Friday, May 14, 2010

What Makes a Home for My Characters?

For the past few months I have returned to editing my novel "Rebbeca 2.1."  Rebbeca is a geisha in 2085 hired as a negotiator for district supervisor in Western America. As her profession suggests, Rebbeca is originally from Japan, but every character in the novel is from somewhere else.  This is typical in most places, but living in Alaska I've found this particularly true. I'm from Los Angeles. My husband is from Montana.  My best friend is from St. Louis. Yes, there are people like my son and several of his friends who are from "here." But the space between locals is packed with a bunch of adventurists/squatters.

Several times Rebbeca compares Japan with her temporary home in Las Perlas, California.  Both are moist climates that have a full four seasons, a city life, and access to remote areas. Yet, Rebbeca always senses something is missing from her home in California.  Early on we learn the most important things she has brought with her to Japan are tea sets used to entertain clients and kimonos that she still wears.  Growing up she had few friends and as an adult was only close to one or two people.  In fact, in California she is closer to more people than ever, but still is seeking for that "missing" element.

This got me to wonder what it is about Fairbanks, AK that I like so much.  Most of my life is in a blur. I wake up to extreme heat and sunlight in the summer and extreme cold and darkness in the winter.  I drive the same five interconnected roads to the same six places and see nearly the same people everyday.  As I stood in my driveway watching the neighbor kid bounce on his trampoline strapped to a snowboard I wondered when the hell he got so big.  I walked to the local Taco Bell where I saw his sister behind the counter and wondered when she became old enough to work. I rode my bike to the post office and realized they fixed half the crappy sidewalks.  I rode a little further and saw that they installed new cross walk lights at each intersection.  So much in Fairbanks was "shiny" again and suddenly I remembered why I liked it here:  Fairbanks reminds me of a rough draft.  A town that threw itself together to fulfill a need and now needs refining to fill new needs.  A few years ago we didn't have a Barnes and Noble or Walmart or even a Chili's.  Now locals may say "...and we don't need those things," but part of the refining of Fairbanks is incorporating all the people who have wandered into this town looking to make a contribution.

For Rebbeca she suffers almost the opposite problem.  Japan is a refined society and the western region of the Americas (note: no longer the United States) is in a rough draft following a civil war.  She struggles with conflicting thoughts that are almost illogical and backwards and she misses knowing where she stands on a day to day basis. 

Writers: Do you know how your characters feel about home?  What is your method for finding this out?

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