Posted in Write like You Mean It

A Line in the Sand

We all have certain beliefs, lines we won’t cross and vows we make with ourselves, and our communities.  I have quite a few myself, particularly because I tend to be a bit melodramatic.  One that I repeat over and over, because I constantly break it is that I will never date another man.

A little over twelve years ago, I broke that vow for the last time when I agreed to go out with the man who eventually became my husband.  Three years later a new vow was made, and that is one vow I will never break.  It was a quiet ceremony with just a few family members in the canyon, and it was rather slap-dash.  We tied the knot for the wrong reasons, but I don’t regret my decision one bit.  I am proud to call the man I love husband, even if we didn’t get the wedding either of us wanted.

So, why am I talking about all this today?  Well I read an article on author Kristen Lamb’s Blog (click here to read) about using personal vows to increase the tension in your story, and it got me thinking.  What are some of the vows that I’ve made over the years?  What kind of vows should my characters make, or break, as my stories progress?  Do they already have unspoken vows that serve to drive the story, and if so, how will knowing what these vows are affect me as I proceed?

Well, I’ve already told you about a few of my vows, so I won’t delve deeper into that today.  Instead let me tell you about my main characters from my two books.  They both have vows that they keep, and vows that they break, and I’ve written them this way without realizing it.  I always strive above all to make my characters as believable as possible.  Even when writing stories about space travel, or quests that take place in a fantasy realm, I want you to believe that they are real, at least in the context of the book, and one of the ways that I do that is I put myself into them where ever possible.  From the most evil villain to the bravest hero, they are all part of me.  So naturally, they all make vows, but I had never recognized it until I read that article today.

To start, let’s talk about Olivia Blake, the main character of my story Killer Therapy (working title).  She definitely has homicidal thoughts, but she has vowed to herself that she will never let them cross from fantasy to reality.  This is largely influenced by her desire to never go to prison, but once she does cross that line, once she gives in to her darker nature, a deeper more meaningful truth comes to light.  She may have a murderous heart, but she has no desire to hurt the innocent, and that is one line she will never cross.  

Olivia has a brother who is a detective with the UPD, the police force responsible for keeping the peace in Salt Lake City, Utah.  As such he has taken a vow to uphold the law, but he is a very family oriented man, and because of his family’s troubled past, he has vowed to care for and protect both of his sisters from all danger, real or perceived.  This could, and probably will, cause him a great deal of inner turmoil as he unravels the mystery of the serial killer plaguing his city, and comes to realize that his sister is the culprit he’s been searching for.  Will he break the vow he made to himself, and turn her in, knowing that she would face the death penalty?  Will he instead choose family, over his beliefs, and what will that do to him?  Even I don’t know the answers yet.

In my story Road Trip (working title) the main character, Michael, comes home from his latest stay in a juvenile correctional facility to discover that he has a brother, who was left by their mother to grow up in the care of his abusive father.  Michael’s brother tells him that when their mother left, she said that Michael had to go away, because he made a mistake, but when he came back he would take care of him.  Broken by this revelation, and by the fact that his father is kicking him out of the house after only one night, he is tempted to follow his mother’s example and leave the kid, but remembering his own childhood, and witnessing the abuse his four year old brother is suffering, he vows to give his brother a better life than he had.  Now, is that a vow that he can keep?  It seems unlikely, as he is only eighteen, unemployed, and homless.  He is certainly sincere in his desire to protect and care for his brother, but over the course of the story it leads him to make poor decisions that ultimately put both of them in harms way.

As I continue to write these stories, I will keep the vows of my characters in mind, and hopefully through understanding my characters better I will be able to portray their inner struggles ever more accurately, adding even more depth and intensity to the stories than I have until now.  Of course it means I’m going to have to go back and do some rewrites, but that’s all a part of the process, and I truly want to be able to say that I wrote the best book I can write, so I’m happy to do it.

Have you ever made a promise to yourself that you couldn’t keep?  How about one that you later learned was bad for you, or conflicted with a different vow you made to yourself or someone else?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  Thanks again for reading, and I hope everyone has a great week!

Posted in Writing Prompts

What color do you feel like right now?

Today I couldn’t decide what to write so I picked up my book of writing prompts, and thumbed through till I found one that inspired me to write.

Right now I’m feeling purple.  I thought for a moment I might feel green, but no, it’s definitely purple.  Why?  I don’t know.  Purple is a color associated with wealth, and power, you might even say it represents ambition, but I’m not feeling particularly strong, well off, or motivated today.  As a secondary color, it combines red and blue.  Emotional symbolism represents blue as sadness and red as anger, but I really don’t feel sad and angry either.  Regardless of how little sense it makes, I am definitely purple today.

Purple is not one of my favorite colors.  Mix in too much red and it gets pink, mix yellow with it and it turns a desgusting shade of brown.  No, I am not a fan of purple.  I would rather be orange, my favorite color.  Orange is energetic and fun.  Orange is the color of sunset, and fire, and falling leaves.  Orange means cool weather, and my favorite holiday, Halloween.  Orange is the color of the light while sitting bundled up by the fireplace reading a good book, or cuddling with a loved one.

Still, purple is how I feel, and it’s not going away any time soon.  I can feel it settling in for the long haul.  I am going to have a purple day, and there’s nothing to do but try and enjoy it, what ever it leads to.

Do you feel colorful today?  What is your favorite color, and why?  Comments are always welcome, so feel free to share, and as always, thank you for reading.  Have a wonderful day!

Posted in Write like You Mean It

Why write about criminals?

My dad asked me a week or two ago after I told him about my books, why anyone would want to read a story about a criminal.  I told him it’s because it’s interesting.  It’s a vicarious thrill to read about someone doing things that you would never, or could never do.  It’s like reading a story about magic where the laws of physics get turned on their head, only in this case it’s the law of the land being spun upside down.  It’s neat to imagine yourself doing things so far from your normal, and it helps you to get out of your head for a while.

All of that is true, but as that conversation popped up in my mind again today, I realized that it is also incomplete.  It’s not just about living vicariously through the characters, or getting to leave your own life behind.  It’s about recognizing a part of yourself in them, and feeling that emotional connection.  Who among us has never wanted someone dead?  Which of us has never been hungry enough for something that they at least briefly considered doing something illegal?  What person on this earth has never felt that there was injustice in the world that the powers that be were ignorant of, or incapable of fixing?

I think we all have a little darkness inside of us.  It’s what we do with that darkness that makes us saints vs sinners, criminals or upstanding citizens.  Part of the allure of a novel based on criminals is that you can relate to their dark desires, and part of you really wants to see them succeed, even if you yourself would never make that choice in the real world.  Another part of you may be praying for them to change their mind, make the right choice, and be the good person you know they could be, even when in a similar circumstance you may have made the same choice, and done the wrong thing for the right reason.

My job as a writer is to make you feel everything.  I want you to be curious enough to pick up my book, out of all the others, and start reading.  I need to hold your interest long enough that you begin to fall in love with the characters.  Then it is my job to break your heart, tear it to shreds, and make you feel devastated on be half of those people in the story that you have grown to love and empathize with.  That way your heart, and mind will be open to receiving enlightenment and understanding when the story draws to a close, and reaches it’s inevitable conclusion.  Because writing is not simply about entertainment, it is a learning experience.  

Through literature we can gain new perspectives on life.  There is no such thing as a story without a moral.  It may be murky, and hard to find, but at it’s core there is always a grain of wisdom.  As humans we are constantly evolving, learning from our mistakes and the mistakes of those around us.  We are not the biggest or most fearsome thing on this planet.  We owe our success instead to our infinite adaptability, and what makes us so resilient is our imagination and our willingness to share those dreams with each other.  Just think of everything we have achieved!

So much of science has mirrored science fiction throughout the years that at times it has seemed that those writers must have had a time machine or a crystal ball.  That’s not the case however, rather because they dared to dream that it was possible, and shared that dream with the world, other people were able to see the possibilities and make them into reality.  Did Jules Vern know how to make a submarine? I don’t think he did, but his story inspired someone else, who knew more about science and technology and was able to make that dream come true.

Anyway, I’ve gotten a little off point here, so to get back to what I was saying, we need stories about bad guys just as much as we need stories about good guys.  If we can understand what makes a person go down that path we can learn how to make that path less desirable, or feel less necessary.  On a more personal level when you feel compassion and empathy for someone who made a bad choice, it becomes easier to feel that compassion and empathy for yourself when you make mistakes.  Maybe you’ve never committed a crime, but everyone eventually does something that makes them feel lower than scum, and if you can learn to love a person who’s done something worse, it becomes so much easier to then forgive yourself for being less than perfect.

Posted in Write like You Mean It

Fiction Frustration

Alright, here’s my problem.  I have this great fiction novel that I’m working on writing, and I am just madly in love with everything about it.  The premise is great, it’s about a therapist’s transformation from a neurotic shrink into a serial killing vigilante.  The characters are amazingly deep, and I’m writing it in the first person, which is a new style for me.  I’m really pouring a lot of myself onto the pages, and it is super fun to write.  The thing is, for some reason today I just can’t get the words to come.  I know what happens next, and I know how I’m going to write it, but when I sit down to put the words on paper (not real paper, I’m writing it on my iPad)  nothing comes out.

So I decide to get some inspiration by listening to some music.  Big mistake.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen popped up on my playlist and I found myself going down a rabbit hole with songs about running from the law such as “Renegade” by Stix, and “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi.  Now I have a new story idea knocking on my mental front door, and begging to come in.  I don’t know yet if it’s going to be a young couple in love, or a pair of siblings, but there’s going to be just the two of them, on a crime spree that spans the entire U.S.  I think it’s going to start with the two of them meeting while one of them is already on the lam.  I don’t know if it’s going to be a stand alone book where they die at the end, or if I’ll leave it open for a sequel by having them arrested instead.  There is a lot I don’t know about this story yet, and I really want to find out more, but I’m trying very hard not to think about it, because I don’t want to get distracted by a new project right now.

Then again, since they are similar in genre, they could provide inspiration for each other, and since I will most definitely be writing the new story in third person it might provide som much needed relief when I’m feeling burned out on writing from inside my therapist character’s head.  I was hoping, though, to have my first story ready to try and find a publisher by next spring.  Maybe that’s a little ambitious.  I don’t know how long these things normally take since I’ve never been through the process before.  Of course if I have two books to peddle, I would be able to hedge my bets a little too, so maybe I should write them both right now.

Ok, after thinking it over, I have decided I am definitely going to work on the both of them.  It just seems like a good idea, as long as I don’t let it get away from me.  Just the two, though.  No more than that, okay brain?  I’ll never be able to publish a book if I can’t finish a single first draft…