Walking with Invisible Friends

As some of you may recall, I am embarking on a course (of sorts) to help me focus and actually write one of the novels that I keep thinking about. The first assignment asked that I suggest two novel ideas so my instructor could guide me and suggest which one would be stronger. Yeah, right! To quote my instructor,

“Occasionally in this new course I’ve encountered a situation where a student presents two ideas that are both good. In this case my slight tendency is to recommend Andra’s story because I think the plot elements might translate to a full length novel slightly better. But I’m interested in Layla, too, as you’ve gathered.”

In other words, he is leaving the decision up to me, which is a problem because both these stories have been calling to me for a while now, and I think the Layla story has potential once I tighten up my plot ideas. [On a complete side note, I borrowed the name  Andra from the fabulous Andra Watkins over at The Accidental Cootchie Mama, I hope she doesn’t mind–it is really a compliment and perfect for this particular character.] He did give me the option of doing the second assignment, which develops characters further, for both proposals so he could get a better feel for the characters and make a stronger choice. I probably will do that, and I may just continue to do each assignment for both projects even after he has chosen one. But, I thought it might help if I could make my own decision.

To this end, I decided to take my characters on a walk through the botanical gardens today, with interesting results. Enjoy!

“Girls, you have to help me out,” I say as I choose my path through the botanical gardens. “I need to choose one of you to focus on, but I want to know you both better. How do I choose?”

“Why can’t you just tell both our stories?” Andra demands, setting the pace for our walk. “We both have something to say.”

“M-m-my story is nothing s-s-special,” Layla stammers in her quiet voice almost a whisper, but still somehow resonating with sound.

Her voice surprises me. “I didn’t know you stuttered, Layla. I thought you were learning to become the Storyteller.”

She looks down, shyly, focusing her attention on the deep purple and drooping yellow flowers by the side of the path.

“It c-comes and g-g-goes. When I am t-telling a t-t-true story, when the m-m-magic enters my body,” she reaches out, her fingers glowing. The yellow flowers reach toward her fingers, as if embracing the warmth of the sun. “When that happens,” Layla continues, her voice sounding richer and deeper, “I find my voice.”

“Wow!” Andra pipes in while making crunching sounds on the gravel with her feet as if she is anxious to keep moving. “So both our stories have something to do with finding our voices.”

“Well, yes,” I say. “In a way.”

“Of course, I know I don’t have any problems talking. It’s just that the rulers of my country want to keep me silent! Not just silent, they want me and all other women to be stupid.”

“You’re obviously not stupid, Andra,” I saw as we all resume our walk. After sharing her brief moment of magic, Layla seems content to watch and listen, silently observing the world around her.

“I was lucky. My parents taught me everything they could get away with, by telling me stories and sharing everything. The only thing they were afraid to teach me was how to read and write, because that is against the law. Girls and women cannot learn to read and write. supposedly for our own good. But, since my Father is a scrivener, I managed to sneak out scraps of paper to learn anyway. Father always talks about what he is copying, unless it’s  top secret, so I’ve learned much more than most girls ever could.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” I ask.

“If anybody in power ever finds out I can read, my whole family will be in trouble.  I try to keep it secret to protect them. But lately I found out something interesting and I don’t know how much longer I can keep my secrets hidden.”

“S-s-silence is bad.” Layla surprises me by speaking up. “W-w-what did you learn?”

“We’ve always been taught that women couldn’t read because it would hurt our brains somehow. Even though I don’t feel hurt, everyone always thinks I’m strange and different, so I guess I believed it too. I don’t mind being different though. I’m ok with that.”

“People think I am s-s-strange too, because I am silent. B-but they m-m-made me s-s-silent, by t-t-teasing me and being cruel when I was a child. They l-l-laughed at my s-s-stutter.”

“That’s horrible!” Andra puts her arm around Layla’s shoulder.  “I would be your friend. I mean, you’ve got cool powers and everything.”

A tiny curvature of the mouth peeks out of Layla’s face.

“What did you find out?” I ask, trying to gain some control over this conversation.

“Well, I read something I shouldn’t have. Actually, there’s nothing I should be reading,” Andra laughs.  “But this was a letter from a person high up in the government to another noble that said he sensed a threat coming from a group of men and women. It said, ‘we have to strengthen our evidence and make it more convincing. We have to find more ways to keep women down, otherwise we will lose control.”

“That’s intense,” I say. “And kind of terrifying.”

“N-n-nobody should be kept down. Division is dangerous.” Layla says, looking straight at Andra with her deep brown eyes that seemed to hold wisdom well beyond her years. Andra shifts her gaze away. “You must s-stop this,” Layla says.

“I know. I’m going to. Somehow. But, what do you mean, division is dangerous?”

The glow that was once only in her fingers, seems to flow through Layla. When she speaks, her voice has shifted slightly, no longer the whisper of the shy girl/woman, now she has the rich tones of a storyteller. “Let’s sit here, under the beauty of trees, by this moss stairway. It reminds me of the secret places of the Others.”

Andra and I sit on a wooden bench, and for a moment we hear nothing but the wind blowing through the trees and the trills of hidden birds.

“Where I come from the trees hold secrets.” Layla begins, her voice growing richer with  each word, and the glow from her hands spreading becoming too hot to look at. “The Others live deep in their darkness. Some call the Others animals, but that is out of fear. Out of the need for division and separation. My mentor, the Storyteller, knows better. She has told me this.”

At this point the light from her hands shoots up over her head to form the shape of an ancient woman with a huge smile. The woman’s laugh lines bury her eyes in joy. Layla speaks in this woman’s voice, in the voice of the true Storyteller. “Their lives are different from ours, Layla. But they are human too. They look different. They eat different foods. They share different songs and stories and beliefs. But they, like us, are human. They know secrets we do not. They could help us, just as we could help them.”

“So why do your people dislike the Others?” Andra asks, always searching for understanding and knowledge.

“Fear. But I am afraid that fear will kill us all. At least, that is what the Storyteller tells me. B-b-but,” here Layla’s voice returns to normal, “I have t-to s-s-seek the t-t-truth.  Although I am afraid. The S-s-storyteller is dying, as are m-m-many in our village. The Others m-m-may know a cure. If I d-don’t find a way to b-b-bring our groups together, I think everyone is d-d-doomed.”

“It sounds like we both have something important to do,” Andra says, jumping up and pushing us toward walking again.” We can’t just sit and talk, we need action. So Lisa,” she says, “Whose story are you going to tell?

“Let’s go get something to eat,” is my only answer . . . for now.

29 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sportsjim81
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 15:49:40

    Absolutely loved this. Reminds me of a post I did about the main character of my novel, though the quality of this piece dwarfs that of mine. Glad to hear you are pursuing your novel writing goals!

    Reply

  2. Mony Dojeiji
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 15:55:49

    I love the magic you weave into your story, Lisa. Let that continue to be your guide… 🙂

    Reply

  3. Taochild
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 18:27:24

    OK the answer is simple. You need to do them both. I actually CHOSE to write two at once as a way to switch gears. When I get stuck on one, I move to the other to effectively stretch the mind and allow it to rest part of itself. It actually seems to work pretty well 🙂 It is the whole concept of finding what you need by looking elsewhere (or as you said: “Sometimes you just have to let go to find your way.”)

    Reply

  4. Taochild
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 18:28:01

    Oops I forgot the most important part of the comment. WOW!!!!!

    Reply

  5. Andra Watkins
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 18:42:56

    Lisa, thank you. You’ve been reading my blog long enough to know about my tricky relationship with my name, and it would be so great for us Andras to have a champion. That’s exactly who your Andra sounds like. What’s even funnier is my own relationship with invisible people, a topic I wrote about a long time ago on my blog in this post:

    http://andrawatkins.com/2011/09/25/i-had-children-when-i-was-two/

    I can’t wait to see where you take these characters. They all have distinct voices already, and I suspect they won’t let you NOT tell their story. 🙂

    Reply

  6. athursdayschild has a long way to go and much to be thankful for.
    Apr 04, 2012 @ 19:15:12

    I think one day soon I’ll be reading your many novels – book form , not kindle.

    Reply

  7. Trackback: What’s In A Name? « The Accidental Cootchie Mama
  8. benzeknees
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 03:18:08

    Love, love, love this Lisa! I think Tao is right, you should write both of these books at the same time so you can use each character to freshen the other. What a great idea for exploring these characters!
    On another note – just wanted to let you know you are mentioned in my blog today for the Versatile Blogger Award. I know you already have one, but I couldn’t acknowledge great blogs I read without acknowledging yours too! Don’t worry about passing it along, you’re doing so well with your writing right now, don’t get distracted unless you want to.

    Reply

    • Lisa Wields Words
      Apr 05, 2012 @ 07:35:07

      I think the verdict is that I will, indeed, be working on both projects. I will allow my instructor to select his preferred one for our interaction, but I will do the assignments for both projects.

      Thank you so much for the Versatile Blogger. I won’t pass it on this time, but I am truly honored.

      Reply

  9. Victoria-writes
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 05:55:52

    Brillant, super creative! I think both ideas are exciting, follow your heart and the right one will be found. good luck!!

    Reply

  10. 4amWriter
    Apr 05, 2012 @ 13:50:55

    I like both characters, too. It is hard to pick one over the other, which only means you will ultimately do both. I suppose the one whose story affects you more as a writer is the one you should do first.

    Good luck!

    Reply

    • Lisa Wields Words
      Apr 05, 2012 @ 13:53:44

      Ah, but both stories have a hold on my heart at the moment. I think I will be working on both of them. I will allow my instructor to choose the one we work on together, and then use what I am learning from one to help impact the other. I work best when I have many projects anyway.

      Reply

  11. Gilly Gee
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 15:11:52

    My goodness you write well Lisa,makes me aware of how far i have to go!

    Reply

  12. Trackback: Fiction or Non-Fiction? Finding My Voice « Woman Wielding Words
  13. Trackback: Restless Stories | Lisa A. Kramer: Woman Wielding Words

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