So last week, I confessed that one of my fantasy dream jobs as a kid was becoming an advice columnist. My passion for dance took me in a different direction, but now as a fiction writer, I get to create characters who do things I’ve fantasized about.
Take Clara, for example. She’s a seventeen-year-old high school newspaper advice columnist at the center of my YA novel, It Should Have Been You. In my last blog, I shared the letter she received from another student who’d fallen madly in love with the 28 year old married father of two she’d met playing co-ed softball. He wanted her to “wait for him” until he could figure out how to divorce his wife without losing his kids. Her girlfriends thought she’d lost her mind, but he was so wonderful…
Here’s how Clara responded:
Dear In Love But Wondering,
Let’s just say you’ve got excellent taste in girlfriends. It’s your choice, but I’d advise hanging on to them and losing the guy.
Talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing—okay, substitute a catcher’s uniform for the sheep getup. Here’s the thing: Bill may seem like the most sophisticated, charming guy on the planet, but stop and think about his behavior. He’s a married man and a father who spent the summer trolling for a love connection with a young girl. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t sound especially mature or considerate to me—more like major league manipulation.
If you play the patient damsel-in-waiting game he’s offering, I’m having trouble foreseeing a happy ending. You don’t have to watch Lifetime to know that the world is littered with people who’ve wasted years of their lives waiting for their married lovers to shed their spouses. And suppose he does defy the odds and divorce his wife and marry you. Then you’ll be spending a good portion of your time caring for two kids who resent the heck out of you. And what will you do when Bill announces he’s signed up for more co-ed softball, and by the way, would you mind watching the kids?
Besides, you’re too young! We all are. You deserve to spend the next few years growing and changing and figuring stuff out like who you are, and who you want to be with. Anybody who tries to take that away from you isn’t really someone who cares about you—even if he does open the car door.
– Since You Asked
I’d love to know what you think of Clara’s answer. It’s been a lot of fun for me to get inside her head and write in her voice. In many ways, working on her column is the way Clara escapes from her own life, where some pretty terrifying things are happening.
Maybe that’s what’s so appealing about reading and especially writing fiction. We get a temporary respite from our own lives and vicariously experience other people’s passions and problems.
As any fiction writer can tell you, playing pretend can be a real rush.