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I'm Just a Fiction Author... Finding My Next Protagonist’s Voice

I've contemplated writing my next book. It's been calling out to me, a sequel to my first published book and International Book Award-winning novella, The Great Mongolian Bowling League of the United States of America.  


Been meditating on it for some time now.


I find it fascinating how people who come from places far away, from different cultural backgrounds, can come together and begin to understand each other. 


So far I have Harold and Murray, two old alte kaker Jews living in a trailer park, their newfound Mongolian friends, a couple of mafia bowling alley owners and now, Roberto Rijos, a 62-year-old New York Rican recovering drug addict. He befriends Harold after moving into the Land-O-Lakes Trailer Park next door to Harold, and near Murray and his new wife, Arlene.


Peaceful as their palm-tree-dotted mobile-home community lifestyle sounds, the struggle to understand one another can be fraught with drama, however.


Historically, misunderstandings can and have caused tremendous conflict. But I'm confident that good people will always find a way to bridge their differences, and in them find friendship. Or perhaps not.


I have what I believe is a compelling story. I've worked out the four elements – orientation, theme, character and crucible. I know I'll tell it in first person past tense. However, I haven't found my voice yet. Why? My protagonist is Puerto Rican!


Actually, he's known as a New York Rican, born of Puerto Rican parents in Bronx, New York. How can I get in the head of my main character, think the way he thinks and talk the way he talks? After all, I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of two Russian American Jewish immigrants.


The initial germ is based on a friend of mine, who is a New York Rican. He's the one who gave me the story. It's loosely based on his life. Obviously I've hung with him in the past and I sat down and interviewed him. I can get his tone at this point…check it out.


This is what I have so far, forgive me in advance," Hey…oy yeah, papa…" he said loudly as he approaches. He grabs my hand, pulls me in a man hug and says, "Papi chuloo, my brother, you're looking good, a real papi chuloo…" all the while looking me up and down.


Forgive me, that's all I have right now.


This upcoming week I've scheduled an appointment with another New York Rican, a Jewish woman, to try to get another perspective.


Writing good fiction requires lots and lots of research. I need to study Puerto Rico, its history, its people. I need to understand why a Puerto Rican would convert to Judaism or, had Jews settled on the island at some point in their history? My character is a revolutionary. I need to learn about their movement to break away from the United States. Who were the characters? What compelled them to fight for their independence?


I'm working on it. I want to begin writing my book, but I can't. I haven't found the voice yet. I'll start writing, then stop, and then try it again. I've done this with all my books.


I also know that I'll continue to research as I write the book. After all, the reader will discover as I discover. We'll find the answers, together.


I'll wait and continue to do more research until I finally sit down and the words will form in a flow that won't cease until the last word is written. "The End" will be written. But when?


More research to do. More meditating. Lots and lots of meditating.

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