Friday, February 1, 2013

Life, Art, and the Heartwarming Novel

I mentioned earlier that I broke my leg last March, but what I didn't tell you - and I swear this is true -is  that while I lie there, humiliated and in pain, I was thinking - "Wow.  Excruciating pain and great embarrassment.  I can use this!"  That's why people take a step back when they're introduced to us.  They're not impressed by our brilliance or intimidated by our success.  They're a little worried because they know writers are all a little nuts.

Who else dares to create worlds, give literary birth to characters and move them around in the hope of entertaining and hopefully enlightening others?  Who else creates problems so that our characters can solve them?  Who do we think we are? 

What saves us, I think, is that we have all this rich, vibrant reality at our fingertips - our own lives!  And every single thing we see and do, and the things we see our friends and relatives do, become a part of us and therefore, ripe material!  We can snatch their words and steal elements of their behavior and breathe life into our characters with them. We can borrow their laughter and their tears and through the pages of our books, pass them on to someone else.  Everything that happens is grist for the mill.

Painters have canvas and oils, master carpenters have wood and tools, gardeners have green thumbs and the miracle of seed and earth to create their art. We begin by staring at a blank page.  It would appear that we have nothing to work with.   But we have everything!  It's all around us in people, in nature, in all the world's tragedy and triumphs.  Adjust the events a little here and there, drop a heroine into the middle who is a composite of your sister and your friend, then present her with a man who's troubled, a little stuffy, self-confident, yet vulnerable to her smile, and we're on our way to Chapter Two and the fun and excitement at the heart of a Harlequin Heartwarming novel.  Aren't we lucky?!  Not only do we get to live this life, but in our writers' brains we get to tinker with it, change a few details, give the plot the wings our workaday world doesn't usually allow, fill it with love and romance, then send it out into the universe. Sigh!

Okay.  I've had too much tea and chocolate, but this is the real me.  No wonder people take a step back.  Dogs and cats love me, though.

12 comments:

  1. LOL, I'm the same way.
    Everytime something embarrassing happens or I hear a good embarrassing story, I ask, "Do you mind if I use that?"

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    1. Pam - Really. We have to be subtle, or friends will stop telling us things. You posted at 5:57 a.m.?! You sainted woman!

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    2. Nope, not sainted, exhausted, and striving for more writing time. My son, however, work up an hour early today. His reason, "I had to get up. It's my birthday month." LOL

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    3. Can't argue with that. I always advertise my birthday well in advance. I love cake and presents. Your son (Mike, is it?) is a man after my own heart. JANUARY FIRST!!

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    4. Yes, and now it's 11:27 and I'm still up. Mike and I were curled up on the chair watching the 6th Harry Potter. He finally couldn't stay awake any longer.
      OCTOBER 22!!

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  2. Muriel, I'm sure people love you too. But I agree about storing the accidental tidbits for later use in a story without admitting to being a writer. If people find out it opens up all kinds of worm cans. Actually some of them want you to write their life stories, absolutely positive theirs is unique and brilliant. I try very hard not to use snippets of anyone I know in my books, and yet when people from my past read one of my books, they always say they recognize the people I write about. I wonder if it's just told in my way of talking. But I'm so impressed you thought of "story" first when you fell.

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    1. Hi, Roz. My very first book, WINTER'S BOUNTY, for American Romance was set here in Astoria and I used all kinds of locals. Fortunately, they loved it. Of course, I was careful not to have them fooling around on their spouses or committing murder. To this day, someone's always asking me "When are you going to put me in one of your books?" I guess they feel it gives them some sort of notoriety. Aren't people fun?

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  3. We love you too, Muriel!! Like you, I'm a people watcher and I'm always saying to myself- hmmmm how will I use that person, or their story, or their quirk, or their mannerism or that turn of phrase... As is said, "sometimes you can't make this stuff up". And why should we stress over recreating what already surrounds us? Life has done a wonderful job of casting itself with amazing and diverse people living compelling lives that are ours (as writers) for the taking - figuratively speaking :) My older sister, Jeanne, is in the midst of a beautiful second chance at love and her story will appear in some form or another in a future book of mine. Can't wait!

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    1. Isn't it nice that friends and relatives do things that are novel-worthy? I love second-chance-at-love stories. It's wonderful to bring happiness to a heroine who deserved to be happy all along. This is such a great job, isn't it?

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  4. I agree. We love you too, Muriel!

    I warn people I meet the first time that anything they say or do can end up in a story. LOL. Sometimes at a night, I'll drive by a house with lights on and wonder what family scene is going on inside. Or in the summer, my husband and I sit in our screened front porch and wonder aloud about the neighbors that walk by and what their stories are. Often, we come up with alternate lives that these people live. Ahh, so much fun.

    I love trying to figure out what makes people tick. Digging into their psyche by observing their behavior and listening to what they say (and even better what they don't say but you can tell their thinking).

    It's no mistake that we're writers :)

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    1. Hi, Syndi! That's just how Ron and I work! We used to do that in the car, watching the activity in the car in front of us and speculating on whether the person in the back seat had been kidnapped, was running away to get married, or on his or her way to the reading of a will that would change their life forever. As I keep saying - isn't this the best job?!

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    2. It is the best job! There's not much else I'd rather do :)

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