Thursday, July 12, 2012
An Author's Crossroad
When I decided to write seriously, I stood at a crossroads—not on what to write, but on how to write. A delicate balance, especially since I wanted to write in the Young Adult genre.
Raised with a heavy religious mantle on my shoulders, at first I felt compelled to write to please instead of to write for pleasure. I felt the pressure of my dead grandmother looming over my shoulder, gasping at every unsavory word or scene, worried about the judgmental eyes of those in my small community, not to mention the mantra my mother drilled into me throughout my informative years..."Don't do anything you wouldn't do in front of me." Sound familiar?
I delved into my teenage romance, full of enthusiasm with the story my characters told, until one of my characters wanted to do something I didn't morally agree with. I tried to write a "bleached out" version, changing all the "gosh darn" words, shoving my hero's wandering hands into his pockets while placing a chaste kiss on my heroine's lips. Even altered their attire from the normal low riding jeans and cropped tees, to outfits that made Amish kids look risqué. I created the "Stepford Teens." When I tried to write their story in their new "appearance" it became as lifeless as they had. My characters fell silent and their story stopped. At that point I realized I'd written to please.
Then I attended a seminar where the very subject of characters who broke unheard of rules, scoffed at our moral upbringing, pretty much doing as they damn well pleased, was discussed. I mingled with authors who wrote bizarre sci-fi stories, erotic romances, and bone-chilling slasher-thrillers. Normal people who lived in normal neighborhoods with spouses, kids and pets—who wrote amazing "moral defying" books.
These brilliant authors who wrote dark works based on murder, rape, drug addictions, and sex, were not their characters. Just because someone creates a story based on a stalker who kills and dismembers innocent people, doesn't mean that person is constantly thinking those thoughts—that they may commit the heinous crimes themselves; or the romance writer who creates scenes full of mind boggling sex that makes your blood sing when your read their words, spends all their time "in the bedroom" so to speak. Not so.
Authors are storytellers. We're "secretaries" to our characters. We write what they tell us, casting aside personal hang-ups and bringing their lives to written form. We write for pleasure.
My books will not grace the shelves of religious bookstores. I decided I liked my colorful, gritty characters, who can make me blush (personally, I think they like the 'shock factor'). I know some eyebrows waggled and a few gasps taken when my friends read Riley's Pond, but there was no "bleaching out" the story. It would have stripped the essence of the characters—killed the story. Not all my books are as racy, but they border an edgier line—sometimes nibbling forbidden fruit. Depends on how much my characters want to share. But…that's the way I decided to write. No apologies offered.
Tonight, one of my neighbors approached me. She'd read Riley's Pond, which surprised me because very few people in my neighborhood know I write, or my pen name. She wanted me to know how much she loved the story. "You had me from the first paragraph and I hated turning the last page, knowing it came to an end." When I dared the question for her opinion on the racy context, she told me any other way would not have been Riley's story. She also expressed a hope all my books held a pinch of spice. (She was one of those I worried about!)
Now that's writing pleasure.