Monday, September 28, 2015

Stuttering Starburst

In first grade, I was special. Ms. Haugen would pick me up from class and lead me through the empty halls, through the cheesy bread smelling cafeteria, and into her tiny office. I didn't know what a speech pathologist was, but I thought she was cool. We would play games, talk, call up random businesses to ask questions, and all sorts of random things. At the end of every session, she would let me pick a Starburst from the jar on her desk (of course I nabbed the pink ones!)

At some point I was deemed cured and Ms, Haugen no longer would pull me from class. Some other lucky kid must have been eating those pink Starbursts, leaving the neglected yellow and orange to pool at the bottom of the jar. I now knew what they must have felt like.

As an adult I still have minor speech issues. Not so much the classic stuttering people think of, when a section of a word is repeated, like a skipping record. Instead it's more of a sporadic pause, where I want to say the word, but I can't force it out. It doesn't happen often, but it's there, a stalking ghost of an awkward kid.

Talking on the phone is when it strikes most. I think it's the extra attention on the sound of the voice. In person, you have expressions, and other stimuli to help deliver the message. On the phone, you only have your voice.

When I was envisioning a character for my new manuscript, The Alchemist (working title), I pictured him as a gifted academic, but struggling in the social world, oblivious to social cues. Also, I heard him stutter. I was able to tap into my own experience and add in the minor quirk to flesh him out further. It's the little things that help build a character beyond just the physical description, the clothes they wear, and the things they say. The small things purchase credibility with the reader as they experience the diversity in your imagined world.

There is a push in fantasy, and other genres to increase the amount of diversity represented in the books, and I'm all for that. I believe it should go beyond the obvious gender, race, and sexual preference checklist. Interesting worlds in my opinion, are teeming with various forms of life and sentient beings possess that much more potential for variation beyond coloring and who the like to have sexual relations with. The possibilities are endless. You can use our world as an example.

I'm working on a new story and pushing hard at three-dimensional characters and environment. I hope to create a living, breathing world. Maybe one where the orange and yellow Starburst are the sought after ones. You never know.

1 comment:

  1. I am glad you addressed this topic and agree completely. Diversity of characters enriches the stories while providing more characters that a reader may potentially identify with.

    It would be nice to read about characters of larger sizes that aren't defined by that size, and aren't the stereotypical portly king, chubby grandma, or rotund baker/chef.

    By the way, I like the orange ones.