This month our Round Robin Blog questions is: Why do you write or feel compelled to write even through the difficult parts?
Before I begin to write any book, I do a lot of character development and research. Ideas come to me from all over the place and I try to capture the essence of those ideas and save them to a file on my computer so the thoughts don’t get lost. Then when the previous book is released and I’m on to the next adventure, I look at that idea file and whichever one grabs me as the most urgent, the one I want to follow, that’s where I start. But often, actually, for me there is always some research to do first. If it’s a historical, then I need to research the history, the speech patterns, the clothing and social mores. But even if it’s contemporary, I have to decide where it’s set – a real place, or one I’m going to make up? Where is it and what is that place like? City or small town? Seaside or mountains? Once I know that there is more research. Visiting the location if not a real town helps. Taking lots of photos, or cruising the internet, getting a “feel” for this setting.
Next step is developing my characters. Along with my original idea I usually have some thoughts about my protagonists, some of them sharp and clear, others not so clear. And secondary characters are very vague. I spend a lot of time on this process because my stories are more character driven than plot driven and I need to know them all very well to know what choices they will make when I start throwing problems at them. If they have families, I need to flesh those out as well. All your characters need lives and careers and unless they all have the same career as you or someone close to you, more research happens to flesh this part of their lives out. I need to know, for instance, if they have a job that might put them “on call” from time to time. This detail might actually become a plot point – you never know. Are they parents? What are those relationships like? So I develop a detailed backstory for all my main characters and a somewhat less detailed one for secondary characters.
When I wrote a hero who was a Marine, I didn’t attend boot camp, but I did have two Marines who were gracious in sharing all sorts of interesting information with me and answering endless questions. My brother, who served in Vietnam, generously recalled some of his experiences in that war, how they influenced his life and what it’s been like since for me when I was creating the back story for my hero in The Candidate. In my current project which is a mystery, my protagonist is a female deputy sheriff detective. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but law enforcement has not been among them. It was quite an adventure going for a ride along with a real deputy sheriff. I learned a lot and even picked up some ideas for conflict in my story. My next adventure in research is to attend the 12-week Citizen’s Law Enforcement Academy. No, it won’t qualify me for a job, buy it will give me a very good idea of the life my heroine lives every day.
Then the writing begins. Usually taking off with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. After all, I’ve spent so much time with these people I’ve created, I’m eager to find out how they are going to make out. How their lives are going to change. And all the adventures along the way.
But then you come to the difficult parts. Perhaps you’ve hit a sagging middle and don’t’ know quite how to fix it. Or you’ve written your characters into a corner you haven’t figured out how to get them out of. Now the story feels more like a 10-mile forced march with an 80 pound rucksac full of gear than the eagerly anticipated adventure it was on page one. So, Why do I write or feel compelled to write even through the difficult parts?
The answer is simple. I put these characters I’ve grown to care very much about into this situation and it’s up to me to get them out. I want that satisfying ending just as much as I hope my readers do. Besides, I’ve done a ton of work getting to this point and there’s something in me that refuses to abandon the project just because it got hard.
Why do all these other great authors keep on when the keeping on gets tough?
Hop on over to their sites and find out…
Dr. Bob Rich
Rhobin L Courtright