We all have them – those pesky little interruptions that keep us from writing. They take all shapes – some are pretty and wrapped in bows, and others are dark and depressing. This past month has been filled with both. I don’t know why, but the end of the year seems to always be filled with both. Far too many loved ones have left us, just at a time when we are thankful for our blessings, some of our blessings leave us. I like to think of them as becoming our guardian angels to watch over us in times of deep need. I can readily admit that life likes to throw us curve balls. I have my share just like everyone else. One of the ways I deal with life’s curve balls is to write.
I did a lot of writing in November. Of course, it helped that I decided to add to my insanity by joining the NaNoWriMo. In a way, it helped me deal with life’s challenges and interruptions. At the end of each day, I made myself a promise to write. Even if it wasn’t my best writing, I wanted to be sure to write. Sometimes it was hard to find the right words to write down, but other times, the events of the day poured out of my soul and on to the page, giving me more inspiration than I thought possible. Those were the days when I filled my pages with words. I would be up until well past midnight, even knowing I had to rise early for my paying job. Those were the days when the words flowed easily from my brain.
Unfortunately, because I was busy working on my NaNo, I neglected my blog. I tried to tell myself that as long as I was writing, it didn’t matter where the words flowed – whether it was on my blog or for my NaNo. I think we all justify our writing in those terms.
What do I mean by that? Think about it – how many times have you said – I’m going to work on my novel today and then you didn’t write a word? But, instead you spent time reading another author’s book. Or you spent time doing research – through textbooks, online sites, movies, or other means. Maybe you did some outlining or worked on your synopsis. Maybe you worked on a character sketch. Maybe you reread the previous chapter and did some edits. All of these things qualify as working on your novel, don’t they?
Sometimes just living is research for your novels. How is this possible?
Think about it – your life is filled with interesting people. Oh, they may not be as colorful as Aunt Pittypat from Gone With the Wind, but still they make wonderful character sketches for people you may place in your next novel. The man who walks down the alley in the winter time in a down jacket and ZZ top beard and mustache and during the summer shaves his head and has no shirt on is an excellent study in human behavior. Or the child who is dropped off at the nursery and spends the entire time coloring the same picture six times because she doesn’t want anyone else to color it. Think about your favorite movie characters – you remember them and love them because they either remind you of someone in your life, or because they made an impression on you in some way. These are the people we put into our novels. Oh, we change the names to protect the innocent, but we use bits and pieces of these people to make our own characters come alive. We remember the facial expressions of those people when we are putting our characters into difficult situations. We think about how they would react in order to make our characters breathe life on the pages.
Secondly, these little interruptions in our life become great backstory for our novels. What motivates us or others in our lives to do things are the same things we use in our books. I just got done watching iRobot and we don’t know why Spooner hates robots until the middle of the story when we learn he almost died. A robot saves him and not a woman because the robot is programmed to choose who has the better chance of survival. This action has helped shape the type of person Spooner has become. These same things happen to us, oh maybe not so dramatically as they did to Spooner, but still our life is filled with such incidents. Have any of you read Rhett Butler’s People? If you do, it’s an interesting book from Rhett’s POV and you get to see what shaped him as a man and father. An interesting twist on the original story which is mainly through Scarlet’s POV. I was watching the Emmy’s one night and Modern Family won. The producers spoke about how they incorporated incidents from their own lives to make the stories onscreen come alive.
They say that in order to write a best-selling book, you should write about what you know. If you think about it, authors do just that. They write about their lives and the lives of people they know indirectly every day. They include those funny little stories into their books. They take the people who touch them in their lives and make them animate a story. They give the characters little twists and turns in their lives based on what life has given them over the years. I think this is why it’s difficult to write about another time period. If you haven’t lived then it’s hard to put your characters into that time period accurately. In order to make it authentic you have to be inventive – watch movies, read primary sources, visit locations, and become one with that time period. They say that good actors do this all the time – they remove themselves for their current life and try to become that other person. The same is true of an author – if they want their story to be believable, they have to become one with that person.
So, how do we write the best book we have in us? Live our lives to the fullest. Fill every moment with little interruptions and fascinating people. When you do this, your books will take on a new life. All the bad with the good shape us, shape our stories, and shape where our stories go.