Hen&inkblots: A Literary Blog

Can You Hear Me Now? When Characters Speak Through Revision, Part Three (In which Mima finally hears what Alice has to say)

March 1, 2012 by Mima Tipper

***Spoiler Alert*** This blog post contains story spoilers. Read the full version of “Waiting for Alice” in the first issue of Sucker Literary Magazine at http://suckerliterarymagazine.wordpress.com/

I thought about the story more, about Mia more and, as the following bits from my writing journal prove, obviously more and more:

September 16, 2008…What is it with Mia? Should I change her name to Alice so I can really look at her with fresh eyes?

…September 19, 2008. How crazy to be afraid of my writing, like it will bite me.

…October 4, 2008. Some days I am a little freaked out by “…Alice.” I just finished M. D. Bauer’s collection of gay-themed YA short stories, and it scares me a little to have imagined what I’ve imagined… (Tipper Journal)

My journal shows me having finished the Bauer collection, so I know that the October 4th entry occurred after I had my library-epiphany. What I also know is that the moment I began writing Mia (now Alice) from the perspective of a young girl struggling to understand an unexpected development in her growing sexuality, the story, now titled “Waiting for Alice,” came to life. As did the revised ending:

Three girls come in. They smile at you in that way that says they don’t know you. It’s true. They don’t know you. There’s a whole world out there that doesn’t know you. You look beyond them to the door.

Mom and Stacey—your best friend Stacey—are out there somewhere, waiting on the other side.

The dream dark waits, too. Black and soft and velvet as falling. How much easier it would be to go back there, stay there. Blink—what’s it going to be, Ali-girl, Ali, Alice?

You can’t do it.You can’t stay in that empty, lonely, not-true place.

But there won’t be any falling or diving or jumping. Just one step, and then another.

Out. (“Waiting for Alice,” Sucker Literary Magazine, Winter, 2012)

Examining the two endings I’ve included, the style and structure of them is not that different. In truth, the style and essential structure of the entire story didn’t change much from the first bit in my fantasy novel. The meaning, however, changed not only dramatically, but also in a way far beyond any intention. By the time I wrote the first of the drafts titled “Waiting for Alice,” it was as though I was channeling Alice as opposed to creating her.

What writing “…Alice” has revealed to me as a writer, is that a story concept, even a full first draft, is one piece in the larger part of writing a story. I’d always thought of writing and revising as a linear process, draft after draft leading in a line toward whatever the initial inkling of the ending would be. When Alice spoke to me on that library day, I understood that revision is not just part of writing a story, it is writing the story.  That writing is more like a big puzzle, where the writer begins placing pieces—some fitting, some not—to see what the picture is. And if a writer is open to the picture becoming something entirely different than presumed, the process of revision will create magic. The kind where a protagonist will speak, as if sitting at the table, and tell an unexpected whopper of a story.

Thanks for listening, everyone, and for sticking with me and Alice!

Works Cited:

Kaplan, David Michael.  Revision.  Cincinnati: Story Press, 1997.

Krishnaswami, Uma.  Letter.  6 May, 2008.

Leavitt, Martine.  Letter.  28 August, 2008.

Tipper, Mima. “Faerie Games.” Ms.  VCFA, 2007.

—. Journal. 2008.

—.  “Peer Pressure.” Ms.  VCFA, 2008.

—. “Mia’s Letter.” Ms.  VCFA, 2008.

—. “The Alice Effect.” Ms. VCFA, 2008.

—. “Waiting for Alice.” Sucker Literary Magazine, winter, 2012.

About Mima Tipper

Half-Greek-half-American, Mima Tipper and her writing reflect her heritage—a little bit old-country, a little bit rock and roll; one foot wandering through the dreamy realm of myths and faerie tales, the other running on the solid ground of fast-paced, contemporary story. She received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her YA fiction has appeared in Hunger Mountain’s online journal and Sucker Literary Magazine. She is a member of SCBWI and RWA, and is committed to promoting literacy in her community. Currently Mima lives in Vermont with her family.

Get in Touch with Mima:

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3 thoughts on “Can You Hear Me Now? When Characters Speak Through Revision, Part Three (In which Mima finally hears what Alice has to say)”

  1. Reading your conclusion, Mima, I realize that for me, too, writing the story is like puzzling, the first draft being the more recognizable parts of the puzzle, the revisions completing that puzzle. Often it feels like filling in the blue skies of a jigsaw. I also realized how much I love the puzzling, the rewriting, the shuffling and most of all the way my characters reveal a little more of themselves with every move I make. And how valuable the input from others is.
    I enjoyed following your writing process from the inside so much! Thank you for sharing it with us. It gives writers and everyone else who reads this essay an excellent grasp of what writing is.
    -Mina

    1. Hi Mina,
      Thanks again for reading and for all of your comments. It’s been more than great to share this essay on the blog, and to have others chime in with their own experiences. I also enjoy the puzzling and, more than anything, when characters (major and minor) behave in unexpected ways. Even today I’m thinking of two characters I’m writing who are about to get into a car; I have no idea what they will talk about, and I can’t wait to find out! Best to you, and happy writing!

  2. What a great series of posts, Mima. Brave, too. So much of the revision process is distance from the project, exploring in journal form, talking it out with a friend, a long walk. You describe this process so well, especially all that time away from the actual manuscript that is also writing time. Thanks.

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