20 September 2005

Kirsten, the starting point

The origin of Perfect Girl goes back to a character development course I took just over a year ago. At that point, my goal was not to write about Sarah's life story, but rather to put myself back in San Francisco and Berkeley, and see if I could make a better story than what I experienced myself. Since I was going to be the main character, I had to create a character who was very much like me, but not an exact carbon copy of me. As the story transitioned into Sarah's story, Kirsten remained an integral element, becoming Sarah's love interest and eventual spouse. She's evolved over the past year or so, and I want to review her now, to see how far I've taken her so far, and what else I can do with her from now on.

Originally, I envisioned Kirsten as being born from a GI father and his Korean wife. Although she was supposed to be a native Southern Belle, hailing from Anniston, Alabama, I changed the story later on; now she's born at a US Army hospital in Seoul in 1979, and arrives in Anniston a month later. Kirsten grows up like any other Southern Belle, splitting her time between home, school, and church, in a strict, conservative setting reinforced by her abusive father. Like me, Kirsten is a lesbian, and that makes for a lot of confusion as she grows up into her teens and faces the conservative society surrounding her. She somehow ends up going to the prom with a guy, even though she doesn't have anything going on for him.

Kirsten somehow makes it to UC Berkeley, which brings her to a much more open society of the San Francisco Bay Area. Confused and scared at first, she goes into the familiar conservative setting, by becoming a part-time Mary Kay saleswoman, but she is forced to quit when she comes out for good. Her contact with her father is also cut off at that time. Despite this turmoil, she adapts herself to the brave new world of Berkeley, makes new friends (including Sarah), and finishes UC Berkeley with a degree in English. She ends up staying in Berkeley, working as an executive assistant for a right-wing ideologue in San Francisco, a job that really stresses her out. (At least since she is far more attractive than I could ever be, she keeps the job, as much as she hates it.)

Sometime in 2004, Kirsten loses her job when her boss is jailed for trying to molest her at work. (I don't know if I want to keep this portion of the story.) A frantic job search lands her as an assistant for a Los Angeles entertainment executive. Using this position, she writes a sitcom in her spare time, and sells it; it's a hit, and she makes it rich, being able to buy a BMW, then a condo, and with money to spare for even Sarah's surgery. Now, as Perfect Girl ends, I envision Kirsten getting a love call from BBC to write an American-style sitcom for them, so that Kirsten and Sarah can move to London in hopes of finding more tolerance than they could in America. Meanwhile, back in Anniston, Kirsten's parents have divorced, and Kirsten's mother chooses to move to Los Angeles. She and Kirsten both return to her maiden name.

Again, I envision Kirsten as being very attractive - attractive enough to consider a modelling career, which goes nowhere due to her mixed-race background. That becomes another source of conflicts. Her buttoned-up appearance - she always dresses in Ally McBeal-type miniskirt suits and full makeup - won't go well with the casual-looking progressive friends either. Speaking of being progressive, her politics will be opposite of her San Francisco boss's, causing even more conflict. There is even the issue of religion; raised in strict Baptist setting, Kirsten ends up becoming a Goddess woman. These are conflicts that - with the exception of modelling - make up my own life as well.

In fact, Kirsten is a mirror image of me. She has taken my middle name, for starters. Like me, she is half-Korean, likes to write, grew up in a conservative setting (ethnic communities of Southern California, in my case), is a proud lesbian, went to a college in a liberal setting (I spent my college years in New York City), sold Mary Kay cosmetics, lived in the Bay Area, loves wearing miniskirt suits, and drives a BMW. There are lots of differences between me and Kirsten as well, but the similarities are what make her so special, as my first-ever character, and as my mirror image.

This will definitely be a character that I'll be recycling in slightly different forms, with different names, in my future stories.

As for Sarah, the reason for her existence at first was to provide a "best friend" for Kirsten, and to provide a transgender perspective that Kirsten could not provide. Somehow, the story evolved, and Sarah has now taken over as the main character...

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