Monday, March 24, 2014

When a Character Refuses to Speak

Sometimes a week sails on without so much as a whisper from a particular character. I don't look at this lack of communication as writer's block. It feels more like swimming in a pond of murky imagination. I depend on my characters to come alive and dictate their wants, needs, and feelings. Last week no dictation happened.

The personality of the particular character in question took shape during the writing of Charade. I didn't like her then, and I don't like her now. If you've read Charade, you might have guessed I'm writing about Carrie Storm. There's something blocking me from walking in her shoes.

What would her childhood have been like traveling with her mother, Dusky as she performed for a Wild West Extravaganza in the mid-1900s? Something in Carrie's formative years turned her into the reclusive, secretive woman she became. As a teen she lived through the Great Depression. Those lean years must have taken a mighty toll on a kid without a permanent place to call home.

Carrie lived in a Gypsy wagon perched on a railroad flat car, constantly being transported from venue to venue. Did she see the hungry looks on the faces of young men riding the rails trying to find work during the Dust Bowl years? Was she afraid of becoming like them, footloose and desperate? Who are you, Carrie? What makes you tick? Talk to me.

Today's Lesson: 
When sticky words flow like honey on a cold day, write them anyway!



Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

Today, I'm remembering two questions, and more clearly the one answer to them: Why would anyone choose to get a BA in women's studies? What are you going to do with it? The answer to those questions harkens back to the early 70s when I was a young, stay-at-home mom with three little ones.

Don't get me wrong. I adore my children, and today I adore my six grandchildren very much. Back in the 70s I was longing for something more, but I didn't know what. I was also heading for a break-up that would thrust me out of the house into a world I was ill-prepared to face. Finishing my bachelor's degree in women's studies in the year 2000 was a direct result of feeling duped by the American culture of the 50s.

After choosing English as a major in the late 60s, I wanted to study women when I returned to college, so I could write about them. Women have struggled, even before the days of the old west where many of my stories are set, to free themselves from the constraints of whatever society they have been born into. I write about strong women characters because I want women to be aware of the potential within themselves to excel wherever their passions lead.

I was passionate about my growing family, and I'm just as passionate about my skills as a writer of fiction. On this International Women's Day I'm pausing to think about the lives of the women who paved the way. I'm choosing to pursue my passion for writing, and especially today I'm remembering the countless women who sacrificed to open my eyes so I could discover that potential.

One answer to many questions: I often turn to this much quoted phrase written in 1927 by American writer Max Ehrmann:  "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here."

Write On!