Thursday, May 8, 2014

FASCINATING CHARACTERS by CATHERINE LANIGAN

 

     I have never wanted to label myself as a “people watcher”.   The idea always seemed like an invasion of privacy and actually, I didn’t like the idea that people were watching me, when in reality today, however, everybody is being watched, videoed and photographed without their knowledge.   Now, I will admit that I’m not only a people watcher, but my actions are like a stealth-spy mission. Worse, I don’t even know I’m doing it, until I sit down to plot out my next story line and lo! And behold!  There’s a character I’m writing and it turns out to be my next-door-neighbor.
     Since I have lived in fifteen houses/condos in my lifetime, so far, including a houseboat that my husband and I refer to as the “world’s smallest houseboat”, I have had a lot of next-door-neighbors and fascinating people walk in and out of my life to create a pretty large pool of source material.
     What I find fascinating is that when I start devising plot lines and I think about the real-life scenarios that embroiled me when I knew some of my “neighbors” and “friends”,  the real-life stories seem preposterous, contrived, and clich├ęd.  But then I think, well, those supposedly well-used plot lines for romances and mysteries are as old as the hills because we, as human beings, keep repeating history; repeating our mistakes and apparently, from generation to generation, we don’t “evolve” a whole lot.  We’re still trying to dupe the other guy, steal a boyfriend and keep our sons/daughters all to ourselves and not allow them to move on with their lives. We meddle, interfere, and try to control everything that we can’t control.
     Therein, lie the fodder for the plot. Throw in a couple manipulative, self-centered parents or grandparents, and voila! A story is born.
     In the past week, while trolling through my work day and some social interaction with women I graduated from high school with and haven’t seen for forty years, again, I was astounded at the number of jaw-dropping, teeth-clenching and heart-breaking stories I’d heard that literally sounded like they’d jumped off the pages of our Harlequin novels.  Sadly, I wish more of the real stories I’d heard were Heartwarming stories, but they weren’t. And that is when it hit me how desperately there is a need out there in the world for our stories with very happy endings and endearing moments of love shining through the muck of life to get the heroine and hero through to the next stage of their lives.

    My hat is off to all my fellow Heartwarming authors as we struggle with the next sentence and the next scene and work like Trojans to get the dialogue just right. Never despair. Never stop writing. There are so many ladies, and much to my surprise, as my reviews on Amazon for Love Shadows has revealed, many men, as well, who need the lift in spirits that apparently we  can give them. Good job one and all! 

9 comments:

  1. So true, Catherine! There's nothing more inspiring than the world around us. I wonder if the people who know me read my books and try to figure out who certain characters are based on! Sometimes they're based on real people, sometimes not. That should really confuse them. I do love a happy ending, though :)

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    1. Amy,
      I so wish I could write some happy endings for some unhappy friends, struggling friends and conflicted folks I know right now!!!

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  2. Catherine--every time I speak anywhere one of the questions people ask is: "how much of you are in your books, and are they from events in your life and/or people you know". I used to deny it as "how many ways can you spell law suit" flashed in my head. Now I just say all fiction is faction. We write what we know. I love your book cover. Can't wait to read the book.

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    1. Thanks, Roz,
      I know just what you mean. I always used to be afraid that there would be someone lurking around the corner to "get me". Sadly, there were times when my fears were warranted, but these days, everyone is the subject of everyone else's photos and Iphone videos. It's unavoidable. I love the cover, too. WHAT A GOOD JOB they did! I have a pair of Adirondack chairs in my front yard. It's actually warm outside. I should be sitting in one now!

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  3. I love to people watch! Especially in airports. Your book sounds awesome. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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    1. Pam,
      Airports are the best! Actually, it's one of the few times I slow down enough myself to MAKE myself just observe!

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  4. Hi, Catherine. I love Roz's word - faction. I think we're all in the middle of a giant stage play, crouched in corners, taking down the parts that speak to us so we can give it the significance the actors might be missing, or the happy ending that doesn't seem to be in the works, so we can pass it on the way we'd like it to be.

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    1. Ah, Muriel, so very well put! Happy Mother's Day!

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  5. I love this post, Catherine (and sorry I'm so late to reading it)! I'm guilty of people watching...or listening and pretending not to watch lol. It's not about being nosy. It's just that human nature is so intriguing and, like you point out, as writers we need to 'study' it for our characters' sakes. And if we can learn a little about how we should or shouldn't behave by 'watching' the behavioral example and reactions of others, then all the better:). Ah, if only we could be 'magical' writers who could rewrite endings and make them all happy (like in the movie Inkheart)...

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