I’ve been thinking about where Heather came from, and what made her the way she is.
I started thinking about her history in a different way after I read an article in the New Yorker, Hollywood Shadows. The article is about a Hollywood therapist who sees primarily creatives, or people who work in the creative industries. The therapist, Barry Michels, describes a method he uses to help people overcome their fears. He talks about the Jungian idea of The Shadow, and one bit in particular struck me as a way to get inside Heather’s head. Michels talks about a woman’s attempt to get her child into a fancy pre-school, and what he did to help her. He asked her to visualize all the awful feelings she had about herself and create a person from them. The woman went on to describe her past self, when she was a fat, pimply, trailer-trash highschool girl. How well this works as a therapy is up for discussion, but it gave me an idea.
I’ve always thought of Heather as without problems, in a way. What I mean is that I have only imagined her with the problems I’ve given her that pertain to the story I’m writing. Which is obviously rather foolish. Because why would she only have problems now, and for the duration of the novel?
Getting inside Heather’s head is a real struggle for me, because she and I are very different people. I hadn’t found the thing that she and I have in common, but maybe now I have.
I imagine Heather to have been unpopular in school, but not so unpopular as to have been bullied. She was the girl you didn’t notice, ever. She was a wallflower. Plain, not ugly, but not pretty. Average. Completely average. Never did anything exceptional in her life, yet all she desired – then and now – is to be noticed. What she really wants is for people to be jealous of her, of her life. She wants to have what she couldn’t have in highschool. She wants to be the Homecoming Queen, the Girl Most Likely To Succeed. She wants people to know her name, and admire everything about her.
I think Heather’s highschool self will also give me a way into her psyche, and a place where it’s easier for me to create… if not sympathy, than recognition. Ultimately, I’d like the reader to wonder how similar s/he is to Heather. I want her desperate need to be important, loved, admired, and lusted after to resonate with the reader.