Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The secret's in the simmering sauce...

What to write?

 Last night, while bemoaning the blog needing to be written for Wednesday, a friend suggested the analogy of a pot roast—how starting out with something simple (i.e. the chuck roast) and adding one’s own touches (i.e. dry onion soup mix, baby carrots, green beans, and new potatoes), then simmering and stirring, magically transforms the ‘something simple’ into something spectacular.

This morning I’m reminded of the words of St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church and patron saint of writers:
Here you have the same old flowers, but the bouquet is new,
simply because I have arranged it differently.

Simmering ideas

And so it is with all writing, from full-length novels to short blogs—you start with something simple (the idea), and then you add the plot twists, the characters, and the action, and ultimately you end up with a finished product that is, hopefully, the next best thing to a New York Times bestseller! The stirring and simmering, of course, comes with rewriting and editing—as long as it takes for the pot roast to be done—as long as it takes for the story to be truly finished to perfection.

I have a head full of ideas—and a filing cabinet ditto. That’s the beginning. Just as I take particular care with seasoning my pot roast, I am careful to select character names which match the traits I want to give them—the plot twists which will make the story both interesting and believable—the grande finale which will satisfy the most discerning palate and the pickiest reader.

Ruthann’s War began with the simple family fact of someone who married a man old enough to be her father—in fact, he was only a few years younger as Drew is six years younger than Ruthann’s father. I chose the post-Wolrld War II era since it’s the one in which I grew up, and I further refined the setting to that of a school community since as a retired teacher I know a little about that.

Of course, I had to insert a hint of mystery (is there really a ghost in the school bell tower?) because I like to craft inexplicable circumstances with which my characters have to deal. There are certain types of people I enjoy villainizing—which I probably shouldn’t—but I do it anyway.

Real-life characters

I like to show characters dealing with challenges, and so far I’ve covered blindness, Down Syndrome, a cerebral palsy-like difficulty, neglected children, struggling single parents, unfaithful spouses, and—in Ruthann’s War—a man with a devastating war injury which will result in the loss of a limb. I also think it’s important to work in the issue stupidity in classifying people due to race, economic status, and religion. These are current issues which (should) concern all of us.

Returning to St. Francis’ observation, flowers are flowers—stories are stories—but the perception all depends on how one arranges the stems in the vase or the words on the page.
And it’s definitely a challenge to come up with something new!

A peek inside

...I’m sorry I put you in this position, but for your sake, not mine. I know it’s been only seven weeks, Ruthann, but knowing you has changed my life.”
We’ve just fought one war,” she interrupted. “Maybe I’m still fighting mine. Fighting to find out who I am and what I want in life. That’s enough battle for me.”
You’ll fight many battles in your life unless, of course, you manage to live in complete isolation.”
She sighed. “I did sound rather dramatic, didn’t I?”
He took her cold hand between his warm ones. “No. Maybe just a tad bit sorry for yourself, and I can relate. The idea of not seeing you again makes me feel quite sorry for myself.”

New from The Wild Rose Press


World War II has ended, but now Ruthann faces a fight for her future
with a man she never meant to love...




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