Everyone knows I’m a working mom – daughter in figure skating and son in football. Got critters up the wazoo and no time for housework. Replaced dying minivan w/overpriced PT Cruiser and am now making car payments AGAIN. Pre-paying winter hay bill makes me realize summer is over and the nip in the wind this morning says fall’s here and snow’s coming.
Life’s full of change, of compromises, of juggling. Since we as writers try to make characters as “real-people” as possible, I started thinking about what my characters could learn from me. What I want to put across the pages of my books that real-life readers could see, and say, “I SO get that.”
So here’s what I came up with:
(1)You can’t escape your past – or your relatives. You’re a product of your upbringing, and your attitude about present and future are colored by past experiences. That “baggage” gives us grounding, motivation. So too characters are driven to move beyond what was.
(2)Change never stops. Just when you think you’ve got a groove going, something shakes it up. Adage from nature: adapt or die. Critical for fictional stories and characters. Lose a job. Break up w/significant other. Serious illness. New neighbors. Car trouble. REALLY bad weather. Every time your characters start to get comfy, throw something else at them.
(3)Pets, Kids & Nosy Neighbors. You never know what they’re going to do or say – or when. Like when my dog slips her lead and charges through a crabby neighbor’s rosebushes to chase a squirrel up a tree. Dog never thinks “neighbor” or “roses” – she sees “squirrel” and all bets are off. Instant conflict w/neighbor, though! They are the source of conflict or comedy. Don’t forget to mix them in – a well-placed comment can really do wonders.
(4)Choices & Compromise. Kids want to do a million things – I can only afford one activity each. Skating & football. But can only be in one place at a time. So Saturday mornings were skating – now football games, so skating moves to Sunday nights – AFTER dog’s obedience class. Characters, too, have to make choices, and compromise. Someone told me a good compromise is where no one’s happy but everyone can live with it. What I refuse to compromise on are principles – and characters taking a stand make good, strong characters. I’ve got best friends who completely look at their tradittions differently – hero looks to the future, best friend wants to honor the past & thinks changing what was is dishonoring their ancestors. Instant conflict – neither wrong, both right.
(5)Make a decision & stick with it. Accept the consequences of your actions. By accepting one thing, you turn down something else. Van was dying – had to be practical & buy new vehicle, even though it meant going in debt. Even though it wiped out our $$ so now we can’t afford to go to cousin’s wedding in NC, even though I PROMISED the kids their first plane ride. Pissed off cousin, pissed off kids. Characters’ decisions also have effects – run with it. Move or stay? Buy or sell? Yes or no? If it doesn’t affect anyone, not important enough to mention. Everything should have STAKES.
So those are my Saturday morning ramblings…