Monday, August 31, 2015

A Character Who Didn’t Make the Cut

Eva Moorman

There are a lot of words and a lot of scenes in Eli’s Heart, but not everything I wrote made it into the book. A writer’s conference I attended a couple of years ago left me with this gem: sometimes you need to write it, but the reader doesn’t need to read it. In other words, sometimes writing enriches your understanding of a character yet isn’t necessary to move the story forward.

My sense is that the better you know your characters, the more they will come to life for your reader. Writing about Krissy Porter’s years on the Conservatory campus were a journey back to the past for me; and many of the faculty members I had been fortunate enough to study with are uncannily similar to the faculty members who made such an impression on Krissy.

One faculty member, though, who didn’t make the cut was Krissy’s drama teacher, Eva Moorman. While she was a great character, she was minor in Krissy’s universe as a music major. But I liked her so much I kept her in my “drafts” folder. There are vestiges of this scene in Chapter Three, but here’s more.

**********

(Krissy) was studying lines from a script, the scene from Peter Pan where Peter and Wendy meet for the first time. She and her friend Marilyn had persuaded their drama teacher, Eva Moorman, to let them prepare the scene for class. Krissy and Marilyn were both voice majors, but had jumped at the opportunity to take Acting 101 with Eva.

Eva was a disciple of Constantin Stanislavsky. Krissy had never heard the name until she met Eva. One of the first acting exercises Eva gave her Acting 101 students was to wash their hands and consider all the elements involved, so that they could stand in front of the class and wash their hands without soap or water, but the class would see the soap and water because the actor was so believable, it would seem to be there.

When she demonstrated this, it was amazing. Eva really seemed to be using an invisible bar of soap. Krissy was convinced she could see the suds dripping off Eva’s hands. She could almost feel the water, because Eva was so obviously feeling it. Krissy washed her hands over and over, and tried hard to feel the soap and water without actually using them.

She failed miserably, thereby living up to Eva’s expectations.

The scene from Peter Pan was one that Krissy and Marilyn hoped would be included in a public performance of scenes by acting students. They agreed it would probably be a cold day in hell before Eva would let them perform it in front of an audience, but they both loved the play and enjoyed working on it, regardless.

On this particularly beautiful October day, Krissy was practicing the scene by herself, making a great effort to not sound too much like a hick playing David Barrie’s Wendy. Eva had said to Krissy and Marilyn. “Whatever you do, do not attempt an English accent.” She weighted every word when she said it, as if she were speaking in italics with a period between each word. Of course, Krissy immediately decided she’d have to try it, but certainly not anywhere in earshot of Eva.

Krissy stretched, closed her script, and stood to walk to West Hall for her drama class. Leaves crunched under her feet as she walked, and she smiled at the sound as she looked up at the clear blue sky overhead. She was eighteen years old, and could not imagine how her life could be better.

**********

Eli's Heart is available on Amazon, paperback and Kindle.


Campus of the Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati