The Ordinary Woman
By Rodger Murry
There have been so many articles on
character creation that it would almost be redundant for me to describe how
I create characters. First off, I'm not terribly certain where they come
from, other than I'm fond of relating names to characteristics. But I would
like to talk to you about the creation of one of my characters.
August is not particularly young at 32, nor
particularly pretty except in that clear-skinned, nice hair and brightly-coloured
eyes way that most women are pretty. Neither slim nor plump, she is the
She is named after a month because her
mother and her grandmother and all the women in her family's history have
been named after the months of the year. Her grandmother was June, her
Her first appearance was in a short story
where she left her long-time sleazeball boyfriend after shooting up his TV
because he cheated on her with an unnamed high school girl. Typical, sort
of. She left in her father's old farm truck, with his police pistol tucked
between the seats, and drove until morning.
Now it may sound silly, but I created
August specifically for the purpose of describing the place she was in and
what it made her feel, because it's a place I've been and a thing I've felt
but never been able to articulate. August was, essentially, me. At the time
I wrote her I was not a 32-year-old women with trouble fitting into her
jeans and a sleazy boyfriend who never left his armchair -- except,
apparently, to commit statutory rape. I was not even a woman. For
clarification, I am not one now either.
I was feeling jaded, vaguely lost, and as
though I were driving along a paved county road between two endless wheat
fields in the sunrise. No destination, just cruising along in the rosy light
of youth and possibility. So August became somebody that people could really
believe. You could see why this woman was jaded and uncertain.
In that short story, which I later titled
"The Ordinary Woman," August showed my favourite attributes in myself and
other people: an urge to raise some hell, and the balls to not give a damn
about everyone else when her own wellbeing was at stake.
Later I began a much longer story with
August, which is still untitled and should become a novel in the due course
of time, and I am finding that there is room to show the parts of August
that are also in me. She's not all piss and vinegar, and she's definitely
There is a scene in the story where August
wakes up in an inn and finds herself, through her morning routine, trying to
get up the momentum to get through the day. She feels as she puts her bra on
and puts her hair back into its ponytail that she is putting herself
together. There is a feeling that she is getting ready to go through the day
on her own two feet, because Lord knows nobody else is going to carry her.
Finally she stands, dressed, takes a deep
breath, and makes the decision that I make many mornings. She decides to
walk out the door and try her damndest to be the best person she is because
she'll be damned if anything keeps her from being who she is.
I'm not sure why I feel the need to tell
people about August. She is, for me, an extremely rare treat. So many times
in books I have wanted to jump into the story and scream, "Don't do that,
you idiots! Don't you see where this is going! Foreshadowing in chapter six
clearly indicates what the antagonist is going to do!" With August, I
have that voice in the story. It's not filtered through a character that I
have created by the rules or through any process. That's just me, on the
page. Sure, she's a woman and nearly 20 years my senior, but she is me, make
no mistake. Just as in life, on the page, being myself has been a great
freedom and a joy.