The Making of a Character

When my story first started to unfold I had an idea that my main character, Madeline, would be like me, kind, sensitive, anxiety stricken, you know all the fun things that make up who I am. When I started to write this life for her, I suddenly figured out that she is the most boring person in the entire universe. I would not be friends with her. Snooze! She is sappy and has no sense of humor or personality. She isn’t a fighter, she is weak and sad. I had shared my “horrible” outline with a fellow writer friend and she quickly pointed out my character’s flaws. She was right, Madeline was as exciting as a plate of mashed potatoes.

I lost my connection with Madeline and froze on my story line. My “horrible” outline showed its decay and rot, and Madeline added fuel to it. I decided it was best to let my brain do other things for a few days. Eventually I started to try to think about what I was going to do with Madeline. Even the name started to make me cringe. No offense to Madelines everywhere, it is a lovely name, which is why I picked it.

After a long day of kid wrangling I exited the room as soon as my husband was home from work. I headed to the shower and started to spin ideas. I’m sure a lot of us get our best ideas in awkward places such as the shower, lying in bed, on the toilet, or when driving. This is where Sylvia was born. Later that night I sat at my computer and started to fix my story. Not my outline, I have abandoned that for the time being. I consider my outline as the side car to my motorcycle. It’s there, but I don’t really know if I’ll use it anytime soon.

So, if you are curious, below is a rough draft of the first few paragraphs, though I have a few pages down. I have never put my writing out there and I’m finding it terrifying. I sit here freezing every few words I type. My open consciousness asking me “Are you sure you want to do this girl?”

I think so . . . .

Chapter 1

Wet fingers tapped the shampoo bottle three times, always three times. Tap, tap, tap. Then each bottle in the shower is turned so the label faces outward. Silvia’s routine is faithfully committed to every day. Turing the label on the bottles outward is the first step of many when taking a shower. Each time she completes this ritual she fights off the idea that it’s unnatural. Convincing herself that these actions aren’t hurting anyone and in fact these small things make her feel better, safer, and more at ease. If they left her feeling this way, then how could they be hurting anyone? Sean, her boyfriend, was reckless and always moving things around. Wondering if he noticed the bottles in the shower, or the constant organization all around the house, are after thoughts for her. She feels a force when thinking about adjusting these things, and it hangs on her to the point where it is unbearable to ignore.

The shower routine was the same every day. Once, to gauge for normalcy, she spoke to a friend about needing a routine in the shower every day. Her friend laughed and agreed she also has a daily ritual she follows, especially in the shower. Sylvia immediately relaxed, though further speculation may suggest that her routines were a bit out of the ordinary. Turning the water on and off 3 times. Running her hand under the water 3 times to check the temperature. If the temperature had to be adjusted, then her hand would wave under the water 3 more times. Tap, tap, tap, on each bottle and then spinning it so the labels were on the outside.

After the shower she taps her toes on the mat and is already thinking of the medicine cabinet and drawer full of products she could adjust. Wrapping herself in her fuzzy white robe she feels safe and cocoon like. She flips her head down and her short brown hair spikes towards the floor. Drips of water cling to the ends, she rubs her towel over her head when a loud bang on the door shakes her.

“Hey babe?!” Sean speaks from the other side of the door. Her irritation shoots through her, making her head feel warm and dizzy. Interrupting the routine means it is going to be a very bad day. Attempting to hide her irritation and growing anxiety she politely answers him.

“Yeah, what’s up? I’m almost done in here.”

“Sorry. I left my watch on the vanity and I gotta run. Early meeting. Plus I kinda gotta piss. Can I come in?”

“Gimme a minute.” Sylvia quickly applies her face lotion and reaches to unlock the door. Swinging the door open she feels the cold draft from their Baltimore rowhome roll in. Sean is standing there in his slim fitting khakis and tailored purple shirt. He always smells good in the morning, cleanly shaved, his black hair softly quaffed back. Sylvia thinks he is going for a trendy barista look, he’s pulling it off pretty well. His lips smack a quick peck on her forehead.

“Thanks babe. Sorry to interrupt,” he scoots past her and grabs his watch. She shuffles into the hallway and notices once again he doesn’t close the door when he pees. Wondering what it is with the male gender that allows this to be normal, she tries to ignore the sound of his urine hitting the toilet water and the rumble of gas escaping his body.


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