I’ve come to understand that my characters are like children. They want my undivided attention, and will only agree to “talk” to me if they get just that — undivided attention. So, when I finally sit myself down, open my mind and let my fingers fly over the keyboard, they tiptoe in, sit beside me and begin to tell me what’s on their minds.
It happened this morning.
In my book, Broken Dolls, Sachi, my eleven-year old Japanese-American girl is still an internee at the Rohwer, Arkansas Internment Camp. Her eighteen-year old brother, Nobu, has been sent to a Justice Department camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, because he answered “No-No” on Questions 27 & 28 of the loyalty questionnaire given to all Japanese-Americans over the age of eighteen. Sachi misses him terribly, and sits down to write a letter. But rather than tell him about the black hole in her life since he’s been gone–that would make him more homesick–she decides to tell him about what she and her friend, Jubie, a local black girl, have been up to.
Here is a segment of that letter:
. . . When we moved one big rock, a couple of weird-looking, lobster-like creatures skittered away. Jubie called them crawdads. She said you could eat them, and that she’d ask her Auntie Bess to cook up a pot. But first, she said we’d have to catch a bunch of them. I don’t know. They look a little creepy. How am I supposed to help catch them if I don’t want to touch them? And eating them? Yuck.
People around here eat some strange foods, Nobu. Of course, Jubie probably thinks what we eat is strange, too.
I told her once that sometimes we eat our rice with seaweed wrapped around it. She crinkled her nose and asked what seaweed was. I had to remind myself that she’s never even seen the ocean, so she’s probably never heard of seaweed. When I explained that it was like thick, long blades of grass that grew in the ocean, she crinkled her nose even more, then stuck out her tongue!
That’s okay, because that’s how I felt about eating crawdads . . .
For me, there’s no greater pleasure in writing than when my characters talk to me so openly that my fingers fly on the keyboard just to keep up with their words.