Today, the lovely and talented, Erika Beebe, author of the short story, Stage Fright, which appears in the ONE MORE DAY anthology, is guest hosting on my blog today. Please give her a round of applause as she discusses the Mind of A Writer, Character Development, and Who Are We Really?
The mind of a writer is a funny thing. I can invent the most twisted story, shake it off to make dinner, at least mostly, and then I catch my husband leaning over a printed copy of my latest and greatest chapter as the words escape his lips, “Wow, who are you, really?”
Growing up, I didn’t like creepy. I remember being eight-years-old and watching A Nightmare on Elm Street at a slumber party … further back at five when I’d caught Jaws on the television and was unable to walk across the basement floor without dreading the image of a great white beast living a hidden existence under the couch. I’d leap from furniture to furniture in the basement until I made it to the stairs. Now here I am. I write YA creepy. :o)
And then I dream how to tame it.
So how do we go to sleep at night with all of these creepy plots and words floating through our thoughts?
Writing is a profession. When you love it, you know when to turn it on, and sometimes, when you absolutely need to turn it off. Sure, I’ll have ideas slip into my head in the middle of the night, or while I’m going about my day, but that’s why I always carry a notebook. I can scratch down a really great thought, tuck it back in my purse and finish wherever I am in the moment. But just like a counselor, or an architect, or a doctor, you know you could work all the time, every minute of your life if you let it consume you. So you learn how to stop, make a few notes if they absolutely won’t let you move on, and you go back to what you were doing in the present moment.
How do we write about fictional characters and plots we don’t actually live?
Research. For me as a writer, solving a character is much like solving an algebra equation or creating a chemical reaction in a laboratory. I read everything. I look at pictures and study people. I document facts and details with pictures and words, journaling down what I feel and think in a moment. Recently I wrote a chapter where my two main characters were boogie boarding in the ocean. I’ve been to the ocean many times, but the past doesn’t always help an immediate physical moment. Especially if I need to feel, taste or sense a particular detail in a scene. So what did I do? Today, writers are lucky. We have YouTube, Google Maps, and the ability to type in and search for anything. I can watch a how-to video and be in someone’s moment on the beach. I can’t always smell what I need to smell, but that’s where memory helps. If I’m setting my book in a particular physical location, I go to that location. I need to see the community, feel the ground, and smell the air. Last point to make, lots of what I’ve lived slips into my words. If you know a writer, there’s never a guarantee you won’t be somewhere in a plot or a character. My ideas come from my life. My creativity takes them in new and strange directions.
So who I am?
Am I the girl you see when you meet me? Am I character in my book? Am I a mother, a wife, a career woman, a yoga instructor? My answer is yes. Life is a complicated mess, and no matter what profession we choose, parts of us come out in everything we do.