|Ellen Page, who is Aidee's visual model for Miranda (stolen from her Pinterest page)|
Species (if applicable): Human
Cultural or historical context: Modern day teenager, American South
Brief description and relevant history:
Miranda is a high school student that identifies as lesbian which you would think is her big secret, but no, it's that she can see "smudges" or echoes left when people die. She can't interact with them, just watch them as they do the same things over and over that they may have done in life. Miranda's mother died young, when she was four or five, from cancer but she's never seen her mother's ghost echo. Miranda's father remarried and she has a good relationship with her stepmother although they have little in common on the surface. She is an average student and has friends at school although her best friend committed suicide the year before (not really, she was murdered which is the crux of the exterior story when Miranda sees her echo struggling with an invisible attacker). She's also very interested in the new girl, Charly.
Where you're stuck, or why your character needs a psychologist:
This character has a lot of death surrounding her and I'm uncertain how this will affect her or even allow her to function. I want this story to allow her to bring her friend's killer to justice as well as be a tiny first romance between my two characters but I'm afraid she has too much on her plate.
What does Miranda believe about what happens after people die? Is there a heaven? Hell? One way to think about it is, what was she taught about death as a child? Does she belong to some sort of spiritual or religious tradition?
Miranda was raised in a Methodist household and believes that when people die they go to Heaven if they’re good and Hell if they’re bad. I don’t think she’s thought about it much, just that this is what happens. She was told that her mother went to Heaven and to her that just means she’s no longer around.
Does she believe that the smudges are really the peoples’ spirits or just echoes before she meets Charly and they find out the truth? How old was she when she started seeing them? (Note: we'll meet Charly next week)
I don’t think she thinks the smudges are people’s spirits. She’s only seen them do the same thing over and over like a recording. So to her, they are almost disconnected from the people they represent, more like a snippet of a 3D film only she can see. I think she started seeing them at a fairly young age and that her mother may have also seen them and counseled her not to speak of them. Perhaps her mother would have explained more when she got older, but since she died when Miranda was young, that opportunity passed. Miranda’s father’s family has lived nearby (perhaps a few hundred miles away), but he met Miranda’s mother while he was at college and she came from somewhere else. Miranda has never met anyone from her mother’s side of the family possibly because her mother had a falling out with them or even ran away.
How was Miranda’s mother’s death handled? Like, was there a big funeral with lots of supportive family, or were she and her father essentially left to themselves with some show-sympathy and a few casseroles?
One of Miranda's most vivid memories of her mother's death was her father dropping her off at school the day after the funeral and going to work. It was as if nothing had happened or it was an event that happened in the past. He was unwilling to talk about it, her grandparents (father's side) seemed relieved, and everyone politely stepped around the subject at her elementary school. She never even talked about it until her father's new wife asked her about it. And then it all came flooding out, tears, rage, feelings of abandonment and her stepmother helped her, validated her, and offered her comfort. It's one of the reasons that their relationship is so good in the present. While Miranda cannot go to her father or her father's family due to their coldness and stand-offishness, her stepmom, has always been there and her stepmom's family has always welcomed Miranda but they live very far away.
It might be helpful to think about larger motivation. What does Miranda want from life that seeing the smudges keeps her from accomplishing or thinking that she’ll accomplish?
The smudges have sort of forced Miranda into the role of silent witness. They give her a sense that no matter what you do in life, you're remembered by something insignificant like walking your dog or taking out the trash. She's stalled a little (not wanting to think about applying for college, not wanting to apply herself in school - making passing grades but nothing above). She fights to remain staunchly average despite the fact that she's not. Due to her father's career as a physician and his family money, as well as her intelligence, she has a lot of opportunities that she's passing up on.
What does Miranda fear the most?
Being rejected by her father and stepmother. As a result she has never explicitly come out, and in return her family has never asked about her sexuality. She also doesn't date so that the delicate fiction that she's a perfectly average daughter is maintained. And she'll certainly never mention the smudges.
You mention a best friend. Were they a clique of two, or are there others? Does Miranda have friends or do other kids avoid her because she’s weird?
She was friends with several other high schoolers but Anne was her best friend. When Anne died, Miranda pulled away from her other friends, turning down activities, parties and invitations. At first they gave her some slack, but now everyone thinks she should be moving on. But Miranda really just wants to be left alone.
Do Miranda and Charly live in a place like Charleston or New Orleans where there’s more of an acknowledgment of odd spiritual stuff, or are they in a setting where anything outside the strict Christian norm is regarded with suspicion? Setting could also strongly impact how accepted their sexuality is.
I think they're not too far from a large city like Charleston or New Orleans, but their town is small to middling. Some odd spiritual stuff is accepted - for example, everyone knows the story of the Ghost in the Field who cries for her children on rainy nights. That said, they aren't so small that they're expected in church every Sunday but small enough that everyone knows what church you go to. There are a couple of prominent out gay couples, so their sexuality though atypical would not result in their house being burned down.
Wow, Miranda does have a lot on her plate, but she also has a lot of advantages and resources that balance out her challenges. Instead of being too complex, it all sounds like layers to the same internal conflict.
Miranda doesn’t want to be noticed because notice brings rejection. That’s what she learned from how her father and his family tiptoed around her mother’s death and denied its importance, even to the point of being relieved. What did the poor woman do to bring that kind of negative attention? Or was she an extraordinary person who married into a traditional family who couldn’t handle her, and she couldn’t help it?
Miranda senses that her mother was rejected by her father and his family, possibly for this talent Miranda inherited from her. But what about the good things Miranda learned from her mother? Is she throwing out everything because of how her mother’s death was handled? It’s great she has a good relationship with her stepmother, but she needs to resolve her feelings and fears about her mother in order to move forward, and that will mean looking at the whole person, perhaps acknowledging parts of her mother she hasn’t allowed herself to think about. It also might mean rejecting some of the messages she’s gotten from her father and his family, which will push her emotionally out of this stuck place. I’d do a complete character profile for Miranda’s mother and figure out what characteristics Miranda inherited from her that are not allowed in her father’s family. For example, Miranda is a painter. Is it possible she wants to be an artist but doesn’t think her family would approve of that career choice, so she keeps her grades average so as not to be pushed into an “acceptable” path?
Doing whatever she’ll end up doing with the smudges and taking up romantically with Charly will definitely bring Miranda notice as well as give her a sense of connection to another person who truly understands her on all levels. You’re giving her a great choice for her to make – the safety of ordinariness and the security of fitting into her father’s family or following her heart with the possibility of being something really special with someone really special with all the risk it entails. Her core conflict emotion is fear, and what will push her to overcome it is your character and story arc.
Thanks for reading! We'll meet Charly next week. Meanwhile, please feel free to check out some of Aidee's published books. If you have a character you'd like help with, please send me a message through the contact form (upper right on page) or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com
About Aidee Ladnier:
Aidee Ladnier began writing fiction at twelve years old but took a hiatus to be a magician’s assistant, ride in hot air balloons, produce independent movies, collect interesting shoes, and amass a secret file with the CIA. A lover of genre fiction, it has been a lifelong dream of Aidee's to write both romance and erotica with a little science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, or the paranormal thrown in to add a zing.
You can find her on her blog at http://www.aideeladnier.com or on her favorite social media sites.