Last week I drove thirteen hours to give a friend a break while I stayed with her husband that’s had a stroke. I grew up in the East Kootenays and I feel quite comfortable out in the country where it’s a 40 km drive into town. After getting over the shock of being chased by my friend’s horse the next morning, I settled into my writing and appreciated the high speed internet that had finally arrived.
As I sat working it hit me that I was truly enjoying myself. Hours would go by and my friend’s husband would remind me to feed him. (Sorry, I say, I was lost in my writing.) I felt excited creating my fake world and I ask myself, is this writing stuff really hard work? It’s not nearly as difficult as throwing hay bales onto a truck like I used to as a teenager, or studying in the Faculty of Medicine to get my BSR degree (combined Physical & Occupational Therapy back then) or juggling three children and running my own Physiotherapy practice. But yes, writing is absolutely hard work; it’s mentally exhausting yet thrilling at the same time.
But, when you think about it, isn’t that what fun is? Writing is my FUN FACTOR, an arithmetic “term” I want to add to Silk’s Arithmetic for writers post.
The groundwork is fun too. Take research. I love learning about my setting and my characters’ traits and their historical backgrounds. It’s taken me (virtually) to Hutterite Communities in southern Alberta, the wineries in the Okanagan (now I should really go there), the Bountiful Community in south-eastern BC, the RCMP, General Hospitals in the Okanagan, South Africa, and more. Some of it I’m keeping and some not. But it’s all fun stuff. And I’ll be meeting a couple of real people too, experts-in-the-field so I can learn more about subjects I can’t tell you about.
The fun I’m having is also MAGICAL.
Abracadabra: my protagonist is born. Maybe dark curly hair, hazel eyes, tall, cheeky, smart, a cop, etc. But if I change my mind, poof, she can be short with blond hair and wrinkles.
The same goes for all my characters, the setting and plotlines. They can be cut and remoulded, but at the end of the story, where they are and what they do, have to be believable and entertaining.
I’m writing a thriller (the genre that keeps pulling me), but for the first time I’m tackling writing in first person. Now my critique group (my fellow bloggers here) know I get into my villain’s head a lot easier than in my protagonist’s. (OK, I relate to the bad stuff.) This has been a problem for me in my writing, and it’s more-than-being-chased-by-a-horse exciting for me to finally get to know my protagonist. She has society-sized obstacles to overcome as well as personal ones, she has fears and flaws and will be pushed to change. I’m in her head and it’s so much FUN.
So what about my villain? I’ve related to this person from the get-go, I know where she is now. But I’m struggling with how he/she got there (I won’t say what gender), and that means the pivotal life events, the background childhood stuff and relationships along life’s path. Then, in the middle of the night way out in the country where the stars shine bright enough to go for a walk, my villain shook me awake and whisked me through his/her life.
And like a good CEO, I will need to bring the heroine and villain together in a climactic finale.