Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Almost Eve

The Mad Hatter: [to Alice] You used to be much more..."muchier." You've lost your muchness.

- 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.


  1. Hi

    OH Wow!!!!

    I;m so so glad you are back on the Disappearances because this reads like it;s gonna be a meaty - meatier!- novel!! Conflicts about galore - magic-realism for YA audience.

    I like how the germ of an idea took root within you. It's so interesting how writers get ideas for the base of their novels. And your stream of consciousness thinking for your story is pretty amazing!

    Oh now I really must go see the Tim Burton film!

    Take care

  2. I love the idea of your MC confronting her brothers in an arguement and having more "muchness"! That is great character development. This WIP sounds wonderful. Let me know if you need a beta reader :)

  3. This almost makes me want to go see the movie. Almost. I think your first line is brilliant. "Walmart was the first to disappear." What a hook.

  4. Old Kitty, I think you commented within minutes of my posting in the US, when most of the east coast people were waking up and the west coast people were still sleeping.

    I'm glad you think my manuscript sounds meaty. It's different from anything else I've written, but I think I can say that for each manuscript.

    Yes, go see the Tim Burton Film. For me, Johnny Depp is redeemed after that horrid Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

    Aubrie, thanks for offering to be my beta reader - it's very generous of you. I may take you up on that!

  5. Theresa, really interesting post.
    I loved that line as well. I thought the movie was amazing and it really threw a totally different perspective on the original story. Good luck with the character development, sounds like you have it sorted.
    By the way, I brought three twelve years with me to see that movie and one of them chose about the only quiet bit in the movie to shriek, 'There's Johnny Depp for you, Brigid, are you happy now ?" much to the amusement of the packed cinema. At least I could hide behind my popcorn. Good luck with your novel.

  6. Karen G, I recommend the movie - especially for girls.

    Brigid, thanks for wishing my luck on character development.

    You have a crush on Johnny Depp! He is a VERY good-looking guy, though I think the "Wino Forever" tattoo was a big mistake (along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

  7. Theresa, I am on my blogging half hour before the kids get back and had a quick re-peek at your post, NO, I don't like J Depp in that way. I was fooling myself on the way to cinema talking about how much I love Johnny as a character actor and that I want to write a role for him some day (joke) and of course, being twelve year olds, that was transferred to me being 'in love' with him. I will be a lot more careful in future !!

  8. How great that you had an epiphany! Don't you love it when that happens, so unexpectedly?

    Good to hear about your story - it sounds really interesting. Good luck with the writing!

  9. Sounds like a great insight into your character! I love when something triggers deeper insight into our characters and stories!

  10. My husband wants to see Alice and Wonderland. Perhaps this weekend. I am very much a fan of Johnny Deep. He goes so deep into his character with such emotion. Sounds like you are doing the same with your manuscript.
    Good Luck!

  11. Sorry, Brigid. No crush on Johnny Depp. I agree that he's a good actor - he gave The Mad Hatter depth.

    Talli, I love epiphanies, especially when something isn't right, but I can't pinpoint it.

    Jody, I'm beginning to think that I had to sit on this manuscript because now I'm at the point that I know how to take it to the next level. I couldn't have done that a year ago.

    Choices, I like being compared to Johnny Depp!

    Let me know what you think of the movie.

  12. Sounds like a fascinating story, Theresa! I feel as though I should care more about politics, but I just can't wrap my head around it. I have my own opinions and people are forever trying to get me to think this and that, and it's frustrating. Alice in Wonderland was definitely an opium trip, not that I'd know either. It's just... strange. But I love the "muchier" comparison!

  13. See, movies and TV don't always rot your brain! :) Your book sounds intriguing. I hope the writing comes along well. Good luck!

  14. Sounds like you had one of those wonderful flashes. I love when that happens. Your story sounds very interesting. I haven't seen this movie; the 3D thing put me off. Do the twins lean in the direction of their womb placement? Just a crazy thought that occurred to me as I read your post. The things that pop into my head. Crazy right?

  15. Thanks for the comment, Julie. Politics can be so frustrating because it often feels that everyone is just interesting in winning.

    I'm feeling good about where the story is going.

    Surfie, good point - movies and TV, when done well, make us think.

    Thanks for the writing wishes.

    Ann, I never thought about womb placement! I didn't dig that deep. My mother is a twin, and her bickering with her sister is also my inspiration.

    I love flashes too.

  16. This entry had much muchness! I went to see Alice in the movie theater a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. So glad to know you could take something away from it and apply it to your WIP!

    Thanks for posting.

  17. @ Theresa - yeah, I know that absolutely last thing at night feeling! Or in my most recent case 'absolutely first thing in the morning ensuring that I have no chance at all of going back to sleep'.... for consequences ask the stationmaster to whom I had to apologise this morning after being so tired I dropped an extra strong cup of coffee everywhere at 6 am :)

    @ Brigid - at least that's a step up from the kids at my local cinema who just go Eeeee! every time anyone who's ever been in Twilight comes on screen :)

  18. B. Miller, I'm glad you thought that my post had much muchness! I'm glad that I got a good post and an idea for my WIP out of the movie.

    Hampshireflyer, so sorry to hear about your 6 am coffee mishap - you needed that coffee too! The worst is when I dream about my WIP and it wakes me up, which sounds similar to your predicament this morning.

  19. I love this post. Congrats on figuring out a way to improve your manuscript. And isn't it lovely how the most random things can prompt our writing?

  20. Rebecca, I'm amazed at the odd places I've gotten writing ideas. I just read your recent post, and am glad to hear that you've been productive writing-wise.

  21. I love writers! I love reading posts like this one, hearing how your see one story and find it working through your brain, how it relates to your own characters. Fascinating! Your story sounds intriguing, BTW. Best of luck making it muchier. (LOVE that, too!)

  22. I love the sound of this story! and very insightful post. But now I must go and try to work the word muchier in casual co-worker conversation.

  23. Nicole, I'm glad to hear that you think my story sounds intriguing. I was a little worried about sharing it.

    Marsha Sigman, thanks for the nice words. I want to use muchier and muchness in casual conversation as well.

  24. Interesting point Theresa! I get so frustrated with one dimensional people who fiercely cling to their viewpoint as the "right" viewpoint. Is this how one brother views life and politics? I can't wait to hear how Eve gets "muchier".

  25. Muchier...haha! Love that. Don't you just love these moments of inspiration, the moments where the lightbulb just seems to light up and go ding? It's a little piece of fabulous.

  26. What a fabulous post about your story. I love hearing how writers come up with their ideas, and I still maintain that the premise of your book is fascinating.

    I haven't seen Alice In Wonderland yet (I think hubby's reluctant to see it because it only got so-so reviews) but I really want to see it!

  27. VKT, both brothers are like that - they're just on opposite sides. If people would stop shouting and listen more, we'd compromise more.

    Eve gets muchier in several significant ways.

    Carolina Valdez Miller, thanks for the comment. Now "a little piece of fabulous' is in contention with "muchier".

  28. How funny--that was the line that stuck out with me the most from that movie too! I think the more muchness we give our characters the more the readers (and us writers) can relate to them.

  29. That "dig deeper" philosophy is so helpful when creating substance in characters for sure. Great post!

    Eve will get there. Keep writing.

    ...And you should have seen How to Train Your Dragon--I loved it! (ha, ha) :o)

  30. Shelly, I'm glad that you like the premise of my manuscript.

    I hope you get to see the movie. It moved along well and was fun.

    Olleymae, I probably related to Alice's gaining muchness because Eve relies on her friend too much in the beginning, but becomes muchier over time.

    Jackee, thanks. I want to see the movie, but I wanted to wait for when my son is around.

  31. I'm loving your idea I'm glad your running with it!!! Eve sounds very interesting!

    I truly enjoyed Alice in Wonderland there was something so intriguing and special about it! I too thought about my MS long after the movie and though none of my characters were relateable to the movie it was so interesting and I thought my novel was so interesting that it made me think about what the next step was in the process!!!

    By the way I love the title you have! Disappearances already has me intrigued!

  32. I keep wondering what happens after the Walmart disappears, and I hope that I have a chance to find out someday.

    I nominated you for a beautiful blogger award on DB.

  33. Thanks, Jen. I hope agents and publishers eventually agree with you about Eve and the title. Then I just have to convince them about the manuscript!

    I'm glad Alice made you think too. Anytime we see something we respect, it makes us think about our own work.

    Disgruntled Bear, I hope you get a chance to find out someday too. Someday soon!

    Thanks for nominating me for an award. I'll check it out.

  34. This movie is amazing! But then I am a huge Johnny Depp fan.

    In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, boojeebeads.com is having a contest where every teacher in your school can win a free gift! Check out the contest at my link.

  35. I know well what it's like when the Muse has something she wants you to work on. There's no point in trying to silence her by going to bed. She'll just continue talking in your ear and you won't get much sleep anyway. There's no point in fighting her. She's going to win anyway. LOL

  36. Hi Theresa, there is an award for you over at Inkpots N' Quills. Come on over and pick it up!

  37. Tracy, I'm surprised the movie didn't get great reviews. I wonder what they didn't like about it.

    I'll check out your contest!

    Mary Anne Gruen, my muse is always robbing me of sleep. If only she understood that I can't find my muchness when I'm tired. I guess I'll have to write from now on!

    Ann, thank you! I'll come have a look.