Pretty skimpy entries…

Pretty skimpy entries the last few days, huh? Sorry about that. I have a good excuse, though -- I wrote a new story yesterday! First one in months, I think. I don't know how that happens. I do know who to thank for it, though; I was re-reading David's copy of LeGuin's Tehanu, and suddenly the voice of my narrator just dropped into place. Now, this is a story I've been planning to write for several months, either from the pov of the father or the husband, but it became clear that no, that's ridiculous, it's Himali's story all the way, and there it was. Her story, her voice.

It's a tricky thing, writing this collection with all these Sri Lankan women. I'm worried that they all sound the same to other people. They're pretty distinct to me...at least I think they are:

  • Chaya - who falls bewildered into love and then out the other side
  • Savitha - lost in sex and history and the unbearable demands of family, her own body betraying her
  • Shefali - trying to subdue love and sex and convention to logic and practicality, which causes all sorts of trouble
  • Lakshmi - who plays by all the old rules for almost too long
  • Lekha - confidence in motion, the only one who always knows exactly what she wants
  • Laila - who manages to find freedom, and wisdom, in compensation for what she walked away from
  • Samiksha - trapped in a twisted fairy tale
  • Medha - an ugly duckling in love, an old woman satisfied with what she has made of her life
  • "Mary" - driven right around the bend
  • Sushila - a pretty pretty girl, in the wrong world -- but she seems content enough
  • Riddhi - who played by the old rules, and didn't get out in time
  • Himali - taking what she needs, despite the cost to others
  • Raji - who was only fooled by the fairy tale for one wrong moment -- but who manages to create it again for herself, for real
  • Minal - who never really thought she loved him, but learns to take care of herself as a result
And that's just the protagonist women. Sheesh. Even their names are kind of similar...I hope the readers can keep them straight. And of course, they even have somewhat similar character traits -- just like all the women in my own family are pig-hea...err, strong-willed, and sometimes hysterical (and I used that word advisedly, fully aware of its sexist connotations, and believing it is nonetheless the best word for this particular job), many of these women share character traits. There are differences too -- Lakshmi and Himali, for example, are the only ones who possess a certain ruthlessness, and Lakshmi isn't nearly as likely to fret about it afterwards. Savitha and Samiksha are the only ones who are vaguely half-crazy -- "Mary" is the only one who's flat out over-the-top insane. Only two of them are queer. I think. But most of them are somewhat emotionally stunted, or overly-restrained, at least for a time.

I'm not sure how I ended up writing a collection full of people (the men too) who try to ignore their emotions, or lock them up into little boxes, or are paralyzed by them. Though there are also some who throw themselves into emotion full-force. Sometimes the same people, at different points in the story. And at the same time, they're pretty much all strong -- even when they're trapped, even when they don't find their way out of the traps. They're still fighting.

It was very satisfying, drafting the story yesterday (I'm pretty happy with it right now, though I suspect I may (as usual) have rushed it a little). But a little bit sad too, oddly enough. There's only three stories left in my current plan for the dissertation -- after that, it's all revision. And many of the stories are already revised. I've been working on this project, off and on, for at least five years, and you can count it as closer to a decade if you start with "Season of Marriage" (which isn't actually in the collection). I do, very much, want to see it as a finished book. It will be deeply satisfying.

But at the same time...I love these people. They're beautiful and strong, and sometimes a little broken, but still trying so hard, I have to cheer for them. I made these women up, and the men too, and I'm hopelessly in love with them all. How the hell does that happen?

I want to keep telling their stories forever.

2 thoughts on “Pretty skimpy entries…”

  1. Is there any reason you cannot tell their stories forever? They may not be front-burner characters in your writing universe after the dissertation is done; but it would not surprise me if you wrote the occasional story about them for the next half century or more, if I have any understanding about how the process works.

  2. Oh, that’s true — it’s just not the same thing as having it be your primary project. Not that I actually know what a primary project is these days…

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