- Film, “Alice in Wonderland” 2010
On Sunday, my son visited a friend, so my husband and I decided to take my daughter to see Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” at the Boston Common Theater. I’d never been there before. Not only is it right on The Common (aptly named), but also it’s a large, impressive space. We chose that location because it was showing in 3D – my first 3D movie.
My impression of the first version, while fun, felt like an opium trip. (Not that I’d know.) In this version, Alice is nearly twenty and revisiting Wonderland. I won’t give anything away, but this story isn’t about happily ever after having to do with finding the right man – it’s about finding inner-strength and figuring out who she is. I’d like to say more, but I just promised that I wouldn’t give anything away. (Why did I agree to that?) There’s a scene early on, when Twiddle Dee, Twiddle Dum, and a mouse are trying to figure out if the Alice the rabbit has found is the correct Alice. They have some doubts and call her “Almost Alice”. That idea stayed with me.
After the movie, my manuscript, The Disappearances popped in my head. There it nagged for the rest of the afternoon and evening, although nothing specific came to mind. I thought about Alice. I thought about my protagonist, Eve. There was some connection, but I wasn’t sure what.
Then, just as I got ready for bed, I had an epiphany. I was tempted to hurry into the living room, turn back on the laptop, and add a scene I realized was missing from my manuscript. But it was after 10 pm, and I had to get up at 5:25 am. Besides, my critique group had a meeting on Wednesday, and I still had manuscripts to review. (Actually, I hadn’t even started.) Besides, it was better to think about what I wanted to write. Of course, I slept terribly. I can’t blame it ALL on the manuscript, but I can blame MOST of it.
Eve has twin brothers, who are political opposites. While I stereotype them a little to poke fun at them, I borrowed their personas. The left-leaning twin was taken from a student I knew in high school who blamed everything on corporate America (like "The Angry Young Man" by Billy Joel), while the right-leaning twin was inspired by the character, Alex Keaton from the television show “Family Ties”.
In the first chapter, Eve mentions that she can’t win a debate with her brothers, so she won’t even try. Then in the second chapter, when the first Walmart disappears, she listens to the twins bicker, and doesn’t participate. In a later chapter, they ask her opinion, but she doesn’t really provide one. Near the end of the book, she tries to defend her position, but the right-leaning brother makes a point, and her argument evaporates. And even though Eve grows in many ways throughout the book and finds her voice, I never have her forcefully make an argument and win against her brothers.
The idea for this story came when my family and I were driving to New York for Christmas vacation. It was twilight, and to the right of I-84, a mist wrapped around skeletal trees. I thought how eerie it looked when, “Walmart was the first to disappear,” popped into my head. Why did Walmart disappear? What did the mist have to do with Walmart? I spent the next several hours contemplating the story.
This manuscript probably sounds political, but I use the brothers to show how politics and the media often act like nooses instead of agents for solving problems. The big question is that, putting politics aside, what changes do we need to make to save our world? And if a supreme being behaved like the God in Noah’s Ark and the story of Moses, what would happen to people in our world today?
Back to Eve, all of this working on developing Eve’s character, so she could find her voice to face a myriad of challenges, and I never had her stand up to her brothers, and prove them to be limited in their worldview. And that’s many of us – we cling to our one idea, and don’t see it from multiple points of view because that would shake the comforting, and often, one-dimensional picture we’ve created. I don’t know what will happen with this manuscript, but I know that Eve is almost there, but she’s not there yet. I’ve got to make her… muchier.
Now back to the writing.