I never intended to write a novel. It happened accidentally. I certainly didn’t set out to write a main character who is almost more me than I am.
English teacher, romantic comedy fan, cat lover, funny (I can say that about myself, right?), music fan, doubter, pessimist but “working on it”, small town dweller, fall enthusiast…I may have taken the notion of “write what you know” a bit too literally.
But for this “What Lily and I Have in Common” series, I must start with teaching and what prompted this accidental novel in the first place.
The short version goes like this: I was a content high school English teacher whose dream job teaching ninth and tenth grade was bruised when I was involuntarily transferred to middle school. Like Lily, I was told at the end of the school year, my first official one (again, just like Lily), so I had all summer to mull it over. And even though this event happened in 2011, the wound remains as fresh as the day I sat in that office and heard my fate. So fresh that I must now excuse myself to find more gauze.
I’ll save the reasons why that position was so important to me (another post perhaps) and focus instead on how I handled the news. Obviously not well. I mean, it’s middle school.
I wrote about it. Not as a fiction piece, but as a venting session. A free thinking exercise, if you will. I had started a journal while in college, so I knew the release of typing to a screen. It’s an experience I can’t explain, but if this is something you do, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The point is, writing about it was therapeutic. I wasn’t creating a story. I was simply telling my own, finding some way to help me through a confusing time.
But the more I thought about it and wrote about it, the situation became appealing as a plot, and what would eventually be a way to step back and see what was happening to me by projecting it onto a fictional character. The bonus in it, which I don’t think I realized at the time, was how I was in control. I decided what happened next.
So, I created Lily Morgan. And I put her in my shoes. Literally. We wear the same size, go figure. I’d never written anything substantial before, so having a character so much like me made writing easier than I ever imagined. Edit: I’m not saying writing is easy. It’s insanely difficult, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I meant it was easy to write from Lily’s POV.
I wrote that first scene way back in 2011 in a Microsoft Word document called “My Novel.” Changes have been made to the opening scene from that first writing session, but it was always Mr. Peterson, principal of McKinley High, breaking the news to Lily Morgan, first year English teacher, that she will no longer be a member of the faculty.
And as I sit here now, I can’t begin to tell you how much this character has helped me cope. It’s unreal.
How similar are you and your MC?
Thanks for reading!