This has been an incredible journey for me as a playwright turned novelist. In play writing you must tell your story in 100 pages or less, definitely in less than two hours and everything you want to relate to the audience must be conveyed through the dialogue. In the theatre world there’s a term: “method acting” which means you get as close to your character as you can. If the character you are going to portray is a prostitute, you follow and talk to whores. (been there, done that. Honolulu, 1992 ) If your character is a woman who’s husband has been in prison for the past 13 years, you get inside her head.
I’m a ‘method’ writer,
In 1999 I had reason to visit a men’s DOC facility. (prison). I was visiting a confessed murderer as research for one of my earlier scripts. My writing has taken me to some unexpected places to say the least. On a Sunday morning I found myself sitting in the reception area with three dozen other women. Wives, sisters, mothers, daughters of convicted felons. As I waited, I wondered how long they had been coming to visit; how long would a woman wait for her man behind bars; and what a terrible impact this must have on the children, visiting their fathers in this place. Sitting there I was suddenly compelled to write their stories. I tried to interview as many women as I could and this was no easy task. Their closed society is cloaked in guilt and shame. But they finally let me in and I discovered, for the most part, incredibly brave and strong women. They would tell their friends and neighbors, “my husband travels with his work” to explain the man’s absence. Always appearing cheerful and strong while visiting their men, the women I spoke with, had a pull off down the highway where they would congregate (after leaving the prison) where they could cry, scream, and moan and be comforted. Where they could share, with other women who understood, what their lives were really like outside the walls. Away from the eyes of their men and the prison officials.
Fast forward to 2011: My heart had been nagging me for years that my stage play,(by the same name) had MORE to say. And it wouldn’t let up!! The message was, “you have to tell the rest of these women’s stories. GET BUSY!!”
For someone who was so comfortable writing in the genre of ‘scripts’ this was a scary prospect. Yikes! I thought, a novel was at the very least 70,000 words and over 300 pages long. What could I possibly have to say? One year and four months later I had a 335 page, "Women Outside the Walls" in my hands. Evidently my characters had plenty to say! At times I was surprised and delighted with my women and their stories. At other times appalled. As many writers will tell you, at some point, the characters sort’a….no…they definitely take over and you become the typist.