up and it was all dark and quiet, and you didn’t know where you were or who you were?’
‘Well before that, you were just a thought that came to me. I got as far as giving you a name, a physical appearance and, well, not much else really. Normally, I get an idea for a story first; then I create characters for that story. That didn’t happen with you. But you seemed promising, so I tucked you away. I was going to get back to you, honest. But, well, you know...life and stuff gets in the way. Sorry, about that.’
Andy’s shoulders sag. ‘So, I’m just an idea then, not an actual person. Nothing about me is real. That’s why I don’t remember seeing my family, isn’t it? Because they don’t exist. They never did.’ Tears slip down her cheeks again as bitter disappointment overwhelms her. ‘I don’t understand’, she sobs, ‘if they don’t exist, how can I know them?’
‘Oh, now, Andy, take it easy, please,’ says The Author, disconcerted. ‘I’m not good at emotional stuff, either.’ A tissue appears in her hand, and she gives it to Andy. ‘Here. Now dry your eyes and try to calm down, okay?
Andy nods, accepting the tissue.
‘Right. Now listen to me very carefully. You started out as a thought, but you are not one now. You ARE real. Do you think only flesh and blood people are real? Sweetie, you couldn’t be more wrong. All my characters are real. They think thoughts; they feel emotions, they live their lives. They have likes, dislikes, talents, dreams, ambitions. Mix it all together,’ The Author mimes stirring a cauldron, ’add a soul, a literary soul, if you will, sprinkle liberally with inspiration and let simmer. In time, you will have a character who’s as real as anyone else.
‘And like some real people I’ve known,’ her tone turns peevish, ‘you have caused me no end of inconvenience.’
Andy’s jaw drops. She is incredulous. ‘I...I...what,’ she splutters. ‘I’ve caused you inconvenience! Are you serious? I’m being jerked around like a mindless puppet, and I’m causing you inconvenience!’
The Author’s eyes follow Andy as she paces back and forth, her rant in full flow.
‘Do you have any idea what I’ve been through? Some farmer tried to make me milk his cow. A religious freak wanted to take me overseas with him. And not on a cruise ship even, but on some old, wooden tub of a boat. And my clothes? My beautiful clothes?’ She looks down at her restored attire. ‘They vanished. I had to wear ugly, baggy, smelly rags with horrible, clumpy shoes.’ Her voice trails off to a whimper while The Author makes no attempt to stifle her giggles.
Andy stops in mid-stride and glares. ‘I’m glad you’re enjoying this.’
‘I’m sorry, Andy,’ the woman replies, regaining her composure, ‘but you, my dear girl, are delightful.’
’What did you mean when you said you didn’t know what to do with me?’
‘Just that,’ replied The Author. ‘Like I said, I didn’t have a specific story in mind for you. I was working on a couple of other stories that were in need of a female character, so I tried you out to see if you’d be a good fit.’ The Author takes a drag from her e-cigarette, looking pensive as she blows little vapour rings. ‘That didn’t go well.’
‘No. Really,’ came Andy’s sardonic reply. ‘Hang on. You’re a writer. Writers write what they want their characters to do and they have to do it, don't they?’
‘You didn't,’ The Author points out.
Characters Write Their Story
The Author removes her glasses and rubs her eyes. ‘That…is a common misconception. Yes, I can name you. Yes, I can give you physical attributes and character traits. However, the direction the story takes is pretty much down to you. Forcing someone to react to a situation in a way that’s out of character for them leads to all sorts of nonsense, as we found out.’ She replaces her glasses and sees confusion etched on Andy’s face.
‘You don’t get it. Okay, let’s say, I created a female warrior who’s independent, brave, speaks her mind and can take down enemies without breaking a sweat. If I were to put her in a romantic situation, say, and wrote that she should behave like a shy little girly-girl who bats her eyelashes and whatnot to get the attention of a guy she fancies, more likely than not, she would balk at the very idea and the story comes to a screeching halt. Why? Because it’s out of character for her. I can’t turn her into something she’s not for the sake of convenience. The character should always stay true to themselves.
‘So, in a sense, I’m more of a chronicler. The characters tell me their story, I write it, then share it.’
‘Okay, I think I see,’ Andy says, nodding her head. ‘Then why did you put me in such weird situations? I mean, I am a city girl. I don’t know anything about farming and I’m not religious. You must have known I’d stand out. A lot.’
‘Actually, I didn’t know,’ she replies. ‘Growing up in a city, having a family, those are things you created for yourself while you were percolating in my head. This is what I meant when I said the story is down to you. That’s why you need to tell me your story. Quite frankly, this entire mess could have been avoided if you had.’
Tell Me Your Story
‘I didn’t even know I was a character,’ Andy objects. ‘How am I supposed to tell you my story when I don’t even know who I am?’
The Author cocks her head to one side, arching her left eyebrow. ‘Andy, why did you resist my attempts to put you in those stories?’
‘Because they felt wrong.’
‘Why did they feel wrong?’
Andy ponders for a moment. ‘Because I knew I didn’t belong there.’
‘Okay. Tell me about your family.’
‘You don’t know?’
‘No. I didn’t create them. I never got that far with your development, remember.’
‘Oh, right. Well, they’re the best and I love them to pieces,’ Andy replies with a beaming smile. ‘My parents are Richard and Marjorie. I have a twin sister, Annie and a younger brother, Mark.’
The Author nods as she writes notes on a legal pad. ‘Uh-huh, good. Go on.’
‘We must be pretty well off. I mean, we live in a nice duplex in an upscale part of town. My parents are very loving and supportive of us kids. I know they’d like to see me settled like Annie and Mark.’
‘Settled? How so?’
‘Annie’s a junior attorney at a prestigious law firm. Mark’s at college studying computer science. They’ve always known what they wanted to do and went after it. But me?’ Andy shakes her head ruefully. ‘I wasted two years and a fair chunk of my parents’ money at college before I realised it wasn’t for me. I couldn't even decide on a major. I dropped out.’
‘Were your folks upset?’
Andy thinks for a moment. ‘Disappointed more than anything. But they didn’t give me a hard time about. They explained all they ever wanted was us kids to be happy. I just needed time to find my own path to happiness. I’d only tried one path so far. I had to keep trying others till I found the right one. Isn’t that sweet?’
‘Mmmm,’ replies The Author, scribbling away.
‘I don’t know where to start though. Life’s so full of opportunities,’ Andy enthuses, ‘so many choices. I don’t want to make the wrong one, you know? But my parents don’t push or nag at me. I know that whatever I decide, they’re behind me 100%.’
‘They seem pretty cool.’ The Author takes another drag on her e-cigarette. ‘What have you been doing since you dropped out?’
‘Hanging out with my friends, mostly. Shopping, going to nightclubs, that sort of thing.’
‘So, how are you going to find yourself?’
Andy bows her head and begins pacing again. Her gait, measured and thoughtful. After a moment, she stops and looks at The Author.
‘I think I’d like to travel, meet new people, experience other cultures, have exciting adventures.’
‘Didn’t you sort of do that already,’ asks The Author with an impish grin.
Andy continues, ignoring the comment. ‘I feel like…like I’m gonna be famous someday.’
‘Oh? Famous for what?’
With an exasperated sigh, Andy replies, ‘I don’t know. It’s like the answer’s right in front of me, but there’s a piece missing. If I could just find that piece, I’m sure everything will fall into place.’ Another exasperated sigh. ‘It’s so frustrating.’
Smiling, The Author looks up from her notes. ‘And you said you didn’t know who you were. So, where is your story heading?’
Andy shakes her head. ‘I can’t say. I don’t know where I’ve been so how can I know where to go? I’m an adult who doesn’t remember being a kid. I don’t remember meeting my family or making friends. I don’t really know how it feels to be hugged by my Mom or Dad. I can ride a bike, but don’t know who taught me. I have a passion for clothes but don’t know where it comes from. How is this possible?’
The Author takes another pull on her e-cigarette and exhales before answering. ‘It’s because you don’t have a backstory. Backstories are where good times, bad times, talents, skills, dramas and traumas happen. Everything that makes you the person you are right now is in your backstory. Without it, you’re just stumbling along with no clue what’s motivating you.’
‘Wait. You say I don’t have a backstory, that I’m blindly stumbling along. But I didn’t just randomly fall into those other stories. You put me there. And, if I don’t have a backstory, how come I know so much about myself?
‘Again, these are developments you created for yourself. You need a backstory to put them into context.’ The Author raises her right hand. ‘I hold my hand up to that. I neglected you, and I’m sorry. But with these,’ she indicates her notes, ‘I can fix that.’
‘You can? Well, what are you waiting for?’
The Author smiles at Andy’s eagerness. ‘All right, Andy. Close your eyes and we’ll get started.’
Andy steps back warily. ‘Oh no. How do I know you won’t have me diving for pearls in the Marianas Trench? Or doing a striptease for some Arabian prince? Forget it.’
The Author laughs. ‘You have a point. My track record hasn’t exactly been stellar. You have to trust me, Andy. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I swear I will not put you in another unsuitable situation again. Now, please, close your eyes one last time.’
The Author certainly is unusual. And she's asking Andy to take a lot on faith. But what choice does she have? Andy desperately wants to find her family, not to mention Thomas and Mistral are depending on her.
Let's hope that The Author can give them all a happy ending.