13 January 2007


I'm late introducing myself.

Thanks to my grandchildren and great nieces and nephews I developed a head cold right after Christmas. Then it moved into my chest as bronchitis. After doctor visits and many meds I'm on the road to recovery. When I cough I no longer sound like a moose calling its mate.

Last week we found out that my dad has stage 4 lung cancer. He and mom are handling it much better than his daughters. He starts chemo on Tuesday. I'm his driver to and from these treatments.

I'm so grateful for the parents I have. Until I got to know so many women through RWA I had no idea how bad, bad can be. I have truly been blessed with my family.

I'm reading THE SCHOOL FOR HEIRESSES anthology. Sabrina Jefferies has captured my family in this statement:
I want the passion, the drama, the thrill of knowing my relations intimately enough to quarrel with them over the important things.
I would add, "and still be friends and family when the argument is over."

This is what I have and cherish.

My dad changed jobs about 1970 where he went from the job site to the office. This meant he got up with us as we got ready for school. My sister, mom and I are not morning people. We may not speak to each other for three or four hours after we get up. Our brains just don't function that well first thing in the morning.

Dad is a morning person.

Do you begin to see the possible problems here?

Not only did he want to talk during breakfast, he wanted to discuss quantum physics, various religious beliefs, local and national politics. It's not that we didn't have opinions and contributions to make to the conversation, but our brains were going, "I don't think so!"

Heaven help you if you missed the bus. The school was about five miles from the house. So, this meant at least ten more minutes of early morning forced discussion.

You may wonder what all this has to do with writing. The big events in our lives make the news, but the little events change our lives. Your characters have lives filled with little events. Use them to make the story more real.

I write southern romance fiction. Many of my characters are initially based on my friends and family. The little events I add to their lives make them come alive, to me, as distinct and different individuals. Bearing little or no resemblance to the real person. (I'm a visual learner. I need a prototype to jumpstart my imagination.)

There is a short story, MISS LENNIE, on my web site. The real Miss Lennie was my great aunt. The only resemblance between the character and my aunt is their name. Aunt Lennie was the only daughter in a family of four boys, one stepmother and a father who had itchy feet. They moved at least once a year.

Aunt Lennie was not allowed to attend school. She was a "girl." She would grow up, get married and have babies. Why did she need an education? This is not what happened in her life. She was a truly remarkable woman. (I’ll write more about her another time.) So, I gave my fictional Lennie an education. That one element changed all her possibilities.

What is a little event that changed your characters life?

1 comment:

Kim Iverson Headlee said...

Thank you for sharing about your family, Deborah. My mother died of cancer -- on September 12, 2001, on the opposite end of the country from where I was living, while the national airspace was shut down, so I couldn't even travel to be with my dad when it happened -- so I can relate with you on at least some level. For me I find it's not so much the "what-iffing" about people I know as it is mining the emotions generated from my own life-changing events that help to add an extra dimension to my fiction.

For example, it may seem a bit strange to others, but it was during a weekend when the rest of the family was out of town and I had to make the decision to euthanize a cat who'd been a dear member of the family for 17 years that the initial 10-page story treatment for LIBERTY came into being. And, amazingly, the finished product doesn't differ significantly from the original synopsis, except with regard to the ending. Since I had death on my mind that weekend, the first synopsis ended with the heroine's funeral -- which I knew full well wouldn't fly in a romance market, but I had to express it nonetheless.

Fiction writing is the best therapy, indeed. (And cheapest, without a doubt. :)