Friday, June 25, 2010


In a way, I grew up with "theatre." My amazing grandmother was a wonderful actress (and doll maker, mother, friend, and...) My awesome Uncle Don was in a number of broadway-style shows - and sometimes I can still hear him singing New York around the campfire of our summer cabin.

Those examples don't even scratch the surface of the family talent pool. My cousin Larissa sings like an angel (or a rockstar, or truly, whatever range she feels like hitting that day) and several of my aunts have stunning vocal range.

Somehow, the performance gene seemed to miss me.

Maybe that's why I can sing all of the songs in Moulin Rouge (albeit when no one else is around). I even loved Chicago, despite a lukewarm performance by Richard Gere.

But my favourite musical, by far, is Phantom of the Opera. I've been lucky enough to see if five times - once in New York with my beautiful mother-in-law. So. Awesome.

I think it's the masquerade scene that excites me the most. All of that brilliant color spinning around the stage with mesmerizing choreography and drama. The sudden appearance of the Phantom - one of the most chilling masks in memory. (Well, unless you count the Jason mask from Friday the 13th...)

From the first time I saw Phantom I've been fascinated with masquerades. I actually went through a brief stint where I planned my "phantom" wedding around a masquerade. (Not sure what I'd been drinking to make me think my dad would actually walk me down the aisle holding a mask but it was a stunning wedding in my mind...)

I watched Phantom again yesterday, the movie version of course, because I was home sick and writing and reading wasn't an option. When I got to the masquerade scene, I paused the DVD to absorb all of the cool characters, the beautiful masks, the amazing costumes. And then it hit me.

My protagonist in one of my WIPs is wearing a mask.

In the other WIP, Heartless, my girl Jagger is stripped raw. What you see is what you get. And I LOVE her. She's sassy and fun and fearless and sexy and *takes breath* - I could go on about her all day. But when you ask me about Cait, the protagonist in Absolution, I struggle to find the words to describe her. Not physically, but on that more intimate level. As expected, when I look at her scenes, I can appreciate her character is technically sound - she's just lacking in the personality department.

On Wednesday, I blogged about my critique partner and how she's taught me to take risks. For Cait, that means ripping off the mask and digging deeper to figure out who she really is. Up until now, Cait has been a solid, steady protagonist. Nice. Cute. Reliable.

But not anything like Jagger.

Oh, I understand they each need to be unique. And although Jagger LIVES in me, I'm not planning on cloning her in Cait.

It's just that, if Jagger called me right now, I'd trip over myself to pick up the phone. If Cait's number came up on call display, I might be tempted to hit the "ignore" button. That has to change. If I don't want to spend time with her, why would you?

For the next few days (after I stop feeling blech), I need to peel back Cait's masquerade mask. It's a necessary risk - even if it means the Cait I thought I knew is not at all right for this book. Honestly, I'm excited to finally learn who she is.

Are any of your characters wearing a mask? What tools do you employ to strip your protagonist to her rawest form? 

The Book In My Bag Today: The Summoning, Kelley Armstrong


  1. I think this sounds like a good challenge. I've never seen Phantom of the Opera but always wanted to...

  2. Thanks Candy. If you ever have an opportunity, it's one of the more affordable - and best - broadway productions, in my opinion.

  3. In my second ms, there was so much dialogue that the reader only got to really 'know' my mc in the second half of the book. Her true feelings were hiding behind the dialogue and I had to go back and 'rip off the mask' so to speak. Great post! I love musicals love love love love. I used to do community theater and we did a mad rendition of Camelot, Fiddler on the Roof, and Jacob and the Technicolor dreamcoat. Also did a Phantom 'say you love me' for highschool but the lead guy kept spitting when he sang. It was pretty gross.

  4. Your profile pic certainly validates your love of masks. You must be wild about Mardis Gras. The characters I identify with most are silent, strong, no nonsense types. Comes from my German farming ancestry I think. Wanting to find out about Cait makes sense, after all, what fun is a mask if you never see what's beneath it?

  5. CQG - Ewww. Spitting while talking = major turn off. I'm envious of your performance creds. I am a major fail in the drama department, well, except real-life drama of course!

    RT - I dream of one day going to Mardis Gras! I'd actually forgotten about my profile pic when I posted that one...thanks for making me smile.

  6. Awesome blog, Dawn!

    You may not be a performing artist, but being writer not only gives you a valueable uniquness in your family, but a very important one. They cannot perform if no one writes the scenes.

    Having read your stuff, I know exactly what you are talking about. Jagger is very THERE. In your face. Cait is a little more subdued, but I like her too. In fact, I know what you want to do with some of her personality, and I brought you something from PEI to help. Just tell me when...

  7. wow - isn't it crazy that something seemingly unrelated can make us look at our wips in a totally different light?
    i'm excited and looking forward to what direction cait goes in your ms. and if you'll ever like her enough to pick up the phone!

  8. I like the analogy... the characters and the masks... Maybe what you need isn't to peel back the mask, but to give her a motivation to keep it up--a REASON she 'has to appear' sort of normal--that is a falsehood. That work at all?

  9. I also love Phantom of the Opera. I actually got to see it in London and was amazed. I hope to be able to see it again someday.

  10. Woooowee! Tear off that mask! Sounds very exciting. How are you going to get down deep into Cait's insides? What's your plan of attack?

    Hope you feel better!

  11. Thanks for including me in one of your favorite experiences..It was truly a magical performance and seeing it in New York with you was the BEST!!

  12. Thanks Donna. Gifts from PEI to inspire Cait? Very awesome. <3

    Mi - I'll definitely let you know when Cait and I start hanging out :-) I'm excited, too.

    WT - I love your suggestion and I'm actually giving that some thought. Thank you!

    WW - London would be amazing! After seeing it in New York I didn't think anything would top the experience - maybe London would, though!

    Suzanne - my plan of attack is a fairly aggressive. I've taken every Cait scene in my WIP and essentially gutted it. I know, now, what her dialogue should be, how others should view her, etc. I can already feel the difference in how I feel about her. If only I wasn't too sick to tackle it! Thank you.

    Awww, Carol. You melted me by commenting. Phantom truly was magical and I loved sharing it with you. xoxo

  13. Interesting insights. I'm just reading Fire in the Fiction it's making me think a lot about my antag and sidekick characters. Great stuff.

  14. Jan - that's a great book! I can't wait to read the next in your series :=)

    Thanks Rocky. You know you'll be the first to see it. xo

  15. Dawn, Can Cait have some some warts?
    While steadfast and reliable are good traits, it's not all that makes us whole. We have quirks.
    Maybe Cait has a little OCD even?
    Unbalance her a tad?

    Wouldn't it be more interesting to answer that call from her then?