On Friday I had an IMPORTANT MEETING.
The kind where IMPORTANT PEOPLE discuss IMPORTANT THINGS over IMPORTANT FOOD.
Before I took this new job, I worked from home for three years. Most of my meetings happened via teleconference, which meant I could dress in a tube top and diaper and no one would know.
I don’t have that luxury with the new job, so I’ve been adding to my wardrobe. When I got dressed for Friday’s IMPORTANT MEETING, I suited up in my new IMPORTANT SKIRT.
Then I discovered a frayed spot. Nothing noticeable, but something that would worsen with a few washings. I knew I needed to return the skirt, but I was already dressed and really wanted to wear it.
I decided to tuck the price tag under the waistband.
Then I pictured the inevitable moment in the IMPORTANT MEETING when the tag slipped out and everyone turned to stare.
Feeling clever, I safety-pinned the tag inside my waistband.
Then the tag began to itch. Scratching yourself is not a nice way to make a good impression in an IMPORTANT MEETING, so I further demonstrated my ingenuity by safety-pinning some folded squares of toilet paper over the tag.
By the time the IMPORTANT MEETING rolled around, I marched in with my head held high and my toilet paper covered price tag safety-pinned at my hip.
No one ever knew.
But there was something about that ridiculous little secret that made me feel kind of clever. Like I was getting away with something. True, it wasn’t very classy, but it made me smile.
It reminded me of a question we pose to guest blogging authors at The Debutante Ball:
Tell us a secret about the main character in your novel – something that’s not even in your book.
I was delighted when my idol, Jennifer Crusie picked that question from a list of about 20, and gave the following response:
Andie knew the mix tape was under the front seat of her car, she just couldn’t bring herself to throw it away.
Even if you’ve never read Crusie’s MAYBE THIS TIME to understand the context, I still think it’s noteworthy. Here’s this secret little tidbit Crusie chose to hold back about her character. Something small – but still meaningful – that only she knew.
I’ve done it myself from time to time. When I’m trying to get to know a character better, I’ll brainstorm things that help me understand what she's like. These aren’t details meant for the stories. They’re only meant for me, to help shape my understanding of the characters.
Reese from LET IT BREATHE wasn’t really upset when Clay ruined her wedding cake.
Violet from BELIEVE IT OR NOT has a crystal pendant she wears tucked under her shirt when she feels homesick.
Juli from MAKING WAVES thought she’d marry her last boyfriend, and thinks it’s her fault it didn’t happen.
None of those things are in the books, and you probably wouldn’t guess them from reading. But those details were there in the back of my mind, helping shape the characters as I wrote.
Do your characters have little secrets? Things you won’t include in the book, but that help you clarify what makes them tick?
And while we’re sharing, I should tell you I’m thinking of wearing the diaper and tube top to my next IMPORTANT MEETING. I think it’ll give me an edge.