21 September 2005

Sarah's humble beginnings

I looked over some of my old class assignments. It was interesting reading them, to say the least, and sometimes they looked downright silly. Out of those silly assignments came out ideas for a number of people, including Sarah, who is now the protagonist. Here is what I wrote about Sarah for the first time, as I was asked to write about six different people:

Her finances are a mystery; a laid-off United Airlines flight attendant, she still has money to afford hormone treatments, nice outfits, jewelry, and all. She even drives her own late-model car. She loves to go out often with her old pilot colleagues; she has a strong fetish on pilots, in fact, and it was the reason she became a flight attendant in the first place. Don’t these old pilots, by the way, have their own love interests and/or families, and use Sarah only for cheap thrills? I truly hope not. She loves to travel even now with no job, and spends a lot of money on frivolous souvenirs that only get stuck in the corner of her apartment. Visiting her apartment, one discovers piles of unopened souvenirs from God knows where – and the constant complaints from her roommate regarding them. Her always-long travel talk can get many people energized and interested – and then annoyed and bored as it drones on and on. Possessing great looks that nobody would ever suspect of belonging to a transgendered individual – I never knew that someone with Y chromosome could get such great legs – she loves to primp and show off everywhere, to the jealousy and hatred of many women around her. Strangely enough, Sarah and Kirsten get along very well.

Let's see... a lot of things have changed since then. A lot more may change by the time I finish writing.

I once met, in Berkeley, a pair of transgender women, who were working as Denver-based United flight attendants, on a layover; moreover, I had known for years that most major airlines protect (or at least, used to, when their finances were good) transgender employees. Given my own interest in aviation and my considerable knowledge of United Airlines (from a customer's point of view), making Sarah a flight attendant was a no-brainer. But it seems that just about everything else about her has changed over the past year or so.

At first, I envisioned a very boy-crazy Sarah, making fun of Kirsten about her lesbianism and all. But as I kept working on her, around March, I decided to experiment with a lesbian Sarah, as I tried to write a scene about her coming out to her mother; since this corresponded far more closely with my own experience, Sarah's lesbianism stuck. Now, as I look back, Sarah's pilot fetish has turned into something else entirely - her interest in airplanes and aviation, inherited from her grandfather Warren, who flew F-86s during the Korean War.

On a related note, I had been thinking of a "knight in shining armor" ending, setting her up with a successful male entrepreneur who would pay for her surgery. The ending would have been to have Sarah marry that man, legally, as a woman. I didn't like it, and since Kirsten was languishing without much of a purpose since being "demoted" from the protagonist slot, I re-promoted her as Sarah's love interest. The "knight in shining armor" ending still exists - except that it's now more like a warrior princess. In addition, to marry Sarah to a half-Korean woman, given Sarah's grandfather's service in Korea, seemed only appropriate - and having already written a chapter which takes place in Seoul, now I can give that chapter a much more prominent purpose.

The mystery finance part has been solved; part of it will be her parents' support, and part of it will be the reimbursement she is paid when her first live-in girlfriend, Martha (another flight attendant), is killed on September 11, 2001. Nevertheless, I don't see her traveling or spending as much as I first thought, since now I am dealing with a much longer timeframe (Sarah's first 26 years of life, instead of half a year out of Kirsten's life); the traveling and shopping will take place while Sarah still has her flight attendant job - and during her childhood. But she will still have a tendency to leave her souvenirs stacked up unopened, something I am guilty of myself.

As for the looks department, I decided that Sarah will no longer be a stunning beauty. She'll surely be pretty, but a closer look, plus her 6-foot frame, will give her past away. Moreover, I gave her a horrible high school experience that leaves her a scalp scar for life - I once wrote a lengthy dialogue between Sarah and Kirsten (which will never be used in the actual novel) which brought out this scar - and the childhood memories of both characters. At least she'll have a passable female voice, one Kirsten will describe as a "distinctive, delightful alto." She'll be lucky in that department, unlike many transgender women. (I presume that the alto will sound a lot like my own - I am one of the lucky ones too!) I also decided that Sarah will primp a little less, and the women around her won't be as jealous.

This is it for now. It looks like I have opened up lots of journalling possibilities, including the geography of Perfect Girl (how each of the features cities relates to the story), Sarah's appearance and fashion sense, her relationship with Martha (and a description of Martha herself), a bit about Sarah's family history and parents, and so on. I'll work on these over the next several days (or weeks, if my work and play eat up too much time!).

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