Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Question!

So last week the call went out to my friends and blog readers to ask me some questions.  Not all pertained to the business of writing (I'll get back to you about lunch soon, Patty) but I gleaned a few of the more interesting ones, or rather, those topics I haven't quite covered in the blog.

1) How do you come up with the characters' names?

Without trying to sound facetious (or worse, delusional), a lot of times the characters will walk into my imagination and introduce themselves.  Some are fragments of names of real people I know that just happened to sound like the character I was creating.  I try not to use real names of people I know or have heard of... if a real-life name is almost too good to pass up or fits a character perfectly, I try to tweak it so it isn't exactly the same.  And sometimes, the character actually dictates what his or her name is.  I had this issue with one of my main characters, Sheriff Rick Sutton.  I didn't like his first name.  I fought to change his name, but "Rick" kept insisting on it.  Finally in frustration, I told my character, "You CAN'T be Rick! That means your first name is really Richard and you are NOT a Richard!"  Clear as a bell, I heard his voice in my head say, "My first name is Patrick."  Whoa.  Okay, that sounded more like my character.  As I said, they sometimes DO speak!

2)  Have you ever gotten stuck and how did you get past it?

I have gotten stuck more times than I can count.  When I first started writing a novel (many years back), I took getting stuck to mean that I wasn't cut out to be a writer.  Or that what I was writing  wasn't that great.  So I would stop what I was writing and start another project.  Inevitably, I'd hit a wall with that project, too, and stop.  I have an amazing collection of first chapters (it even rivals my equally impressive collection of rejection letters!)  It wasn't until I picked up an abandoned rough draft (after ignoring it for a few months) and read it from the beginning that I saw that changing something in an earlier chapter would have eliminated the problem that got me stuck.  So after eliminating the last four chapters I had written (and a hapless character I had created and thrown in to try to fix the mess), the story began to flow and I managed to finish.  It wasn't easy; throwing out your hard work, even if it isn't useful to the main story, still hurts (I still feel bad for that character I created and had to get rid of!)  But it's part of the writing process and something a lot of would-be writers struggle with.  So my advice is, if you get stuck, back up and see if you didn't make a wrong turn somewhere.  Even if fixing it means getting rid of a few thousand words or a few dozen pages, it's better than giving up!

3)  What does it take to become a writer?
Coffee helps, too!
There are several ways to answer this.  First off, if all you want to do is write, all you need is something to write on and something to write with.  And something to write about.  If you want to write to be published, it takes a little more.  I took several classes on creative writing, but didn't learn anything of use that I hadn't already learned in basic English grammar.  And I read a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  Depending on what you want to write, that's what you read the most of.  And not necessarily the best of the bunch.  I learned a lot more about character development, plotting, setting, and dialogue from reading books that I struggled to finish than books I loved and wanted to read again and again.  The most important thing I learned?  Don't write a book I wouldn't want to read myself.  Something else it takes to be a writer (specifically, a published writer) is persistence.  Keep writing.  With practice comes, if not perfection, then improvement.   Even the most talented of writers get rejected.  The important thing is not to give up.  That can mean all the difference in being published or not.

4)  What do you think about love triangles in murder mysteries?

Well, I have one in mine, although I am not a huge fan of them.  A lot depends on how well written the conflict is... and how believable the reasons are for not resolving the conflict.  Too many love triangles have carried on for nearly 20 books without any resolution in sight and it becomes tiresome after a while (Think about it: a series publishes a new book about one every 9 to 12 months.  Even if the time frame in the books only covers about 3 years total, 20 books means this love triangle hasn't been resolved for almost 20 years!  You'd think the author would have gotten tired of it by then!) I think the main focus on the series should be the mysteries, not the romance!  The triangle with Corrie, Rick, and J. D. will be resolved before the series ends, but I can't say for certain how long it will take... complications can arise... but I hope to not tire readers out with it.

5)  What about recipes?

My other pet peeve!  I recall writing a note to my friends, Aimee and David Thurlo, when they were writing the Sister Agatha series, thanking them for not succumbing to the trend and presenting us with Sister Agatha's refectory recipes!  It's a little disappointing to pick up a murder mystery and find that nearly 50 pages are taken up with recipes that the characters make.  I wouldn't expect to pick up a cookbook and find a murder mystery or romance going on between recipes!  So if you want Corrie's enchilada recipe or Rick's blueberry pecan muffin recipe, you won't find them in the books.  There are some great recipe websites on-line, so check them out!

That covers most of the questions I was asked, but feel free to ask anything else that might come to mind!

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