Feature Article: HEARING VOICES
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
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Thursday, November 4: The official release date of FOLLOW ME HOME!
Saturday, November 6:
I’ll be signing copies of my books on Saturday, November 6 from 1-3 PM at LAST CHAPTER BOOKSHOPPE 11128 Antioch, Overland Park, KS. For more information, contact: 913 339 6616
There’s still time to sign up for the OCTOBER contest if you haven’t already. Visit my web site’s contest page for details on back-to-back contests that started in August. Congratulations to Joy of Mesa, AZ, winner of the September contest! And to Debbie, winner of the contest only open to newsletter subscribers!
FEATURE ARTICLE: HEARING VOICES
(Second in a series on creating a novel.)
Last newsletter, I told you how my editor and I settled on the Next Big Idea that is now becoming my fourth book—HOME ON RED HOLLOW ROAD. (Um, I changed the title from Home Grown. Which is taking a, forgive the pun, page from my editor's book. Because I'm sure she'll change the title again.) Like a match to dry wood, once the idea was in my head, more ideas sparked to life. But where do they come from, you've asked. Not from me... They emanate from the characters who take up residence in my brain. I’ll live with these folks through the writing of the book, the revisions, the editing, and the proofing of the galleys. Throughout the process, I'll literally listen to voices in my head!
And eventually I’ll know these characters as well as I know anyone. And, yes, sometimes they get like house guests that have overstayed their welcome! But right now, our relationship is new, they still intrigue me, and I’m still trying to figure them out. It's very important that I do. Because, for me, the story starts with the characters.
Diane from Oklahoma City asked me... Why these particular characters? Where do they come from?
I know it sounds silly to say, “They just show up.” But that’s exactly what happens. And over the course of writing three books about the folks of Cordelia, Missouri, a lot of people have just shown up. And just like people we meet in reality, I’ve found some of them more memorable than others. I’m curious about them. I want to spend more time with them. I want to know them better.
Patsy Lee O’Malley is one of those characters. She’s the widowed sister-in-law of the three O’Malley sisters that I’ve already featured in each of my first three books. (Lil in SING ME HOME; Alcea in my new release, FOLLOW ME HOME, and Mari in HOME AT LAST, out next summer.)
When Patsy Lee appears in those books, this mother of four stands on the sidelines. Rarely speaking up, she’s described as a sweet, gentle person...
But is she? What is she really thinking? How does she feel about living in the shadow of her more colorful relatives? After years of scrambling for a living, raising her children, and trying to better herself with a college degree, she’s entered middle-age. Has this affected how she views life? Does she feel she has more options—or less?
Zeke Townley also intrigued me when he showed up in SING ME HOME. The unflappable former country music star has a wonderfully dry sense of humor. I’m glad he popped back into my head so I can renew our acquaintance and find out: What happened to him after his band disbanded and his country superstar days were behind him? What happened to the relationship between him and the lady lawyer friend that was mentioned in that book? And what’s he doing back in Cordelia, Missouri?
These aren’t rhetorical questions... they’re the ones I’ve asked these characters for the last couple of months. Sometimes, they've spouted off answers. Other times, I've had to coax them to talk. And gradually I’ve learned their history, their views, their likes and dislikes. How they move, how they talk, their habits, their quirks, and how they fill their time. I've discovered what made them the people they are.
Brenna from Phoenix asked me if the people I put on the page are people I know.
The short answer is: No.
And the long answer is, No, but...
Because, of course, along with what shows up in my imagination, the characters have traits of people I know or have known. But that doesn’t mean I pick and choose different aspects of different people and roll them up in a neat character package. No, the character is already fully formed, and I’m just noticing that she or he shares a trait with someone else I know.
Teresa from Dallas asked, where do their names come from?
By this point, you probably know the answer: They simply show up with their names. Not that they introduce themselves to me right away—-sometimes I have to guess. And I always know when I’ve hit the right one. You would, too. Think about it: In Gone With the Wind, could Melanie have possibly been named Scarlett? Could Scarlett have had the name Melanie?
During this process, I also discover why my characters aren’t as happy as they could be. Usually for reasons that they don’t even know yet themselves. And I wonder... can I teach them? If they had certain experiences or met certain people or encountered certain situations, would they find more contentment, more joy, more satisfaction? If I test their mettle, what happens?
Ideas drift in. And I start doodling until the teeming mess in my head becomes a teeming mass of confusion on paper. To me, there’s a “perfect time” to start committing things to writing (in this case, it was early September). Putting things down too early can make the story predictable. Leaving the writing till too late means those ideas drift out. (That’s a colorful way of saying, my memory sucks.)
But even after I’ve prepared a formal proposal for my editor, and even after she’s approved that proposal and I’m well into writing the book—the characters keep talking. I’ll still hear voices. They’ll tell me more And the story will take off in directions I never anticipated.
BEST BOOK(s) I’VE READ THIS PAST MONTH:
MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
I’ve been dipping back into some “classics.” I don’t think explanations are needed!
THE SAINTS AND SINNERS OF OKAY COUNTY by Dayna Dunbar
This new writer explores an overwhelmed young mother’s quest to be true to herself in a warm, wonderful novel populated by memorable characters. Ms. Dunbar nicely resists turning the sinners into villains, too. Great pacing, great story!
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves