Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Writing Game

I'd always heard "write what you know," and it was one of the reasons that I waited until the age of 48 to give it a go. I mean after all who wants to read about a middle aged mother of four who works for the Post Office? And that's basically what I "knew." Not much excitement there-if you don't include the years my kids were teen-agers. (Plenty of excitement during that time period! But I still don't think Biography is going to be giving me a call anytime soon.)

Finally I decided to try my hand at writing in spite of what I'd always heard. I've always been blessed (or cursed) with a good imagination, so I could make stuff up-pretend that I'd led a much more interesting life. Right?

Well, guess what? I discovered, in the end, you do write what you know. And sometimes it happens without the author knowing it. Case in point-I've mentioned my mom a couple of times now, but what I didn't mention is Mom had a pretty sarcastic sense of humor and she liked to banter. Once, after Mom and I had spent the day together, someone who'd been with us commented to me that I didn't "talk very nice to my mother." She didn't get that we were joking around. Go forward several years-I'd just finished the manuscript for WITCH WAY TO MURDER. I'm sitting in my critique group and we're discussing the pros and cons of the story when one of my fellow authors remarked, "Ophelia could talk a little nicer to her grandmother." Boy, did that ring a bell! Without knowing or attempting it, I'd given Ophelia and Abby many of the same dynamics that Mom and I had shared in our relationship.

So it's not about "knowing" what goes on around you, it's not leading an exciting life with a fascinating career. It's "knowing" what goes on inside of you that winds up on the page and in your characters' hearts and minds. How it feels to love, to have children, to suffer losses and disappointments-all those experiences that make us human-are, in my opinion, what makes for interesting characters.

What are some of your favorite characters and why? Who do you identify with most? The kick ass cop? The sexy private investigator? The innocent ingénue who doesn't have a clue? Let me know AND to whet everyone's appetite for the killer contest that we're having next week, one lucky poster (picked at random) will win a signed copy of WITCH WAY TO MURDER!

Best,
Shirley

12 comments:

sidhevicious said...

I have to say that I identify the most with smart-ass, sarcastic and kick-butt heorines, lol. I love them and can't get enough of them. :D

One of my all-time favorite characters is "George" from the TV show "Dead Like Me". Every time I watch it, I always feel like someone must have met me or observed me and then based the attitude/characteristics of that character on me! LOL I get a kick out of it.

azteclady said...

I like complex characters, and don't have one type that I like more than others.

I would say that my favorite characters ever are Elly and Will from LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory, but that doesn't mean I cannot enjoy kick ass heroines like Eve Dallas or Sirantha Jax, or Jackie Kessler's Jezebel/Jesse Harris (from her Hell on Earth series) or troubled characters, like Vanessa Jaye's Felicity--it's all about the author painting an accurate portrait of the characters' inner lives.

Love, grief, despair, resolve. Show them to me, make these characters fully human, and I'll love them--and your writing.

Natalie Hatch said...

I like the side-kick, the complex extra character that throws the comedic spanner in the works and helps the hero/heroine look soo good. The underdog (well in Angie Fox's Demon Slayer book it was the dog literally).
They never get enough airplay though.

Wendy said...

I like smart ass characters, the ones that have the sarcastic, dry humor and not everyone gets it but that doesn't stop them from laughing.

As a great example - Kate Daniels of Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series. She's definitely one of my favorite characters. She's such a smart ass, I love it! :)

Lori T said...

I really like the smart, sexy, and kick butt heriones like Cat from Jeaniene Frost's books, Mercedes Thompson from Patricia Briggs' books, and one of my new favorites is Sirantha Jax from Ann Aguirre's books.

I, also, like to have a bit of humor in my books...but to be honest I pretty much love to read about all kinds of heros and heriones.

Caffey said...

I love characters who have to grow through the books, to love. May it be a hero who has a tortured soul and goes through sharing that finally with someone he loves. So its more that I love reading those who have to go through trusting again and more!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

When you read my WIP (Work In Progress), you knew IMMEDIATELY which parts were taken directly from my life. I guess when we're writing what we know (or at least what we've experienced), it shows, right?

I love women characters who aren't all sweetie-sweetie and who have REAL problems like...teenagers. Even though I've been told there's a rule you shouldn't have kids in your mysteries because they might get hurt.

Angie Fox said...

Oh Natalie, you'd better cut that out or Pirate is going to end up at your house, raiding your fridge.

My favorite characters are the ones that surprise me: the kick butt heroine who suddenly shows her soft side, the underdog who learns how to fight back, even the bad guy who sinks to new levels of low that I never would have expected when I opened the book.

Kimberly B. said...

I like the kick-butt heroine because I can live vicariously through her, and I'm especially partial to the heroine who is not just strong but resourceful. You know, the one you could drop in a forest somewhere and she wouldn't be eaten by wild animals or starve to death. However, I also really like a bookish, possibly shy heroine who has hidden depths because I can relate to that!

Amberkatze said...

I want to be the kick-ass clever leading lady but I think in reality I would be the nosey neighbour ;)

kimmyl said...

I'd like to be the kick butt heroine b/c all women wish they could be that strong and overcome just about anything.

Bunny B said...

I love witty and intelligent kick-ass heroines! I also like sexy private investigators ;)
bunnybox9 at gmail . com