Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Who is This Myrna Lou Person?

Back in the December Goodweather Report, I gave a little taste of the book I'm working on -- Birdie's book. In that brief exerpt, Miss Birdie is up in her family burying-ground, tidying in preparation for Decoration Day, when Dorothy appears with a stranger.

The unknown woman stepped forward, her face blossoming into a lop-sided smile that was oddly familiar.

“Aunt Birdie, you probably don’t remember me. I’m Louisa- well, Myrna Louise -- Lexter and Britty Mae’s youngest daughter. The last time I was here was 1959 – I was only sixteen then so I don’t expect you to recognize me now.”

Lord, she sounds like a Yankee, thought Birdie, looking for some hint of the teenager she dimly remembered. But pore thing, she cain’t help it – livin’ up there in Dee-troit all this time with Yankees all about. Come to that, I believe she married one. She does favor Lexter right much, now I come to look at her.

The little woman extended her arms. “Myrna Lou, honey, come here and let me hug yore neck. What took you so long to git back home?”

When I wrote my proposal for this book about Miss Birdie, I planned on making Birdie the main character with Dorothy and Aunt Belvy in supporting roles. Hadn't a clue about Myrna Lou. Where, then, did she come from?

Well, Myrna Lou (or someone like her) was necessary. In each new book I have to assume that many readers won't have read the previous Elizabeth books and so I have to explain all over again who these people are and what Marshall County is like. It helps vastly to have a newcomer on the scene to ask questions and be told answers. I can't use Dorothy and Belvy -- they already know most of Miss Birdie's history so they wouldn't be asking. And you can only do so much with a character sitting musing about the past. Hence -- Myrna Lou.

Myrna Lou can ask all the right questions to aid and abet in the exposition I'm trying to do. And being both younger and from "Away", her viewpoint will be different from Birdie's, Dorothy's, or Belvy's.

The thing is, though, Myrna Lou (or Louisa, as she prefers to be called) is trying to take over. Her own back story (still mostly in my notes and in my mind) keeps getting more and more complex, as always happens when characters begin to assume lives of their own.

I may have to take a stick to her to get her to step back, hush up, and let Birdie shine.

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Tammy said...

What an interesting post. I hadn't really thought about how you would go about incorporating the old background into a new story, in a manner to make it stand alone if needed. Adding a new person to ask all the right questions makes perfect sense! Thanks for sharing.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Tammy. I'm constantly discovering stuff about putting a book together that would never have occurred to me in my many years as a reader.