Friday, August 19, 2011

Discovering Francetta

Recently I finished a manuscript about Anita Ray, the Indian American woman photographer who lives in India at her aunt's hotel, but through the last few days of working on the manuscript I kept hearing the voice of another character. This is the kind of thing that often happens to me when I'm finishing a book--I hear the voice for a character in the next book, see the story idea starting to cohere in my imagination, see scenes that will show up in the story. The problem is, the character's voice is entirely different from everything else I've written. Her name is Francetta and she is totally unlike any of my other protagonists in many ways. Nevertheless, I kept listening.

I finished the Anita Ray and sent it off, and then sat down to hear what Francetta had to say to me--who was she and what was her story? In the first few pages, she was mostly a very hard-nosed woman pretty angry about life. She had lots to say and her language wasn't always pretty. But she had a wry sense of humor, a laser sharp eye for the phony, and a fearlessness in facing life that I admired. I listened.

Francetta has quite a story--about her murdered husband, her months in prison, and her friends who aren't really friends. She looks on her past as a foster child with acceptance, and stays focused on the present--her friendship with her mother-in-law, her growing son, and her husband's memory.

Francetta tells her story with verve and a sly sense of humor. I don't know the whole story yet, but she's letting me in on it in bits and pieces.

I usually write as a process of discovery, uncovering the plot and clues, getting to know the other characters and their lives, but usually I know the protagonist pretty well. But this time I'm discovering just about everything--a new character, a new setting, a new kind of crime, a new language. I'll let you know how it goes.