I wrote a blog earlier to post for this week. I knew my brain would be dead today. Holly (my daughter) came to stay with us last Sunday between jobs. She’s a travelling nurse, and she wanted some time off before she started a new job in a new location. We always love it when we can spend some time with her. Then John’s brother, Jim, who lives in Oakland, CA., came to stay with us on Thursday. On Friday, at noon, we picked up my sister, Mary, so that all of us could drive to Bloomington for my grandson’s graduation from college. I can’t tell you how fast the four years he was at I.U. went.
The graduation was an event. Ty’s recognition ceremony, from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs was on Friday night. It was heart stopping to watch Ty cross the stage to be honored. Getting up at five-thirty on Saturday in Indy to drive to Bloomington (which had NO hotel rooms, so many people flooded the city) was hard for someone like me, who’s a night owl, but we made it to the stadium by eight a.m. to get good seats. Which was worth it. Accidentally, and with good Karma, we were in seats directly in line with Ty’s row in the stadium. After the ten a.m. ceremony, we met all of Ty’s friends and their families, and we all went out to eat. We were dead by the time we got back to our hotel in Indy, but it was a happy tired. We didn’t return home until this afternoon, a little shopworn for Mother’s Day. But what a wonderful weekend!
Anyway, none of this makes you a better writer. It does make you a happier person, but here’s the post I wrote ahead of time. Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Writing!
Writing: Everyone Needs a Friend
I’ve written a few different genres through the years. Each one of them has a different focus. Urban fantasy deals with good vs. evil. The two duke it out, and if you want a happy ending, good wins. In mysteries, the focus is on justice. It prevails. It might not always work that way in real life, but it does in a mystery. The bad guy gets caught and pays for his sins. Order is restored. In romance, boy meets girl, everything goes wrong, but true love conquers all.
No matter what genre you write, the characters have to come to life. The more real your characters, the more compelling your story. We learn about our characters through their actions. What people say and what they do are two different things. A character might tell us he’s brave, but if he runs at the first sign of trouble, we don’t believe him. He might tell us he’s a coward, but if he shakes in his boots, and still goes out to meet his biggest fear, we admire him. So actions speak volumes. Internal dialogue helps, too. We get to share what the protagonist thinks and feels. But to get the quirky dirt on the person you choose to follow through a novel, there’s nothing better than how he interacts with a friend.
A friend has stuck with you through thick and thin, when you’re at your best and at your worst. He KNOWS you. He knows that you douse your mashed potatoes with ketchup and think that’s gourmet. He knows that you drank too much beer at your last birthday party and hugged the basketball post in your back yard until someone came to rescue you. And he doesn’t care. He loves you anyway. And vice versa.
When I first started writing, I wrote mysteries, and someone gave me a list of all of the type of characters that a writer could draw upon. The detective/crime solver. The assistant. Witnesses. Suspects. Killer/criminal. Antagonist—anyone who gives the main character grief—like a journalist who disagrees with him, a cop who’s tired of him interfering, etc. Romantic interest. I think the list went on, but I don’t remember. One of the main things I do remember, though, is the Confidante/friend. That’s the person the protagonist talks to, bounces ideas off of, trusts.
I haven’t found one genre where a friend couldn’t add more depth to a protagonist. A friend sees a side of him that few people are allowed to see. Occasionally, a friend can become a pivotal person in a story. He can tell the protagonist that he’s being an idiot and it’s time to get his crap together. He can tell the protagonist things no one else would get away with.
When I start a novel, I always know who the protagonist will be. I know if there will be a romantic interest (they’re pretty common), who the antagonist is, and I ALWAYS include a friend. In my first romance, Grams was the voice of reason for Tessa. She pushed and prodded Tessa, teased her, and was there for her. In Love On Tap, my third romance, Tyne is always there for Paula. And in the romance I’m working on now—my fourth, Miriam is there for Daphne. And just like before, Miriam brings life to every page she walks on.
I’m writing a series, and Miriam is so much fun to write, that she’s going to be the main character in my fifth book. She’s almost six-feet tall, thin, with tight, curly, brown hair, and an acid tongue. I love her already. I have no idea what I’m going to do with her yet, but she’s such a strong character, I know writing her journey will be fun. I hope your characters come to life for you, and happy writing!