ON “HOW, EVER” (with as little spoilers as possible)—
Do you believe in the philosophy “write what you know”? I do and I don’t.
90% the time, I like writing stories focused on things I know nothing about, because I am, at heart, a lover of fantasy and historical novels. I like diving into worlds brimming with outdated politics and made-up rules, and I am a little addicted to over-researching (hence, Privateer). More on that later.*
However, during that leftover 10%, I write about things that I pull straight from my life. Sometimes, the fictionalized real-life experiences turn out to be the best pieces. Sometimes, not so much. But in the case of “How, Ever,” I decided to take a break from research (or so I thought) and simply write from my own brain.
Turns out, my brain is a weird place to be.
Want some examples? Okay, let’s have some examples.
Example #1 from Samantha’s life: Will’s cat, Charlie, is actually my old cat from my childhood. Like Will’s Charlie, my Charlie was also evil and enjoyed gnawing on ankles and hands in his spare time. I loved him anyway. I don’t know why. However, we never shaved him. I almost regret that. Here is a picture of Charlie the demon cat whom we never shaved:
Example #2: This one is sort of obvious. Ever is a Theatre major. I am a Theatre major. The whole story is set up in theatrical acts… five of them, to be precise. Somewhat relevant fact: today, we are most familiar with the one/two-act structure of plays and musicals and the three-act structure of screenplays, but back in The Day, plays written in five acts were in (see: works of Shakespeare).
Example #3: The irrigation ditch from “Act Four” is based on a canal just off my old high school campus. I went to a boarding school, and I know people who would sneak out to skinny dip in that disgusting water. I myself never did it, because I am a germophobe.
Example #4: The arts festival from “Strike” is based on the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Colorado. I went last year, and was left with a lingering interest in and pity for the artists who have to walk around in the blistering heat and talk to stupid people who don’t know anything about art. Like myself.
William (Will) Crawford —
Will was an older character that I had had in mind for a while before I actually put him into this story (funny how that always happens to me). I woke up in the middle of the night months ago and scribbled down a short description of him in the notebook I keep by my bedside. He was an artist, and I knew something happened to him in college and after college that completely changed him.
However, when I first started writing, Will really wasn’t anything more than a device to reveal Ever’s character. But his personality kept bursting through his narrative, and I realized later on that this story wasn’t just about Ever; it was about how Ever affected Will’s life.
I picture him like a more solemn Elijah Kelley (actor/singer):
Ever Macintosh —
Ever is the thing that happened to Will that changed him. She was difficult and wonderful to write, because not even I knew all the answers to the questions in which she swathed herself. I still don’t know all the answers, and I think that’s exactly how it needs to be. The point of Ever is that she is not entirely containable; she is beautiful, and strong, and tormented by something that’s entirely intangible and invisible and altogether indescribable.
Her whole being is a nod to George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. The protagonist of that novel is Maggie Tulliver, and she is a wild, untamable spirit, just like Ever. Maggie is described as having hair that is dark and unruly, and she is never quite in reach of anyone. Maggie’s and Ever’s fates are somewhat similar, but of course, not the same. Ever could never be that predictable.
Although I describe Ever as dark-haired and green-eyed, I did not have any actresses/models in mind when I wrote her. The closest thing to Ever’s appearance is probably a young Olivia Wilde:
WEIRD/ANNOYING THING THAT HAPPENED WHILE I WROTE:
*This is where the research thing comes back in. I started out setting How, Ever in 1990, and going up from there. But once I finished the first draft, I realized that I had a major problem. In “Act One” Ever gives Will a Nestle Wonder Ball, and it comes back into the story later on. I consider myself to be a child of the 90s, and I grew up with Wonder Balls. If you don’t know what they are, I’m very sad for you. They were magical things.
I just forgot that they didn’t actually come out until 2000.
Turns out, Nestle had an issue with the first version of the Wonder Ball (first called a “Magic Ball”), released in 1997. A child choked on the little figurines inside and his parents sued Nestle, and the product was withdrawn, and then re-released in 2000 with the name “Wonder Ball.”
DOESN’T THAT COMMERCIAL JUST MAKE YOU WANT A LIFETIME SUPPLY OF THEM? YES NESTLE I DO WONDER WONDER WHAT’S IN A WONDER BALL.
In the end I decided it was better to just shift the whole story into the future 7 years, and pretend that the whole “Magic Ball” thing never happened (i.e. that the product was called “Wonder Ball” the entire time). Freakin’ Nestle. Screw up my story why don’t you.
Since this blog post is getting way too long, I’ll stop now and spare you the rest of my brilliant insight.
But I make no promises about another post.
Yes. There may be another post.