Sunday, August 27, 2006

Writing Surprises

I plan out my books. I create emotional story arcs for my characters. I work out all sorts of details in advance. Then I start writing and my characters start surprising me. And I love that! It means the characters are coming alive—for me and therefore for the readers.

Right now, my black cat of the family is discovering things he didn’t know about his bride and I’m discovering those things at the very same time! The bride, meanwhile, is cooking up schemes to bring her new husband back into line and about to have some surprises of her own.

One of the things I love about writing is that element of surprise. I think that if I knew everything that was going to happen in my books beforehand I’d never end up writing them. Other writers can plan out all the scenes in advance and write from beginning to end with the characters doing just what they should.

That’s the great thing about writing—there’s no one way that everyone has to write. We all get to do it in whatever way works best for us! And thank heavens for the diversity—both in what we write and how we write. Wouldn’t it be a boring world if all books were the same?

Wishing all of you happy reading and the writers among you happy writing!

April

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Grief

Grief comes in odd moments, at odd times. We can go months, sometimes years, feeling as if we’re fine with something and then have grief over a loss hit us again.

I don’t regret getting divorced. We were hurting each other too much to stay married. My life is better and happier and I think his may be better too, now. I hope so. And yet...

And yet, last week I got hit by a wave of grief over the hopes and dreams that died with my marriage.

If we’re writers, it’s important for us to understand that emotions don’t always play out smoothly and neatly. We can create characters with greater depth if we allow for that and use it in our writing.

It’s also important to understand just because we’re human beings and will face times in our lives when we feel what we don’t want to feel.

Why did it hit me last week? A number of reasons, I suspect. One may be that a friend is going through a divorce with issues similar to some of what I dealt with and so I’m reminded of the sadness of accepting that what I always thought would be happily ever after didn’t turn out to be.

Another reason may be that as I work on my latest manuscript, I’m laughing and remembering how good it can feel to be connected on so many levels with another person. As my hero and heroine play tug of war over something each of them feels they should have, I’m reminded that in healthy relationships people can disagree—and not hurt each other in doing so.

Or maybe it’s recognizing all the changes in my life and knowing those changes are good ones so that I’m able to take time to grieve the losses I didn’t let myself grieve when all my energy went into building a new life for myself.

Life is complicated. If we recognize that and give ourselves permission to feel what we feel—as we take the steps we need to take—then we are likely to always keep moving forward. And as writers, when we let our characters be human and feel emotions at times when no one would expect them to, we bring those characters to life in a way that not only can make the story more compelling but also perhaps help provide a kind of roadmap for readers coping with unexpected emotions in their own lives.

April

Friday, August 11, 2006

Heroes

What makes a great hero—in real life or in writing? I’d like to know what you think. In the romance field, it is the hero who will make or break a book. It is the hero an editor or agent looks at first.

When I’m coaching writers I tell them for romance it means a guy the female reader wants to take home with her and keep in bed for, oh, say a month or so!

But what else matters to you? My own take on heroes in romance novels is that:
1) The reader wants to know the hero can and will keep the heroine safe. (One of the appeals of the “bad boy” hero is that often he can do that better than anyone else.)
2) The hero lives by an internal code of honor. It might not be the same as anyone else’s, but it’s his and he lives by it. If he’s perceived as or thinks he’s bad, he’s still got that internal code and part of what the heroine discovers is that he’s really good at the core—or can learn to be.
3) The hero is sexy and adores the heroine’s sensuality and helps her accept and adore her sensuality as well.

Of course, in real life, I’d add a few things. In real life:

¨ I believe that kindness and respect are part of true/real love.
¨ I believe that it’s important to find someone with whom we are the people we want to be. (As in the poem: I love you not only for who you are but for who I am when I am with you.)
¨ I believe in partnerships—neither diminished by love but each helping the other be more than either would be alone.
¨ I believe in lovers helping each other achieve their dreams.
¨ I believe in fidelity and commitment and honor.

Hmmm, not so very different from most of my books, after all. But that’s part of the fun of being a writer—I get to share what matters to me, the vision I have for what true love could be like, the ways men and women can support and enhance rather than diminish each other!

Who are your favorite heroes and why?

April

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Home Decor

For those who have been following my home d├ęcor saga and journey of growth over the past year (or more!).....

IKEA is opening a store near me months ahead of schedule. I am so delighted! I’m looking forward to adding some more touches to my home including some sort of bed for the guest room. Ideally it will be a couch of some sort during the day but be able to become a bed at night.

Did I mention that I’ve set up a sewing area in my home? At one end, my bedroom has bay windows that overlook the garden. I put a couple of wooden tray tables (thank you Goodwill!) there side by side and set the sewing machine on them. One of the swivel chairs (Craigslist) from the kitchen set is my sewing chair. I love being able to sew and look out at the garden. No, everything doesn’t come out perfectly but several things look really good and I smile every time I wear them.

The other night a friend of my daughter came into town with her mother. The young woman is moving to Austin. It was lovely to have them over for dinner and be able to share with them resources and places I love and think she might find useful, too. We talked and laughed and even ate fresh bread I made with the bread maker I got at a yard sale across the street.

The young woman commented that I have the same laugh as my daughter and said I must hear that all the time. I never had before and realized it’s because when she was growing up, I’m not sure her friends ever heard me laugh.

I say all this because I know some of you out there are going through transitions of your own. It can be scary, not knowing what the future holds and wondering if you will make it. But if we go forward, if we constantly ask ourselves what good could come out of each moment, then our lives can and will become better and better—even when there are dark times, too. You will make it, you will be able to laugh again, you can create a life that brings you as much or perhaps even more joy than the one you thought was going to be yours forever.

Now, climbing down off my soapbox.....

In a few days I’m going to post a post for writers. I’m going to be talking about heroes.

Hoping all of you find ways to smile or laugh this week and moments to treasure—no matter what you may be going through.

April