In my novel, Women Outside the Walls, I have waited until Joe dies at Charlie’s hands to share with you the back story of how the last chapters of my book came to be. How I experienced this lucky event of my book not turning out as I had first hoped.
In the play script version , this is where the story ends; Joe dying on the cold floor of a prison and Charlie’s line: “I got you to find Chelsea, didn’t I?” And this was where I had planned for the novel to end too.
IF I had not been working closely with a woman who had ‘stood by her man’ for 15 years while he was in prison. Shortly after he was paroled, her son received 13 years for manslaughter. She has been there, done that, times two! After SK (the woman outside real walls) read the last pages, she looked up and asked: “What happened to Charlie? To Alma?”
I looked blank for a moment. I was, first and foremost, a playwright after all. Then replied, “do you think anyone would care?” She said, “Absolutely. Is Charlie in a death penalty state? Does Alma stick by him?” she asked. And “By the way, what happened to Hattie and her kids?”
The problem was I had no experience with death row……BUT I did have SK, whose son narrowly avoided the death penalty when he pled down from murder two to voluntary manslaughter. SK never spoke of those dark days when she thought she would lose her son when the state executed him. Now she was willing to speak of it with me.
Based upon her stories and the stories of her friends (other women outside the walls) I was able to write those
final chapters. Did Charlie walk down that long hallway to the ‘needle’? Was anyone there to witness his death?
You might be surprised. And yes, what happened to Hattie and Kitty?
Try to explore everything you can about your characters’ lives. Don’t leave a single road untraveled. We all care about what happens to the villain!
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BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK