Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Finding Passion in Prose (or in any area of life)

First the fun part of writing: I love getting to know my characters and continue to be amazed at how the mind and heart works in creation. An idea blossoms. It takes on a life of its own, and characters are born. Their natures and personalities develop and mature with each revision as well as the crises they face and attempt to overcome.

Soon, in the mind's eye, the characters become flesh and blood. Through the writer's pen (or pecking at the computer keyboard), the hero or heroine find his or her way through a maze of difficulties. This is exciting part of writing.

The ‘not so much fun’ of writing: The height of frustration for me as a historical fiction writer is not being able to find accurate research when I need it for a story I’m working on. Everything characters say and do must be accurate to the story’s time period and culture, if the story is to be believable. How they prepare a meal, travel, occupy their time, as well as all social, political, and religious interactions must adhere to the setting and time period. These details can mean pain-staking research for a writer and, I admit, headaches and pain in the seating area of the body as well!

Writers want readers to be transported into their fictional worlds and remain there throughout the characters’ trials and tribulations. One anachronism glaring out at readers can pull them right out of the story. For example, I remember using the word garage in one of my nineteenth century novels. My editor immediately questioned it. After checking its etymology in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, I found the word didn’t come into common use until 1902. Oops, garage became a carriage house.

Over the past week, working on my newest manuscript, I’ve spent exhausting hours researching mid nineteenth century schooling, pre-Civil War activism, and an 1850 cookbook for a gingerbread recipe. Yes, time consuming! I really wish information I need would be at my fingertips, instead of lost in a myriad of books and online sources, but accurate detail is necessary.

Why spend so many frustrating hours? Because it’s called passion! Passion, a very difficult word to define, that truly gets to the core of what it feels like within us. The Free Dictionary calls it “bountiful enthusiasm”. Cambridge Dictionary, “extreme interest, powerful feelings.” None of these definitions truly nail it, as far as I’m concerned.

A good story will hold a reader's attention until the end and that’s what I work towards. I constantly try to improve my craft with each book, no different than anyone who has a career or hobby in their area of passion.  I want my readers to feel my characters' emotions and be transported into their worlds, turning page after page, unable to put the book down. Yes, that’s what all writers hope for as they persevere with each book.

 I admit, even if I didn’t publish a single work, I would still be writing because when you have a passion, you need to honor it. God gives each of us a gift for us to find and develop. When we do, I believe we connect with the mysteries of the mind, heart, and soul that makes our inner voice, exclaim, WOW! WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

And at those moments, I think, God winks!

Blessings, Elaine

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