A Glimpse of Hanna – Developing Character Through Writing Exercises

I’ve had people ask for excerpts of Unspeakable. I’m hesitant to do that at this point. I want people to get to know my characters, but also don’t want to create spoilers.

Before writing Unspeakable, I sketched out the backstories of all of my characters. I even typed out scenes to help me get to know my characters better. Here’s one that I did for Hanna. I hope you enjoy it.

Dianna Agron looking a lot like Hanna Rutherford
Dianna Agron looking a lot like Hanna Rutherford

 

Approximately eight years before Unspeakable …

 

They’re not fighting. It’s worse than that – they’re devoid of anything friendly. Every creek of the house pinches my shoulder blades closer together. Like the tick of a trigger waiting to release. Something will prompt a blow up, it’s just a matter of what.

 

Not a good time to ask for anything. But I have a job interview tomorrow and need to know if I can get a ride. The bus only runs once an hour on a Sunday, so I’m hoping to avoid having to arrive 45-minutes early.

 

Mom is polishing the already clean counter top, her nostrils flared, the muscles in her arm quiver. I clear my throat. Barely a sound escapes. But it’s enough. She stops – cold.

 

I inch backward, regretting my decision. I can find a way to keep myself warm in -30 Celsius weather. I’ll find a bus shelter or something. At least the three walls of glass cut the sharp wind. I can handle the cold – well, the kind related to the weather anyway.

 

But it’s too late. I’m committed. “What..is..it, Hanna?” she asks without turning, her back rigid.

 

I squeak out my request, trying to explain. My words tumble over each other.

 

It’s no matter. My mother breathes out a fiery of angry words. I’m lazy. I’m inconsiderate. I’m selfish. I’ve heard it all before. As she unleashes on me, I stand, stoic as possible. Any retort I give will just fuel her anger. I spare a surreptitious glance at my father, curled over a book in his armchair in the living room. A pain greater than my mother’s fury? My father’s curtain of indifference.

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So Why No Novels With Speech Therapist Protagonists?

As I had mentioned in my post on How I Came To Write Unspeakable, the seed of the idea for my novel was inspired by a comment made by my esteemed colleague, CBW (or as I like to say, CB-Dub). CBW astutely observed that there were no speech-language pathologists (SLP) as protagonists in novels. In fact, she wished that someone out there, for once, would portray us as the sexy creatures that we are (or would like to think we are). Hence, the seed was planted and I began writing Unspeakable (click here for my post on how it went from the seed of an idea to a full-length manuscript).

Part way through the writing process, I did a Google search on speech-language pathologists as protagonists and came across this post by the Speech Dudes. It’s a bit dated, but I like the humor and they too have noticed the same thing. We can be sexy and exciting! Just give us a chance!

So, I hope to heed the call with Unspeakable. Hanna is a bit naïve at the outset (as most of us are) and overwhelmed with the demands of the job and the diverse clientele that many of us are expected to serve. (You wouldn’t ask a Neurologist to be an expert in Gynecology, yet the same SLP may see a child with autism, an adult with Aphasia, a person with feeding issues, and person who stutters all in the same day.) She flounders at first, but her heart is in the right place – she wants to ‘save’ all of her patients, but as any seasoned professional knows, that just isn’t possible.

And so, I leave you with this. The Speech Dudes contributed some scenes of the SLP as the protagonist and I thought I would contribute my own, tongue-in-cheek version, for CBW. She has often teased me that there should be a sexy scene with ‘a dangling uvula’. We’ve had several fits of laughter in the clinic cafeteria about this, but I still refuse to put such a scene in my novel. But here’s one, just for fun (and yes, it’s meant to be cheesy and ridiculous!) Enjoy!

“Come closer,” she said, leaning towards him.

He inched closer, but the small distance between them seemed like a giant chasm. She needed him to be near her. She placed her latex gloved hand firmly on his cheek and urged him toward her.

He couldn’t deny her. If this is what she wanted, he had to comply.

“Good,” she whispered. She could feel his breath flutter against her skin. “Now open for me.”

He parted his soft lips, revealing the moist expanse of his mouth. Finally, she had what she wanted. An unobstructed view of his supple tongue, and there, nestled in the back, between the perfectly rounded orbs of his tonsils, their presence simply highlighting the immense size of the long and ample rod-like structure dangling there. That which gives a special vibration to our words, our sounds; the epicenter of the mouth: his glorious uvula.

The Speech Dudes

In a recent press release from The Association of American Publishers, it’s clear that digital downloads of books to mass market reading devices continues apace. From February 2010 to 2011, there has been a 202.3% increase in sales of eBooks. Not only that, eBooks are now ranked as the number one format for all categories of trade publishing, which includes adult hardcover, adult paperbacks, adult mass market, children’s/young adult hardcover, and children’s/young adult paperbacks. For those who like their number to be preceded by a $ symbol, eBooks raked in over $90 million in cold, hard cash over the year.

e-book imahe

Yet amongst the plethora of vampires, werewolves, wimpy kids, celebrity chefs, management gurus, and impossible heroines, there doesn’t appear to be ONE protagonist who is a Speech Therapist. Not one. Now, if a Whitehouse chef can be the main character in a story (e.g. “Eggsecutive Orders”) why not a…

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