By Lee Fullbright
It is almost a cliché that the hardest thing about writing is actually sitting down and doing it.
And this avoidance can be perverse—just ask me. The starts of my writing sessions, whether on a new outline or new chapter, have semi-consistently produced countless well-honed excuses for not writing. However, if the computer is actually turned on (and opened at Word, not Facebook), and the coffee’s the right temp, I can generally churn out a few things not immediately destined for the toss to the diaper pail at the far end of my office (to wit, my award-winning novel, The Angry Woman Suite).
Though yesterday morning, dragging my feet, a question popped into my head, which was:
What is it you really want to write about?
And as soon as that question moved in, my thousand excuses for avoiding,
Word moved out.
Because the answer is always the same.
People. I love the inconsistencies of people, and, thus, their fictional counterparts, characters. I love the way they look, move, speak, and hold their forks. I love trying to figure out what they’re hiding and what they’re afraid of.
I was once writing character sketches for a class, and loving it, particularly the one about a shooter holding up a grocery store and everybody in it, yet the shooter’s neighbors are shockedthat their “fine, upstanding” friend is actually a nut case. (We’ve all heard stories like this, wherein I wonder, how is it that everybody’s always so surprised? Do we really think unstable people become unstable overnight? That they weren’t dropping clues to what they really are along the way?)
This shooter sketch led to the development of a main character in my first published novel, a character that is good and bad, and sweet and mean: in short, a paradox.
And paradox is my chocolate. I absolutely cannot wait to sit down and start writing about characters (and creating paradox)—which begs the question: why am I not starting every single chapter writing character instead of madly (and uncomfortably) conjuring up plot devices? Why don’t I let character lead? Don’t I trust myself or my characters?
Of course, fiction is made up of many components, and a story doesn’t grow out of characters only … just like it’s a no-brainer that many of us are uncomfortable with noticing the shooters among us.
Just like I was uncomfortable considering the possibility, I’d been looking for fun (writing) and “no fun” (suffering for my writing) at the same time. See? Another paradox.
So I decided to get out of my own way. I told myself that if I really loved creating characters so much, then do it instead of making excuses for not doing it—and, sure enough, yesterday something different grew out of letting my characters go out unleashed:
This piece—and a chapter fully realized by characters who stumbled, spent, and showed their true paradoxical selves, unlovely sides and all.
Lee Fullbright and her cattle dog, Baby Rae, live in San Diego, California. Baby Rae, a thirteen-year-old Australian cattle dog, was an incredibly sick puppy when I and my unruly day-tripping compatriots rescued her from a federale drop-kicking her across a Tecate, Mexico plaza. She still fears and distrusts men. And anything with wheels (no clue there). Her loves are me, children, grass, and me . . . and then more me. She is my compass and comfort, and was co-pilot for my novel, The Angry Woman Suite, curled up at my feet the entire time I wrote, rewrote, and then rewrote at least a billion times more. The Angry Woman Suite, about a 1920′s celebrity double murder and its effects on two subsequent generations, is the 2012 Discovery Award recipient for Literary Fiction; a Kirkus Critics’ Pick; also, a Geisel Award winner (San Diego Book Awards), and winner of a SDBA for “Best Mystery,” and a Readers’ Favorite 2013 International Book Award Gold Medalist, “Historical Mystery.” She can be found blogging at Rooms of Our Own.