The first of anything is a scary deal. I remember when I first learned how to ride a bike. My uncle and my dad ran alongside me as my legs pumped the pedals up and down. The bike went forward, wobbling and shaking and I couldn’t tell if the bike was doing that or if all the jiggles were from me. Eventually I got the hang of it, like a gyroscopic force propelling me forward, steady on my own. (Okay, you physics wizards, I know there’s more to it than gyroscopic force when riding a bike: force, angles, equations—good Lord, let me have this one!) Soon after that, got my very first bicycle.
I’ve heard it said that a person never forgets how to ride a bike.
I haven’t been on a bicycle for over three decades—and I would never want to say that I’ve lost the knack, that stuff that propels me forward, but it is hard to come by, once it’s been gone.
I’m going to ride a bike this year. I’m not giving up.
Riding a bike is a little like writing a story—a little shaky at first, I mean, after all, the characters are new, the plot’s barely visible, where is the storyline going?
When I am able to turn off my inner editor, my characters appear, one by one. Some are shy about introducing themselves. They reveal their innermost thoughts and motivations in a painfully slow way. Sometimes they come up flat—meaning, are they just wallpaper? Stick figures? A bookmark to hold a place, or keep another character in line?
When that happens, it’s a signal to me to spend a little more effort on them—maybe work up a character sketch, do an interview: What’s your favorite color? What do you like to eat? What are you wearing? It takes time, but the reveal is well worth the effort.
Other characters are rich from the start. They walk into my writing room and plop down on the couch and stare at me until I stop to listen…. What are they saying? Mostly these are primary characters, arrogant characters. These are the people who fill a room, engaging everyone. They talk loud—I don’t know why. They may start singing. They laugh and I laugh along with them. They’re in a word, contagious.
The next trick is to get these characters in a room together, put them in impossible situations, present them with outrageous odds. A writing teacher once said to me, “Be mean to your characters!”
So, I write scene after scene, shaky at first, not really knowing what might be happening, what my subconscious, the universe, the whatever—is attempting to do with the words on the page, and then suddenly my fingers are flying, the critic is turned off and something else takes over. The story is off and running, writing itself, you might say.
Gyroscopic Effect on Story?
Let’s just call it that for now.
Varo is an interesting character. He came to me in shadows, unwilling to show himself fully. Oh, he was handsome—as most of my male leads are—and he was dangerous. I could tell that from the
way he whispered in my ear… but that didn’t matter to Cassandra. I can’t wait for you to discover what she did when she first met him…