One perk of being a writer: I have some really great imaginary friends. Today I’m hanging out with Tommie. Tommie is Danni’s BFF. Danni is the main character in my recently finished manuscript With and Without You. Every girl needs a good wing-woman, someone who’s got her back, is always there to give her props, call her out on her bullshit, or tell her if her new top is hideous. (The Urban Dictionary definition I like best: A lady who is your closest friend and confidant, whom you can depend on to help you through the hardest times but who is also there to celebrate for the happy times.) As I was writing With and Without You, Danni was of course my favorite character; every main character I've written has a fair share of me in her. But something happened that I know most writers -- and readers -- will understand.
I kind of fell in love with Tommie, and with her budding relationship with bad boy Sean. Tommie has a peripheral story line in With and Without You. Danni is the star. With and Without You explores Danni’s journey after losing her twin brother and searching for a true connection, her first real love affair, though it may be with a man she’s never supposed to have. But by the time that manuscript was completed, I knew I had to find out what happens next with Tommie.
Though Tommie and Danni are best friends, they are in many ways opposites. Danni is sweet, a little naïve, introspective. Danni’s story is an awakening, a coming of age that is both healing and transformative for her. Tommie compliments Danni’s uncertainty, pushing her to test her limits. Tommie is worldly, confident, with boundless energy. Tommie is very sure of herself and her place in the world. Her place in the world at the moment is as an up and coming Sous Chef in Detroit.
When Tommie meets Sean, she at first sees an arrogant, edgy cool artist with a flavor of the week reputation with girls. Sean’s relentless flirting finally sparks her curiosity and she thinks, “Okay, why not?” Tommie assures Danni she knows exactly what she’s getting into, and that if anyone’s going to get hurt, it will not be her.
In order to write Tommie, and the evolving relationship between her and Sean, I have to understand her. I have to know things about her. Things like:
I need to know these things about Tommie so that when her boyfriend Sean starts getting texts from an old girlfriend, I know what she’ll do, how she’ll behave. I need to know that Tommie holds her self-worth higher than anything a guy can make her feel … or at least, that was the case before the night she and Sean were attacked, and everything Tommie thought she knew about herself and her beloved city is turned on its head.
I need to know what has made Tommie into a fighter, a survivor, but I also know that each of us has a breaking point. And I need to know exactly how much Tommie can give to the man she loves without losing herself.
Gotta love character development. Now, back to the story.
December. Holidays. No matter what you celebrate this time of year, there’s a universal thread that connects us all. Is it planning? Cooking? Shopping? Fatigue? Searching high and low for that perfect gift? Sprucing up our living space to prepare for guests? Working our asses off to make enough cash to buy enough stuff?
I give you a big, fat nope. It’s not.
The universal thread is love.
Okay. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a sappy person. My sister inherited the sentimental gene from our dad. My husband and I both feel compelled to cap off lovey text messages to each other with “*gag*” just to be clear that yes, I love your guts, but let’s not get all mushy about it.
But I’m just gonna say it. The point of all this holiday hustle and bustle isn’t all the crap that we fill our houses with in preparation. It’s reconnecting with family and friends (thank you, Captain Obvious).
We are all busy. Life is hectic. Sometimes we lose sight of what really matters. So I’m here to remind you -- and myself and all my loved ones -- what really matters. The people in our lives we are connected to, that’s what matters. Family. Friends we count as family. The people who know you and have to love you even when you have a bad day, are mean or rude or snotty, are too tired to be a good friend/sister/aunt. The people you love just the same even when you haven’t seen them in forever.
What’s that you say? It’s just too hard to pull it all together this year, there’s a mile long list of reasons to just let the holidays pass unnoticed? Get over yourself.
On that note, I’m going to play the kid card. Our kids LOVE this time of year. They can’t wait to see aunts, uncles, friends, cousins little and big. They can’t wait for the food and goodies and presents, but, as my own kids have told me, they’re mostly excited to spend time with everyone.
Don’t we want to provide our children with the sweet, silly, aggravating, nostalgic kind of memories we have of our own childhood holidays spent with loved ones? As many loved ones as our moms and dads could manage to bring together? And if our childhood was less than perfect, then jeez, don’t we want to give our own kids the kind of holiday experience we always wished we had growing up? I know I do.