The Line Between Sanity and Fiction

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Merriam-Webster defines sane as mentally sound; especially :  able to anticipate and appraise the effect of one’s actions.

She defines fiction as an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth.

Here’s the problem: as an author I’m able to anticipate the effect of my character’s actions because I’m their God, and in my mind anything they do always contains the possibility of fact. You’ve heard the old adage: there’s truth in fiction. I can’t have my readers say, “that could never happen!”

The line between sanity and fiction is a blur for me.

Two summers ago I struggled to finish Welcome to Skull Mountain, the third book in my middle grade series. While I forced the words onto the page, a man and a woman started talking to each other in my head. They would talk when I should’ve been writing WTSM. The spoke when I was reading for pleasure, driving in my car, and taking long walks.

I heard songs on the radio that meant something to them. I found myself creating a sound track of songs fitting their story. When they popped up in my head I played the music suited to their relationship. I listened to them fall in love, have arguments, and was even a voyeur while my male main character came down with appendicitis. The entire time they invaded my space I thought  – Shut up! You’re driving me crazy.

They made me nuts because I couldn’t think about anything else. I wanted to know what they were up to next. I decided the only way to quiet the noise in my head was to write their story. They became Grace and Blaise in the first book of my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series. Thanks to Grace and Blaise I sold that book, A Second Chance House, to The Wild Rose Press in a three book deal. (Due out probably early next year. Still waiting on a publication date. Publishing doesn’t move quickly.)

I’m very attached to my characters. I spend a lot of time with them. I hear what they hear, see what they see, smell what they smell, and feel what they feel. I’ve developed a crush on Blaise because of the many hours I’ve spent in his company. (Hopefully, Grace will forgive me. If she doesn’t, I can just knock her off. I am still her God. It’s not insane to think you’re a God, is it?)

Author, Editor, Social Media expert Kristen Lamb says authors play literary Barbies. We make them move, say, and do whatever we want them to do. (Often times, they do what they want to do no matter how much we try and force them to do our bidding. Kind of like having kids.) But, we basically pose them, tell them what we want them to say, wind them up, and set them loose.

Recently, I played music from off my phone. The Coffee King came in and asked who I was listening to. I told him. I added that this guy wrote a song that would be perfect for Colton and Harley. (The protagonists of book two in the same series.) CK scrunched up his face, looked at me and said. “It’s like you’re playing with Little People.” Yup. Just grown up versions who curse and have sex.

I worry about myself. While I’m deep in the worlds of my characters I can be found laughing out loud at something they’ve said or done. The other day my writing buddy KM Fawcett looked across the table at me and said, “Are you crying?” I was. I couldn’t help it. Colton often makes me laugh and cry.

The good news is many other authors react similarly to their characters. I know authors who have cried when a character dies. I haven’t killed anyone I cared deeply about. I’m sure I will cry then too. At the moment, I’d rather someone cut my arm off before I had to hurt Grace, Blaise, Colton or Harley in a tragic way. (There’s so many people to worry about.)

Do you see what I’m saying? Insanity? Or possibly good at what I do? I’m going with the former. No offense to my author friends who cry and laugh through their work. I can only speak for myself.

I’m not sure how to handle my situation. Should I seek therapy? Do therapists lock people away for thinking someone is in your head talking? I don’t talk back. That must be a good thing.

Until I find a support group for my mental illness, I’ll return to Heritage River. I left Harley in a parking lot in the middle of a very important conversation with her BFF.

What?

“Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.”
William Shakespeare, Richard III

 

 

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Editing Tip Tuesday

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Have you started thinking about your 2017 writing and publishing goals? What are your year end goals, monthly goals, weekly goals? I invite you to make a list of your intentions for the new year. And to keep you accountable, keep me posted with your progress. Post here at the blog with word count goals, finished novel goals, marketing goals, and any other writing goals you have.

Did you join that writer’s group? Sign up for a new conference? Send me your manuscript to edit? Start that new book? Finish the book you’ve been working on?

Let’s make 2017 a happy and successful year.

Any questions?

It’s Editing Tip Tuesday!

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I hope everyone had a very nice Thanksgiving. I’m trying to get back into the swing of work this week, but I’m still suffering from Turkey Coma. (That’s a real thing. Ha ha.)

I’m a big believer everything happens for a reason. Probably because it lets me think there’s some sense of control in the world. Random activity is a scary thing for me.

And random activity in your novel is also a scary thing. Events cannot happen willy nilly. Everything in your novel must be there for a reason. And the reason can’t be, “But Stacey, I needed that to happen!” You might need your character to get across a lake in a boat, but if you told us the last boat on the lake was in 1920 and its 2016 a boat can’t randomly appear for your benefit.

Nope. You’ll have to explain there was an ordinance in place because a young man drowned in that lake never allowing boats to sail there again. Your main character can’t swim, and it would take too darn long to walk around the lake. If he’s going to save the maiden in time he needs a boat so he’s been planning, since the maiden’s kidnapping which is your inciting incident and happening early on in the story, on how to get a boat in the lake. The boat can’t just appear. Or, a long lost relative can’t show up on the scene with that boat. Too convenient. Your character has to fight and kick for that boat knowing if he doesn’t get it in the lake in time, that maiden is going to die. Got me?

Leave random acts for kindness. For your novel, every word counts. Say it with me, EVERY WORD COUNTS.

Any questions?

The College Tour

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We went looking at colleges recently. Noodge 1 is a junior in high school and I’m under the impression this is the time to get serious and check things out. There’s a lot of pressure to pick the right school. I have a friend whose son is also a junior and she’s been on a binge to see as many schools as possible before Christmas.

But anyway, looking at colleges is the right thing to do, so we’re at it. As long as we’ve seen every school he’s interested in by marching band camp next summer I’m good. We can skip the discussion about how ridiculously expensive school is. It is. That’s that. The Coffee King and I have made our requirements known. Though, the cost of school is a very important discussion and if you want to have one here at the blog, that’s fine, but please have one at home too.

You know for me, the most important thing was how clean the dorms were. Okay, not THE most important, but I’ll admit I elbowed a few people out of the way to make sure I took a look at the room on display. I controlled myself and stayed out of the bathroom. But I will be sending Noodge to school with bleach. Mark my words.

It isn’t easy to choose a school. (Here’s an article from The New York Times about how to pick a college. I’m not a huge fan of The Times, but how badly can they screw up this information?) For us, we’re looking at location. I want him to go to school in my backyard. He wants to go anywhere. We’re compromising. Anything withing five hours. The Coffee King had to weigh in and talk me off the ledge. I know, I know. I’m a controlling, paranoid mother. What can I say? I take my job very seriously.

Degrees offered is also important. Noodge has an idea what he wants to do. He’s changed his mind several times already, which is fine, but based on today’s desires we have a place to start.

The ugly cost is a factor. How much money the school offers in aid is important. It might be the most important component for some people. The schools seem to give financial aid information at their orientation, but if they don’t, make sure to ask. Internships and opportunities as well as activities for the students should also factor in. One big thing for Noodge is the campus itself. He likes a traditional campus more than an urban campus. That rules out plenty of schools. Oh, and size is a factor for some students. He goes to a very large high school so a larger college isn’t intimidating and a smaller one is fine too. Every kid is different. Make sure to find out what the teacher to student ratio is. Some kids will thrive in a lecture hall of three hundred and others will drown.

Helping my child to pick a college is like every other stop on this journey of motherhood. I’m leading with my heart, offering advice, and praying. The rest is up to him.

I mentioned earlier Noodge has been changing his mind about his career choices. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m learning changing his mind isn’t so easy for him. I don’t know if it’s because he’s told people what he wants to do and now that story is different, but over breakfast, while we were away, we talked. Really talked. I led with my heart and gave advice. I told him the decision was his. He didn’t have to explain his career choice to anyone.

It’s okay to change your mind. You don’t have to know what you want to do with your entire life at sixteen. Do what makes you happy because you’ll be doing it for many years, many hours of the day. Life is too short to hate what you do. And if you start doing something and you decide you don’t like it, change it. You’re going to be okay. Dad and I are proud of you.

My son looked at me and said, “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For giving me advice and being so nice about me wanting to do something else.”

Since we were in a public place it took all the strength I had not to grab him and hug him. My heart swelled as I watched him taller than me, stronger than me, smarter than me, with his unshaven face, (It’s No Shave November and though NSN is an organization helping cancer awareness I think Noodge and his friends just want to compare their ability to grow a beard.) The little chubby baby I held in my arms is almost a man.

“It’s what I’m here for.” A stupid grin plastered across my face. As we left the restaurant, I gave him an aww shucks shoulder bump.

My boy is leaving the nest soon. No matter which college he chooses, I know he’ll be fine. Me on the other hand…..

 

 

Editing Tip Tuesday

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Lights, Camera, Action!

We often see in movies two characters walk into a restaurant, sit down at a table, order food and eat it. Other than the famous scene in the 1989 movie When Harry Met Sally  most times the eating scene doesn’t do anything to move the story forward. It’s usually a chance for the characters to recap what they, and the audience, already knows. That same technique doesn’t usually work in a novel.   Check out the When Harry Met Sally scene here.

The action a writer includes in a novel must go to work for them. Action needs to move the story forward. Moving around in a scene isn’t action. Really think about what your characters are doing and how their actions show who they are. If your heroine hangs her little black bag on a hook in a restaurant make sure that action shows something about who she is. Did the bag cost her a month’s salary to buy because she doesn’t want the people at the event to know she’s struggling for money? Is the floor too dirty for her? Is she worried that someone will steal it because she’s been robbed before? Just putting the bag on the hook to give your heroine something to do is a waste of good words.

Take the glass of wine. Your heroine is at a party. The wine is flowing. Having her take constant sips while she trades dialogue with another character doesn’t do anything to move the story forward. Sorry. It’s just boring. Ask yourself, is your character uncomfortable? Have her tap the glass instead. Does she have a bad habit of clinking the glass against her teeth? Is she allergic to wine along with a long list of other things and doesn’t want to tell her date? Or maybe she grew up on the property of a winery and the smell reminds her of the bad things that happened to her behind the tank room. Now we know something about the character and suddenly we’re interested.

Take another look at that scene in When Harry Met Sally. While Sally is talking, she is removing the excess meat from her sandwich. At this point in the movie, we know she has a very unique way of ordering her food and she “wants things the way she wants them.” That gesture goes right to her character and it isn’t wasted time on the screen.

I often edit stories with stagnant action. And in a first draft, go ahead and put it down because no one is going to read your first draft. Right? But when you go back and you know your characters better make different and unique choices for them.

Any questions?