Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I don't wanna think about it!

In Greek mythology, the muses were nine sisters, daughters of Zeus, who presided over the arts, whispering in artists’ ears, inspiring them to create great works of art.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking about muses. Oh, I believe I have a muse. I’m certain of it, in fact. Well, probably not a daughter of Zeus, but you know what I mean. I have this idea, however, that if I spend time thinking about my muse or trying to figure out where it comes from, that I’ll lose it.

Go ahead and laugh.

I know it sounds silly, and yet I believe it whole-heartedly.

How do I know my muse exists? I know this because I am a “pantser”. Half the people reading this just went, “Ah. Yep, you have a muse.”For the rest of you, and for those who don’t know what I mean by “pantser”, the short version is I don’t know what will happen in my story until it happens. Often I’m just as surprised as any reader would be. Probably the most tangible way to explain this to someone else would be explaining the development of my characters. When I first start writing a new book, I’ll spend hours, or even days, imaging my hero and heroine. I know their names. I know their back stories. I know who their parents and siblings are. I know their age. What they look like. Their education level. Socio-economic status. What they fear. What they want.

Then I develop a conflict to start off the story and place my newly created characters in that situation. What happens next… Well, it just happens. My characters react, and the story progresses from there.

But I’m not done. That doesn’t necessarily scream “muse” at anyone, I know. However, keep in mind what I just said. I know those characters before I start writing. They are solidly in my mind. I have a pretty good idea how they will react to different situations, because of who they are. That’s all work I’ve consciously created.

But then… Well, then there are characters who literally come out of nowhere. I didn’t even have an inkling of their existence until they popped up on the page and had something important to do or say. If this happened once or twice, I could write it off as happenstance. But, in all honesty, it happens more often than that. These aren’t characters that I’ve placed in my story because I’ve researched them. These aren’t characters that I know inside and out. These aren’t characters that I can predict in any fashion. These are characters I know nothing about and they are as much a mystery to me as they would be to anyone else. These characters, they came directly from my muse.

You could name any character in any book I have and I could tell you within a second whether they are a character I developed or a character my muse created out of nothingness. Some of my more popular characters aren’t ones I labored over creating, in fact. I’ve become to depend on my muse. “I don’t need to worry about XYZ problem, something will happen and the rest of the story will fall in place.”

You can see why I might not want to question it too much by trying to figure out where my muse comes from. I’m just happy that it’s there, whispering in my ear from time to time when I need it most and nudging me in a direction I might not have thought of despite my preparations. Losing my muse would be devastating. I think I’ve already spent too much time thinking about it as it is. So I better stop before it’s too late.

Do you think you have a muse? And if so, are you afraid of upsetting it?

Originally posted at 7/27/2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Art Imitates Life

Oscar Wilde said, “Life imitates art more than art imitates life.” I adore Oscar Wilde, I really do. He’s one of my absolute favorites ever since I fell in love with The Importance of Being Ernest when I was in high school. However, I disagree with him on this point. Sacrilege, I know; and yet I do still disagree.

As I have just very publicly disagreed with the genius that is Oscar Wilde, I should probably admit to being the Jodie half of Lydia Dare. I’d never want Tammy to get my hate mail.

I don’t think it matters whether you are writing about an era long ago, one from the future, about characters who have fangs or ones who live quiet, desperate lives. As artists, we take from our life experiences when we create our worlds, characters and stories. We imitate life.

The first villain I wrote was a composite of my two lecherous uncles. I know, I know, it’s one thing to have one lecherous uncle, but two? Apparently, we’re special in that way. Aren’t you jealous? Still, every family has their skeletons, I suppose. And those skeletons are what we, as writers, draw upon when writing a dark character or scene. We imitate life.

Conversely, all those wonderful, special moments that make up our lives and the people who have meant so much to us are the inspiration for various characters and plot points along the way. There is more than one adolescent boy on the pages of my books who reflect different aspects of my son, right on down to his affection for scrawny, stray cats. We imitate life.

On a more serious note, an old friend of mine died not long ago. He was my age, my contemporary in every way. He was the first person I’ve lost who was of my generation. That reality has had a profound effect on me. Ever since I received that heartbreaking phone call, I spent a lot of time reflecting on people I once knew, those who have touched my life in one way or another, even if they are unaware of their impact on me. I can see bits and pieces of them in many different characters, which I might not have even been aware of when I created them. It’s comforting to realize that through my written word, part of them will always live on, at least to my way of thinking.

What is your take on the whole art/life imitation topic? Do you agree with Mr. Wilde that life imitates art? Or do you agree with me?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Look Inside Lydia Dare's Thought Process

Since there are two of us, whenever something comes up that we need to write -- be it a book, or even a blog, we usually chat with one another on the ‘net until we solidify our idea. We started chatting last night about an upcoming blog (this one) for the Casablanca Author’s blog, and we thought we’d show you what it’s like to be Lydia Dare. Here’s how it went:

[9:54:23 PM] Tammy Falkner: So, Jodie, what's your take on happiness? Do we have to agree on this thing? If so, that's about as likely to happen as moss growing on the wrong side of the tree.
[9:54:55 PM] Jodie Pearson: You don’t know which side is the wrong side of the tree, do you?
[9:55:09 PM] Tammy Falkner: Not a clue. But there's a right side and a wrong side.
[9:55:20 PM] Jodie Pearson: Well, the theme is the "pursuit of happiness". So that's kind of different than my TAKE on happiness.
[9:55:27 PM] Tammy Falkner: Told you we wouldn't agree.
[9:55:34 PM] Jodie Pearson: When do we?
[9:56:08 PM] Tammy Falkner: Never. I prefer doing it this way, actually.
[9:56:21 PM] Jodie Pearson: You do?
[9:56:42 PM] Jodie Pearson: It might be nice to agree every once in a while.
[9:56:43 PM] Tammy Falkner: Yeah, it saves my hubby from having me make up needless arguments just to tax HIS brain.
[9:56:59 PM] Jodie Pearson: lol
[9:57:02 PM] Jodie Pearson: So glad I can help.
[9:58:04 PM] Jodie Pearson: Do you have a problem with the PURSUIT of happiness?
[9:58:08 PM] Tammy Falkner: So, my take on happiness --- it's not something that you can pursue. It just sort of happens. And I do know that the more you pursue it, the faster that b*tch might run. Now tell me you don't agree.
[9:58:24 PM] Jodie Pearson: Well, i don't.
[9:58:29 PM] Tammy Falkner: Go figure.
[9:58:34 PM] Jodie Pearson: Big surprise, I know.
[9:58:57 PM] Jodie Pearson: I should probably tell you Thomas Jefferson is my most favorite president ever.
[9:59:12 PM] Tammy Falkner: Should that mean something to me?
[9:59:14 PM] Jodie Pearson: But I don't think it's foolhardy to try and find happiness.
[9:59:45 PM] Jodie Pearson: Yes, he wrote the declaration of independence, where our right to pursue happiness is mentioned. ;)
[9:59:59 PM] Tammy Falkner: I can't stop laughing!
[10:00:25 PM] Jodie Pearson: Pursuing happiness can be working in a job you love. Doing hobbies that make you happy. There's nothing wrong with that.
[10:00:39 PM] Jodie Pearson: Pursuing those sorts of thing won't keep happiness at bay.
[10:02:28 PM] Tammy Falkner: But the job that makes me happy today might not make me as happy tomorrow. (I love MY job, by the way, but we're speaking theoretically). The tinkle of my kid's laughter makes me happy TODAY. But tomorrow it might make me unhappy, particularly when you're asking me for pages and he’s tinkling like crazy as he bounces a ball off my forehead.
[10:02:50 PM] Jodie Pearson: Are you saying I nag you for pages?
[10:03:09 PM] Jodie Pearson: I mean I was getting ready to. I wrote almost 5,000 words today.
[10:03:11 PM] Tammy Falkner: On occasion, you have been known to nag...
[10:03:20 PM] Jodie Pearson: Only when I need to.
[10:03:31 PM] Tammy Falkner: I haven't written a thing, except for a skype chat about our happiness blog.
[10:03:51 PM] Jodie Pearson: Great! Are we done?
[10:04:10 PM] Tammy Falkner: Did we decide what to write about?
[10:04:35 PM] Jodie Pearson: You know, why don't we just take this chat and post it instead. It's on the subject after all.
[10:04:42 PM] Jodie Pearson: And it makes me happy to nag you.
[10:04:55 PM] Tammy Falkner: Undoubtedly
[10:04:59 PM] Jodie Pearson: lol
[10:05:07 PM] Tammy Falkner: Is that a word?
[10:05:09 PM] Tammy Falkner: Probably not.
[10:05:14 PM] Tammy Falkner: You can edit me later.
[10:05:19 PM] Jodie Pearson: Who cares? It's late.
[10:05:36 PM] Jodie Pearson: I have typos all over the place. So embarrassing.
[10:06:02 PM] Jodie Pearson: My fingers don't work as fast as my brain.
[10:06:05 PM] Tammy Falkner: Good, I'll get to edit you if we ever finish the blog.

Here’s a look into OUR pursuit of happiness, and one of the many things that makes us both happy is a completed manuscript, or even a completed blog. (And, yes, if you know us, you know it’s like this in real life and we’re not just trying to entertain you.) The pursuit of happiness comes naturally in some things, not so naturally in others. And you can find happiness in the strangest places. Even in the moss on the wrong side of the tree. Or when you read a quote by Thomas Jefferson. Or when you’re living, breathing, loving the people around you, and finding happiness in the simple things. Because those are the things that will continue to provide happiness.

So which one of us do you most agree with? And what makes you happy?

*Photo courtesy of Erin Kelly

Originally posted at 7/13/2010