Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Art of Writing

There were many things running through my mind about how to open my first blog for The Morgan Diaries. Everything from what I’m reading to a tirade about the amount of cream filling in Twinkies. Honestly, I believe Hostess is putting not even half of what was in there when I was a kid, but I digress.

Instead, I thought I’d talk about the main focus of this blog. Writing, or at least my take on what it takes to be an effective writer. Feel free to skip this if you wish, but sometime in the future there may be a test and then won’t you look silly, sitting there with a dumb look on your face.

For those of you who know me, probably think this is going to be another insane missive from me, you may be in for a surprise. More than likely, I’m going to prove you right, seeing as how I am slightly to the left of sane on a normal day. But here goes.

Writing is more than simply sitting in front of your keyboard, laptop, or the old click and clang on the typewriter your Auntie Bea gave you for Christmas a hundred years ago or even the trusty old spiral notebook and Bic pen. That is a valuable part of the process, don’t get me wrong. Without any of those tools, you’re just whistling Dixie, so to speak. To write in my opinion you must first be an observer of the human nature.

Inserting hero A into heroine B isn’t going to cut it. As a writer you need to breathe life into your characters. Hiding away in your office won’t work. You can try it but I think your characters will feel flat to your readers and if you’re honest with yourself, you too. In all my books I try to kidnap… Uh I mean, look for a personality that fits what I’m looking for in who I want my heroine or hero to be.

In my book How Wicked Can She Go? I actually started with Nikki as a character before I even had a story to go along with her. That’s because I knew Nikki intimately. I had her personality firmly in hand because she was a good friend of mine—both literary and in real life, so to speak. My good friend Meme—shameless plug to my bud—presented just the right amount of insane and lovability to make Nikki come to life in my head. As a result, Nikki is perhaps one of my favorite characters out of all the ones I’ve created. I didn’t just pull the trick in Wicked. All my books have pieces of all those people I love in the them. To my friends, it’s up to you to figure out which ones you are.

That’s one way to observe. The other is watching the world around you. Check the news, what your friends are doing—anything that screams there is a story to be told in this. I’ve had trips to Wal-mart that have sparked scenes, but Wally World is the seventh ring of Hell. If you don’t have at least one Wal-mart story begging to be told, something’s wrong with you. The basic thing I’m getting at is don’t close your eyes for a minute, you might miss something.

The hardest thing for an author to do is make their world believable. Let’s face it, there are no new ideas. Everything has been covered, a thousand—make that a million—different ways. We—as authors—have the task of making a story you—the reader—have read a kaziollion times seem new and fresh. Tell me that ain’t a bitch and a half to do.

How do we do it? By making our characters and settings so real and personal to you, you can’t help but be drawn into it and incapable of escaping to the safety of the world around you. That one statement brings me back to where I started this rambling. Step one in becoming a writer is observation, not plunking down in a comfy chair and taping the keys. I think if you examine the books you love, you can see what I’m talking about.

In closing, if you spy on your friend’s and neighbors, you’ll become the writer you always wanted to be. But, to avoid jail time don’t do an illegal wire tap unless the dirt is just too juicy to pass up. Then, feel free to pass the info on to me. Desperate Housewives is becoming a little too tame.

Another insane missive from the mind of
the Redneck Bubba Romantic


Jenna Leigh said...

But.. but.. Nikki was vile, she was evil.. she was the wickedest one ever! And Meme's so sweet, at least this is what she tells us. All. The. Time.

The Twinkie Debate: I've told you that your mouth is larger now than it was as a child. You never listen to me. *eats the last Twinkie*

The Hellmouth is a vile and evil place, yet you drag me there constantly. What have I ever done to deserve such torment and.. Okay, never mind. *coughs*

Susan said...

LOL! Great points JMo. Love the blog. I think a lot of new authors could learn many things from reading your blog. You hit the nail on the head with the observation thing too.

Morgan O'Reilly said...

Rednecks can be romantics too.

Good post. Now I'll have to find something to top it. Might have to toss in one Jackie Ivie and two Diana Gabaldon stories to do it.

Then there was Mr. Whitekeys and the way his band sang Happy Birthday to me last night, and my picture with Dana Stabenow and the Alaska Sisters in Crime gang...

Yep, observation was the name of the game the last couple of days.

Karen said...

Well said, as always, J. I look forward to reading The Morgan Diaries...maybe it will spark something in me to get me writing again. Wow, that was a terribly written sentence *sigh* I have a LONG way to go. Love the new blog!!

And I can't comment on the Twinkie debate, I am and always will be, a HoHo girl.

Jasmine Haynes said...

Great points and very funny, too!

And of course, we're all different. I can't write people I know. I end up having my own emotions about them which make it hard for me to separate the "character" from the reality. However, I always steal little bits and pieces from people I know. I'm a big observer, though. I'm probably one of the few people who doesn't get impatient and bored waiting in line because I can watch people.

But, um, there must be something seriously wrong with me because I don't have a Wally World story! But I do have a Twinkie story, so does that qualify?

Jasmine Haynes
The Fortune Hunter, Nov 2007

J. Morgan said...

Twinkie stories always count. There is nothing bettere than a good Twinkie story, unless it's a Twinkie. Sorry, be right back. Got to make a run to the store. Out of Twinkies.

Savannah Chase said...

Great blog, you have a lot of good things to teach. I find it that writing is the best self expression and being a writer myself I tend to look at the world differently than I had before I started to write. I think life is a lot better now.

Jasmine Haynes said...

Thank goodness Twinkies will work!

Jasmine Haynes
The Fortune Hunter, Berkley Nov 2007
Don’t miss my October contest!