Tuesday, August 04, 2009

An Interesting Turn of Events for The Writer

Today, one of the characters in my novel announced that she wants to go to boarding school in Massachusetts. Where the heck did that come from? Is this what parenting is like?

She's not supposed to go to boarding school; she's not even supposed to be thinking about going to boarding school. Nowhere in my outline for the book does it say, "Edie announces she wants to go to boarding school." Nor does it say, "Edie goes off to boarding school." Of course, that very vague, "Will meets with Edie," doesn't exactly say what she's planning on doing, and she's had quite a traumatic year, so maybe I shouldn't be so surprised.

But I don't want her to go. I was a nanny for a summer in 1985 and carted around the sorts of kids who go to boarding school. They were all excited that summer because it was the year everyone would be going off to various schools in NY and MA and CT. You know what their criteria was for the best schools? The ones with the best drugs (information they'd all gathered from older brothers and sisters or their friends' older brothers and sisters). Those going to such schools couldn't wait to get there. I'm not kidding. 

This poor kid's already been through much more than any fifteen-year-old should have to endure. She doesn't need to go off to a place that's going to screw her up even more. Doing drugs isn't necessarily going to ruin her, of course, but it could. She's got a fragile ego; she's ripe for addiction. The idea of sending her off to such a place scares me.

But she's clever. She proceeded to give Will (a former boarding school teacher himself) all kinds of convincing arguments that clearly show this not to be just some passing whimsy. She didn't read all the Harry Potter books and come away from them thinking boarding school life is all fun and games, a thought that crossed his mind. She's done her research, and Will's having a hard time arguing with her. Yes, to some degree, she's running away, but she's running away with a purpose. She's proving herself to be quite mature and strong-willed. Oh, and in case that doesn't work, she's already gone and got her grandmother to back her. With Gran on her side, do her parents really stand a chance?

I suppose I'm going to have to let her go. Maybe things have changed since 1985, or maybe this school is different. After all, it's one that centers around horseback riding. She's going to be busy cleaning stables and learning to jump. Maybe it'll do her some good to get away from her small town. Oh, who am I kidding? I guarantee you, though, Gran is going to have the final say (and she's the one with all the money), so I might as well just go ahead and roll over now. I just hope that Edie turns out to be as strong as I think she is and keeps her head on her shoulders.


litlove said...

Lol! It IS just what parenting is like! :-)

Nigel Patel said...

Sounds like boarding school isn't that much different than my working class high school.
Except that the parents have the luxury of pretending it isn't happening.
I think it was Gore Vidal who said "The rich are different, they have more money".

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, glad to hear from a parent that I'm not far off base with that assessment.

Nigel, yes, just more money, which means the kids have more to spend on drugs.

Stefanie said...

Those darn characters, just when you start to think you are the one in control they go and do something like insist on boarding school. I think Edie will be fine. Maybe she makes some nice friends or finds a teacher/mentor or something. She seems to be full of surprises :)

Emily Barton said...

Stef, yes, who ever said that writing fiction gives one control? It seems we have more control over real-life characters. But thanks for the vote of confidence for Edie -- a worried "parent" always needs some sane, wise voice to reassure her.

Susan said...

Parenting and writing: characters/kids the same! LOL!!!! I like Edie. I like her being willful, no matter where she ends up.....keep writing, Emily!!!

and yes, characters are like kids. Lately my secondary character has decided that she should tell the story, and I'm kind of scared of her. She's willful!! and my son insists we all must watch all Nascar races. Together. If I escape out of the room ( 4 hours of cars droning round a track gives me a headache) he drags me back in to watch the latest crash. And he's 4 years old Yes indeed, I agree with your assessment completely, Emily!