Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, April 4, 2011

I Didn't See That Coming

Just when you think you can 100 percent predict what someone will do, he goes and pulls his pants down in public. I did not see that coming.

This Grease business started months ago. They'd already had the dance tryouts when the director ran Precious Angel down in the hall of the high school. "I hear you can sing," she said.

"I can," he said. He will not tell you his strengths unless you ask but, at that point, he sees no future in beating around the bush.

"Please," she said. "Please come to tryouts."

"Okay," he said. "But I can't play a lead. I will sing a solo but I don't have the time to learn a lot of lines." Those were his terms. I guess it didn't occur to him that he might not be cast in a part that required a solo and a lot of lines.

Originally, he was to be Teen Angel. One song—"Beauty School Dropout"—, almost no dancing, absolutely no lines. Over and out. That lasted until rehearsals started.

Though he can sing, his comic skills exceed his musical ones, and his dancing exceeds both. I'm not exactly sure how the director found out he was funny and could dance since he was only supposed to be crooning "Beauty School Dropout" while he sauntered down some steps, but I highly suspect he had taken it upon himself to do a little unsolicited coaching on the side. You know, just helping his pals out a little. That's the way of him.

Anyway, next thing we know, Precious Angel is no longer Teen Angel, but is Roger, the class clown T-Bird. I think his name was Putzie in the movie, but we're talking Broadway Musical here, though not so much Broadway, as the auditorium of Decatur High School. I guess he relaxed his terms a little when he got caught up in the whole thing. For whatever reason, he now was in practically every scene and had more lines than fleas on stray dog. And then there was the singing and the dancing--including a little number called "Mooning". You see where this is going.

Stephanie said, "Did you notice him up there pointing and ordering people around on that stage like he was the boss of them, just like when he's playing football?" Yeah, well. I like to think of it as being a leader. "He's come a long way since 'I see London, I see France, I see Jean's underpants.'" Yeah, Stephanie was there when, just shy of his second birthday, he pulled up my skirt in public and intoned that little piece of poetry for the world at large.

Speaking of underpants, and back to Grease and the point of this blog.

If I had been asked, I world have bet the farm and my last cup of coffee that this child would not have been willing to—not once but twice per performance—pull down his pants and expose his smiley-face-boxer-shorts-clad rear end to the citizens of this town. Even in the name of art. Not that I think there was anything wrong with it. But I know this boy. In spite of his self-confidence, he has a small streak of shy and a huge streak of modesty. And he'd already proven he was willing to dictate, if not stick to, his terms.

Yet, there is someone I know even better than Precious Angel. His name is Luke and he is the hero in the story Stephanie and I are revising. Some of our characters are hers, some mine, and some a blend. But Luke is mine, mine, mine. I expect him to do what I tell him.

However, a few days ago, he said something that I didn't think of and didn't think was a good idea. I took my hands off the keyboard and stared at the screen.

"Oh, no you don't," I told him. "That's not what you would do."

"Yes, it is," he said, smugly. (Because he is smug.)

"Stephanie is not going to like this," I told him.

"I don't care," he said. (And he doesn’t) "Besides, don't blame it on her. You want to be the boss of me. Nobody is the boss of me." (And isn't that the truth.)

"Can we compromise?" I asked.

"Absolutely not. I don't compromise. You ought to know that." (Sigh. I do.)

"I'll make you pull your pants down in public," I threatened him. "I have the power."

He laughed at me. "Go right ahead. Just try it, and I'll never let that woman bring me to my knees. And then, where will you be?"


So, no matter how well you think you know them, sometimes they will surprise you. And aren't those the best moments? It used to scare me when I couldn't handle them anymore. Now I know that's when it's working.

Do you handle your characters or do they handle you?


  1. They handle me. I try and try but it seems they have to do their own thing. Maybe it's my subconscious trying to tell me that this is way better.

  2. (Side note: I am having a day with technology. Nothing wants to post, but I shall win! not sure if that's just wishful thinking...)

    Enough of that rant, I really wanted to see that show after your description of how Precious Angel came to be in almost every scene. :-)

    I agree with you, my characters now run me. It used to, I ran the show. But as soon as I stopped to listen--they became more interesting, unpredictable, and scary.

    Granted I have been known in a fit of pique to write a scene where everyone dies. But, when sanity prevails, I delete the scene--and listen (although I grumble, and they ignore me).

    Wonderful post Jean!

  3. Cheryl and Mary--It's better to let them have their way.

    The show was fun. I have seen no evidence that PA has decided to give up his plans to attend a military academy and learn to fly planes for a career on the stage, in spite of the fact that life as a pilot will probably afford him fewer opportunities to moon.

  4. SQUEEEE! Precious Angel look so radical in his T-Bird jacket! I'm so excited that he branched outside his box and surprised all of you, probably even himself. ;)

    Characters have ways of teaching the writer a thing or two, don't they? I love it when a writer is only channeling the voice of his/her characters. Makes this writing business more adventurous, don't you think?

  5. Jean has to wrangle our characters most of the time and so I have to believe her when she says, "He told me he wouldn't do that!" and "But she said she has to!"

    I will say that most of the time the characters seem to have a good idea of what will improve the story!

  6. Oh, yes! My current WIP has caused me a couple of moments of concern when the characters wouldn't act like I thought they should. But it's hugely better this way :)

  7. It is always fun to watch other people see a side of your child that only his crazy, close and equally zany friends have seen before! Love the blog and PA can be as ornery as your characters for sure! He continues to make us smile and laugh pretty much every day. I don't write, but it sounds like characters and kids are both independent and attempting to stretch their legs before they leave home.

  8. Sorry I am late responding. That Luke. He is so high maintenance.

    Kathy--It is an adventure every day. My adventure is enriched by sharing it with you.

    Stephanie--Of course, they are wise. They belong to us.

    Cathy--Yeah, let them go. It's easier.

    Wendy--PA ornery? No! Oh, wait. I remember you telling me when he was a tot, that of course, he never gave me any trouble because I always gave him my undivided attention. That's the luxury of being a godparent. I am still awed by the generosity you continue to show in your willingness to share your child.

  9. And I count myself lucky to be sharing this adventure of life with you, Jean!