Thursday, May 22, 2008

Taking control of the out-of-control

With a muffled "oof" sound, picture one pair of writer's hands (we can tell they're writer's hands because the nails are au naturel, tinged with ink and have trace amounts of cat hair held on with Bath and Bodyworks lotion (today's scent: pineapple.)) grappling over a ledge. More "oofs," and a head of long red hair held by a black scrunchie becomes visible. A mighty heft and the rest of the writer appears. The experienced reader can tell immediately what's been going on.

The writer's spectacles, perched on the end of the nose, bear more finger smudges than they ought, and sit slightly askew. The writer thumbs them back up into their proper position and the reader gives a knowing nod. That's how the smudges get there. The writer dusts herself off, brushing hands on her long denim skirt and adjusts her sandals. She looks around. Almost summer. Huh. So time does pass outside the pages. She reaches down below the ledge and tugs on the rope that lifts a bulky bag. Books, of course. Lots and lots of books. She spills them out onto the ground, casting a furtive look about her.

Not, of course, that she cares much what others might think of her treasure. If they don't want it, more for her. The scent of books long-loved wafts through the air. The viewer catches a whiff. Is that...pre-1995 romances? Arguably the dividing line between styles of historical romance. The reader inches closer, but takes a step back. There be adverbs there, the viewer reminds herself. Alpha jerks, too. Lots of room for them to lurk in all those pages.

Ah, the writer reminds her, but there is room for alpha heroines as well, and all the world to roam. All the time they need to acheive their goals in there as well. Years and years if that's what's needed.

Years? But what about the rest of the series? If the first hero is taking all that time to win his heroine, what about his friends/brothers/cousins? Surely they're not sitting idle.

The writer settles back on her haunches and takes two Diet Cokes out of the bag. She opens one and sets one at a safe distance between herself and the reader. She peers over the rims of her spectacles. There isn't always a series. Sometimes the book ends with only one hero and heroine's story.

But what, the reader asks, scratching her head with one hand and taking the offered beverage with the other, happens to everyone?

They live happily ever after, the writer says, as though that's the most natural thing in the world.

But, the reader asks, we never see them again?

The writer pauses to allow herself an amused chuckle. Anytime, she tells the reader, you want. Their future turns out exactly as you wish it to. That's the happily ever after part. That's what heroes -- and heroines-- do. It used to happen more often.

The reader takes a cautious sip. Do tell.

Oh yes. Sometimes, the writer says, pushing one book toward the reader, the same couple comes back for another adventure.

To help the new hero and heroine, right?

The writer presses her lips together and tilts her head back for a moment before answering. Sometimes, she says, and usually it's their children, but no, not always. Sometimes, she continues, her voice dropping, something bad happens and they have to regain their footing and rekindle their love. But, she's quick to assure the reader, it's always okay.

Happily ever after, the reader repeats on a whisper. She settles on the ground, close to the outside of the spread of books and peruses the covers. That doesn't look like England, she says, pointing to one illustration. Neither does that one, or that one. Oh, that one does, but what's the frilly thing around the hero's neck?

A ruff, the writer says, nudging the book closer to the reader. See how the shape is echoed in the heroine's farthingale? Quite lovely, isn't it?

The reader's eyes narrow for only a moment. That was a passive tense the writer used.

When needed, she answers, it isn't the end of the world. It's like the white crayon in the big box; one doesn't use it all the time, but when needed for the proper effect.

You can do that? The reader's voice has a prickle of doubt and a glimmer of hope.

Yes, the writer answers, I can. There's a whole bag of tricks in here, and it's fun to play with all of them. That, she says, is where the stories come from. Come and stay a while.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Phrases you do not want to hear your handyman say:

  1. That's a very aggressive snake.
  2. He's rattling.
  3. He's only moving this slow because it's not warm enough for him. (from me: that was slow?)

All of those come from yesterday's session with the handyman at my dad's house while getting big icky things out of the garage. Realizing that the snake on the ground, he (she?) of the rattle and fangs *was* the "metal hook" on the hinge of the paint can I had just carried in thirty seconds ago does things for ye olde blood pressure, let me tell you.

In the end, handyman and assistant handyman were able to trap snake and rehome him on a different part of the property, but "our" snake may have relatives in the basement. In either event, going in with nice bright lightbulbs next time.

What does this have to do with romance writing? Not much on the surface but every session of clearing out the house does uncover things. My father was an artist all of his adult life, so when I find some of his neatokeen art supplies (thank you, Dad, for buying the good stuff) it gives me a little creative boost. Similarly, every trip over there means new discoveries, sometimes about the man himself, sometimes about previous generations, parts of my own life I'd only seen from a child or teen's perspective, or the creative process in general. One could call it a form of archeaology. There's always something to mull over or dust off and use in a new and different way.

Which is what writers do anyway, so it sort of counts as a creative endeavor. So does speculating over what I might be "missing" by using this time to work on the house when I had three, count them, three novels in my bag, in the car, all strongly calling my name. What were the characters doing while I was away? Sure, they'll be considerate and sit on idle until I can get back but in a *good* book, characters are people to me, and when I'm not with them, I miss them. We'll be having some special time after dinner tonight. The snake is not invited.