Monday, September 15, 2014

A Stab at Internalization: Lillie's POV

In last week's blog I shared the writing exercise which Rebecca Petruck, my writing coach, gave me. She instructed me to think about, "the difference between rote description, and description that reveals something about the character. When you describe the external world around them, it has to be in order to reflect how they interpret it, what it means to them and how it feels."
Rebecca also said I needed to infuse Lillie's love for science into my story. Here is my first stab at addressing these issues. 
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This is the original text from Lillie's opening chapter:
I tackle the breakfast dishes taking special care with Big Momma’s china cup. I trace my finger around the blue doves flying over the pagoda. Big Momma used to tell me the legend of the young Chinese lovers. They turned into doves when they eloped against the girl’s Daddy’s wishes. A girl loving a boy when her Daddy didn’t think he was good enough for his daughter?  You can’t get more romantic than that!
There’s a chip along the rim and the handle’s broken off a bunch of times. Daddy teases Big Momma saying he’s going to buy a new cup for her birthday, but she says her coffee wouldn’t taste right. The way she prizes that cup, you’d think a boyfriend gave it to her.  
   Here is my re-write:

    I fill up the kitchen sink with water and sprinkle the soap flakes over the breakfast dishes. I wash Bigmomma’s blue willow china teacup first, taking my time, letting my fingers linger over the blue doves flying over the pagoda.
There’s a chip along the rim and the handle’s broken off a bunch of times. Daddy teases Big Momma saying he’s going to buy a new cup for her birthday, but she says her coffee wouldn’t taste right. The way she prizes that cup, you’d think a boyfriend gave it to her.
    I can hear Bigmomma’s rich velvety voice catch as she tells me one more time-because when I was little I demanded it every night before going to bed- the legend of the young Chinese lovers. They were turned into doves when they eloped against the girl’s Daddy’s wishes. Swells of anger still push up inside as I remember the part where the father banishes the couple from his palace. It was so unfair! The boy and girl were young and in love. Her father had no right to stop them!
    Bigmomma said the boy wasn’t good enough for the girl. My heart aches for that boy. I know precisely what it feels like not to be good enough. Not because my boyfriend’s father tells me I’m not good enough for Walter, my boyfriend. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. In his book, Mr. Johnson thinks I’m as smart as Mr. Albert Einstein himself! He always shakes his head and wonders about Walter and I being sweet on each other. I just smile and say we’re like electrons and protons: opposites attract.
    No, I’m not good enough because I’m a girl. And colored.  But when Daddy says that since I like science so much I should study nursing, I tune him out.
   Who wants to spend the rest of her life emptying bedpans and wiping up vomit all day long? Not me! I want to do more than that with my life. I want to be like Madame Curie. She discovered two elements! Or maybe George Washington Carver who figured out more than a hundred ways to use peanuts.  Their lives mattered.
   But will mine?  I can’t change my sex. And I’m no chameleon who can change the color of his skin. So, I’m stuck. As stuck as that blue willow Chinese girl.
    Except in her story there was magic. Maybe it was the magic of their love that changed them. Or maybe some sort of good fairy who waved her magic wand and turned them into doves.
   Those two Chinese lovers found a solution to their problem by becoming somebody different. No, modify that. They became something different in order to stay together.
   Do I want to change in order to get what I want? And even if I wanted to, could I?
    Everyone knows that when you put two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen together, you get water.  Never ammonia or salt or zinc. You can boil it and change it into steam, or freeze it into an ice cube, but it’s still water.
     I rinse Bigmomma’s teacup one more time, dry it, and put it up on the shelf, next to Momma and Pop’s.
    Yes. No matter what, I’m a colored girl who’s not happy becoming a nurse like every other girl at Second Ward High. Since I don’t believe in magic wands or fairies. I have to figure out a different way to get what I want.
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So, how did I do? I look forward to hearing your comments!

To celebrate Rebecca's fantastic input into my story, this week I'll be giving away two copies of her debut novel, Steering Toward Normal. I'll have an additional post on Thursday to tell you how you can enter to win one.



12 comments:

Linda A. said...

Bravo, Carol! I find lots of science references and reactions to physical descriptions, like the teacup and water in the setting. Lillie compares events in her life with the tale of the characters that inspired the teacup story. This pulled me in and made me want more!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. Glad it pulled you in and left you wanting more. You are kind to write and tell me.

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

"Everyone knows that when you put two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen together, you get water. Never ammonia or salt or zinc. You can boil it and change it into steam, or freeze it into an ice cube, but it’s still water."

Love how you are showing the scientific way Lillie thinks. Keep on with it!

Rebecca Petruck said...

I like that analogy of the young lovers having to change so they could stay together. You'll be using that in more ways than one throughout the book!

Rosi said...

Wow. It is so much richer. I feel like I really know the narrator, but I didn't feel that way at all on the first draft. Congratulations.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks friends, for being my advanced readers!

sheri levy said...

This was a wonderful revision. I love the idea of adding her reaction to the settings and items and I wanted to read more. and definitely the analogy of having to change. A perfect way to weave this in your story!!Can't wait for your book to be completed!! You go girl!! Awesome...

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Sheri. Now I'm trying to figure out how to bring it into chapter 1! Stay tuned...

Kathy B said...

Carol, I could definitely see the difference. I really like how you describe her anger swelling and then adding her scientific descriptions of how she sees things. Thank you for sharing this!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathy. I wasn't sure about that anger swelling part. WIll I see you at the conference? Hope so!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

BRAVO! The science in her - it gushes forth in her indignation. So much richer!

This next draft is going to be so amazing!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joyce. Now you see why I need to start over!