Tuesday, September 13, 2005
This looked like fun it could be a bit of Halloween Fun soI pulled it off the net...my comments are in italics.
Instructions: If you want to play around with developing character without taking the plunge of building fictional people from scratch--if, for example, you want to learn about character-building but aren't ready to start writing a story--a good source of names can help. The phone book is one, but it has no other details. In this exercise, we'll use a cemetery as a place to find the beginnings of interesting characters.
1. Find a cemetery near your home and go there with a notebook and pen. Really old cemeteries are often the most interesting, especially if you're into historical fiction.
( Google is great for this too )
2. Wander around and look at the names and dates on the headstones. Read any inscriptions you find. If you find any really intriguing names, jot them down in your notebook.
( I found my name once...Anita Marie Godfrey...no kidding, freaked me OUT! )
3. Find a good place to sit and write. If you've written down some names and dates and inscriptions, you may want to go home or to the library to write. If it's a nice day and there are places to sit, you may want to write in the cemetery itself.
( Nah, no one will think you're being a ghoul, but if its not a place you want to be don't go! )
4. Choose a name and think about what that person might have been like. When did they live and how old were they when they died? If there was an inscription on the headstone, how might it relate to the person's character? Perhaps a tombstone might say "In memory of a loving mother." Was the character you're creating in your mind really a good mother, or might her children have chosen those words in order to keep up appearances? Were any other family members buried nearby? How might their lives have touched your chosen person's life?
5. When you're beginning to get a good idea of what your character might have been like, write about them. You might choose to write a short biography, or maybe you'd rather put your character in a scene and see how they might act. Remember, you're not trying to figure out who this person really was; instead, you're creating a character based on a name and some dates, and maybe an inscription. The character will be made up based on what ideas that name and dates and inscription create in your mind.
Notes: This exercise is similar to the idea of making up lives for the people you see in public places. Instead of seeing a person for whom you can make up a name and other details, though, you have no idea what the person looked or acted like; you have only a name to go on. This is meant to be a fun way to exercise your imagination and learn a little bit about how characters can be made to seem real. And who knows, you might learn some local history in the process.
Sleep after toyle, port after stormie seas,
Ease after warre, death after life, does greatly please.
(St. Thomas Church; Canterbury, England)
Good Night Sweet Prince
and a flight of angels sing to thy rest.
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
As the flowers are all made sweeter
by the sunshine and the dew,
so this old world is made brighter
by the lives
of folks like you.
(Crown Hill Cemetery; Dallas, Texas)
Hillaire Belloc (1870-1953)
Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged,
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged
Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if
the car was on the way down. It was.
Posted by Anita Marie Moscoso at 5:21 PM
Monday, September 05, 2005
October 31, 2005
" They were so wrong about the Cemetery, they were so wrong about the 13 Steps, " my Grandmother told me on her Deathbed. She said this very forcefully, which shocked me because she was hopped up on Morphine and about 2 hours away from dieing.
She was laughing her usual laugh, which always reminded me of a cat's growl, and I took that as a sign of health.
I'm not sure why.
I had been begging since I was a little girl for my Grandmother to tell me about the Cemetery of 13 Steps and she just out right refused. " It's all Hogwash "she'd snap, " its a little private cemetery that a very nice family buried their own in and there's nothing evil about it. So for Pete's Sake drop it will you? "
" I think there's a interesting story there. " I insisted.
" I think the young people around here need to find a new place to get drunk and look for ghosts. "That's what I think" she'd sneer and then she'd pop open a beer and drink herself blind.
When my Grandmother was about 13 she use to go up to the Manzoor Family Cemetery and tend the garden that use to be there. In those days there were only about 6 graves and they were back up on a little plateau lined with Hazel Nut Trees.
My Grandmother used to like to work under the trees because Owls perched in them at night and she said she use to find little bones from mice and other prey littering the ground under the branches.
She'd call them treasures and she kept them in a canning jar tinted light green. She'd given me the Jar when I sold my first Novel and I thought it was right she had it back now.
As far as I knew it was the only childhood memento she truly cherished.
When I put the Jar at her bedside her eyes, which had somehow changed color before they became glassy and unfocused during her last week of life blazed on when she saw that Jar, that's when she told me about the Steps, that's when she told me the truth about the 13 Steps.
" It all changed up there the day Mrs. Manzoor and her children died in that accident. The youngest his name was Broody, he ran out in front of that Ice Wagon, it was pulled by a horse you know. Well, Mrs. Manzoor ran after him to snatch him out of the way and she didn't realize it but her daughter was right behind her...probably trying to help. Maybe reflex, maybe its because that little girl knew death was all around them and was going to the safest place she could see...her Mother's side."
" They were crushed together under the wagons wheels and then if over turned and God what a sight that was. Mr. Cooley the Ice Man, the horse Pedro, the children, Mrs. Manzoor. All ended up at the bottom of the Gully. They were just a tangle of wood and bodies. It wasn't easy to untangle them all. I think they used Axes, I think it was that bad. Then of course they had to pull that entire lot up the hill by rope and pulleys. Awful sight, something you can't forget no matter how hard you try. "
I didn't like the look in Grandmother's eyes, her voice was saying one thing and her eyes, well, and they weren't saying the same thing. I was looking into two faces, that’s
what it felt like. Her voice sounded sorry, her eyes, well they just looked alive.
The desire to clamp my hand over her eyes was strong and they itched to go to her face. So like a little kid I sat on them instead.
" What happened after that? "
" Bad things, people died out there, later it was car accidents, suicides, some people well you'd see them walking along side the road past the Cemetery and then they'd just be gone right before your eyes. "
" Mrs. Swenson said she saw Irma Liston, this was in what, 1946 I think walk past the cemetery and then she said she just wasn't there anymore. Thing is, no one ever saw Irma Liston again and Mrs. Swenson lost her mind and cut her wrists up at the Manzoor Cemetery. "
" So the Cemetery killed people. "
" Don't be stupid, of course it didn't. "
My Grandmother was looking over my shoulder and she laughed a little again and went on," Then the stories started about the 13 Steps to Hell being in the Cemetery. You could walk down these little gray steps that went down into the ground, and led into a tomb and an evil witch with white hair and no eyes was suppose to be down there. You'd bring her a little offering and she'd let you pass and then you'd see the devil and he'd give you powers. It was all a trick of course; it made things easier...for me. People are curious animals you know. "
Grandmother yowled her laugh and her eyes; they were shining " of course the Devil's a Liar you know. "
I watched her face, which was already changed by Death and from no where the thought came to me," why I'll bet she's looked like this all along."
" No I don't know that I don't know the Devil I'm glad to say. "
Grandmother chuckled long and deep and I almost screamed. Something inside of me was desperate to cry out and I wasn't sure why.
" It wasn't the Cemetery where the steps where. That was the lie. One of them anyway. The 13 Steps were on the other side of the fence by the Hazel Nut Trees. I found it when I was looking for my treasures. They were like a little trail of breadcrumbs you know. I followed them. Down the little gray steps that went below the work shed.
There was a garden down there, full of treasure..."
" Bones. "
" That's what I said, are you stupid? I wanted them...all of them and I made a deal with the Gardener I met down there. I would bring the seeds and he would give me the treasure. He told me he loved my treasures, he'd hold my hand and tell me how beautiful they were and how proud he was of all my work. "
" So I waited out on the road rain or shine day or night, and I found them one by one...and he gave me the treasure but you know...the Devil's a Liar. I tended his Garden for him and in the end why, I found out he didn't care about my treasures or love them the way I did. No, the treasure he wanted was Souls you know. Greedy, corrupt ones..."
" Those poor people..."
" Oh no, he didn't take those Souls he took mine...and its been his for a very long time in the Garden...."
The words snaked around in side my head and nested in my heart...she'd been in the garden " for a very long time..."
I backed up against the wall and my Grandmother turned her head towards me and smiled and smiled and the light in her eyes went out and her mouth went slack and on that Halloween Night someone died right before my eyes.
I'm just not sure who it was.
This is dedicated to my Grandmother the late Virginia Godfrey
It Might Seem An Odd Choice To Some
But She'd Have Loved It.
That's Why It’s Her Story Now.
© anita marie moscoso 2005-text
Posted by Anita Marie Moscoso at 1:38 PM