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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The basis for characters and ideas

“Most writers’ ideas and characters come from life experiences.  And why not?  It’s in your life and work, after all, that you come in contact with lots of interesting characters.  And I say characters, because people you have experience with in your life tend to make up the personalities for the characters in your writing.” – Dan Jorgensen

I like to quote writers on the occasion of their birthdays and today happens to be one for me.  This is a statement I like to share with book clubs and writing groups whenever I meet and talk with them.  After my Tween sports novel Sky Hook came out a woman who had played on one of my basketball teams as a girl (I coached girls basketball for many years) called me and said “That was me in that story, wasn’t it?”  And of course it was. 

I’ve held a lot of jobs and done a lot of volunteering (and volunteering also is a great way to do things that give you these special experiences).  I’ve been a farmer, cattle herder, meatcutter, worked at a grain elevator and as a crop sprayer.  I was a waiter, been in the Army, coached both boys and girls basketball, been a bookseller, done theatre, played golf (badly, but I did get a hole-in-one), done public relations and lots and lots of writing, and taught creative writing and journalism to students as young as 12 and as old as 80 (and let me tell you each of those ages bring their own special set of challenges, something I say with growing insight as I approach that top age).

Thus, a writer's ideas really come from the world in which he or she resides.   More often than not ideas come as bits and pieces that may seem absolutely or somewhat ridiculous alone, yet put together they become not ridiculous at all.  That’s why I always write down every “bit” and every “piece.”  Part of the puzzle of writing is to try to fit the bits together at a later date.  I think it is a mistake, by the way, to go right to work on an idea – you should let it percolate in your brain for a while, sort of like coffee.  It will either get richer and grow in stature or you’ll realize that it’s acidic and needs to be dumped or re-brewed. 

And so, those are my words to share on this May 3rd.  Hard to believe I’ve reached the end of my 7th decade, but it’s been a very interesting year and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in year number 70.  Happy writing and I hope you have many "Writer's Moments."

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