This weekend, I dove into my edits on The Girl with the Red Balloon. I made a to-do list based off my editor’s comments (it ended up being around 45 items long with more to come!). Some of it was easy–fixing characters’ ages (inconsistency) in a few scenes, clarifying if magic balloons have ribbons or strings (strings, btw), etc–and some of it was hard (worldbuilding is my nemesis). And some of it was thought-provoking.
In The Girl with the Red Balloon, Ellie is pulled back in time to 1988 East Berlin via a magic red balloon. My editor asked at some point, “Does she miss technology?” and I realized I didn’t have enough missing of things in the book. There was an absence of missing things.
Which, naturally, made me think about what I’d miss if I accidentally time-traveled to 1988 and landed behind the Iron Curtain.
I’d miss my cats, my siblings, my parents, my friends, and the internet. I’d miss on-demand coffee and the ability to just drive to a bookstore and curl up there, surrounded by thousands of books. I’d miss the freedom to travel as I want to. I’d miss being bitchy online, or in person, without consequences. (This is to say, I’d miss the Constitution of the United States and all of its amendments.) I’d miss the SCOTUS decision on Obergefell v. Hodges. I’d miss Halsey’s voice and David Ford’s music and Ingrid Michaelson’s wit. I’d miss the way Lin-Manual Miranda transformed musicals and history for millions of Americans. I’d miss Obama’s sly jokes and I’d miss Biden’s frankness. I’d miss Michelle Obama and Laura Bush crossing political party lines in a political environment that feels horrifyingly toxic. I’d miss picking what I’d study at college, and then not using anything I learned there except to write books after the hours of my dayjobs. I’d miss the times of unemployment I’ve had, where I found volunteer work, figured out how to market myself, and recovered from toxic jobs I’d had.
And somehow, I need to go dig into my main character’s mind again and figure out what her big paragraph of random thoughts would be. What she would miss, not just hearing American accents or her phone, but what matters to her in the moments before she time-travels, before she lands somewhere without the freedoms and comforts to which she is accustomed.
Writing out my list just now helped me think about what her list would be. So I guess this is what I’m tackling tonight!
Hope you all are well.