Inspiration From the Past: What I Am Working On Now

I started working on my second novel, probably last spring (2018) and something unusual happened; I had an entire outline within a few weeks of writing just a couple of chapters.  I’ve never outlined a creative writing project in my entire life.  Heck, I don’t even generally like outlining more formal writing and have always to a certain extent, envied my friends who seem to know exactly what their stories are about and how they will end.  In fact, my biggest fear of writing my first novel was that I would never find my ending!

I don’t write linearly at all.  Never have. It is little wonder then that I couldn’t bring myself to sit down day after day and get excited about writing the chapters of that outlined novel. I didn’t experience the insomnia I usually suffer when ideas wake me at the wee hours of the morning as I work out a scene/chapter or solve a plot issue. I reasoned that there was no rush to write because I wasn’t facing the possibility of losing my momentum, I mean after all, I had the entire thing plotted out.

It was a solid story, in fact.  Three perfectly flawed romantic attachments for my heroine.  An estranged parent-daughter relationship.  Lots of buried, dark, family secrets.  Ghosts.  Dead people who were in fact not dead after all. It’s actually all quite good.  But I just didn’t feel like writing that story. As my writing mentor would have said, “There’s no sense of urgency” and if there’s no sense of urgency then there really isn’t a story that needs to be told then, is there? At least not yet.

In December, I finally decided to purchase myself an ancestry membership and really delve into my Irish/Scottish ancestry. Within days I had gone back several generations and confirmed family members my mother had remembered from her childhood but couldn’t recall in detail.  I discovered that my great-grandmother (Sadie) worked in a fine china factory in Brooklyn while she was a teenager.  That my Scottish great-great grandfather worked in saloon or a brothel (as my husband keeps telling me). Guys my great-great granddad was probably a bad-ass!  That further along the branch, my great-great-grand-parents (Irish-side) died the same year with two of their young children (unconfirmed but details point to this).  While I have little to go by, I believe it likely they died from Yellow Fever which was an epidemic in Brooklyn in 1860, the year they all perished.  That my direct descendant was orphaned when he was just ten. That he watched his parents and siblings die of a swift moving fever. Of course, records have yet to confirm what happened to him. Did his older siblings who were barely teenagers at the time take care of him?  Another relative?  He did survive.  He married and through the bloodline, I exist.

I searched for photos, including one of the Brooklyn Bridge being built from the view of the address of my great-grandfather when he was a child.  I am incredibly interested in their occupations, their relationships, their children, their day-to-day lives. I want to know the more intimate details too.  How did they meet?  Did they marry for love?  Why did they leave Ireland? Scotland?  Dear Reader, I have lots of questions.

And my imagination slowly started to build stories.

History has always been interesting to me. I was that kid who enjoyed spending their summer vacations touring old houses/mansions.  Reading historic novels, from Laura Ingalls-Wilder to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters to modern historic writers like Tracey Chevalier and Susanna Kearsley — these have always been my favorite reads.  In fact, I have always wanted to write a historic novel. But let’s be honest, you need to be a really good writer to pull that off. Also, you need to do lots of research. But then again, hadn’t I been doing this kind of research my entire life? Wasn’t I doing it in my search for my own history?

I spent quite some time fighting against a nagging desire to write a historic work while still finding reasons not to write the outlined novel, and you can’t very well be a writer if you don’t actually write — so this was problematic. I couldn’t focus on any of my projects.  I couldn’t get back to my second novel with all this noise in my head and not just noise, but actual characters, characters from the past (with accents).  They chattered along in my head constantly.  Clearly my fault for having spent an entire summer reading British novels: Scottish Highlanders, British Queens, and turn of the 18th century Heiresses (plus rereading Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice and Outlander and Poldark… well you can check my reading list).

To shut down the noise, I wrote a chapter.  ONE. CHAPTER. Then back to my real book. A book that could potentially get published along with my first novel because as I am told — two-novel contracts are all the rage!

…This is how in a few short weeks I ended up with 50k words and a dozen books for research (and hours upon hours of listening to as many British and Scottish accents as possible to make sure I get the dialogue as accurate) and also my 8 yo following me around the kitchen talking funny and telling me he is “speaking British.”

*fun note — my son’s version of British is in fact talking like David Rose from Schitt’s Creek — so I don’t really know what to do with that.

Sae Ah main forewarn ye, hen Reader ‘at mah future blogs will likely be foo ay musings oan th’ rewards an’ challenges ay writin’ a historic novel.

(So I must forewarn you, Dear Reader that my future blogs will likely be full of musings on the rewards and challenges of writing a historic novel). 

— and knowing how to cut back on the dialect so that readers will understand the dialogue and not throw my book out a window.

 

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The Life of a Food Writer

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had readers contact me about getting involved in food writing and how I started out.  Let me be clear:  I kind of accidentally fell into food writing.  I mean, I love food and writing so getting an opportunity to write for a legit food site was a very happy accident.  I’ve sort of been on an ongoing adventure of eating clean, buying and eating local when I can, and this opportunity kind of happened around the same time.

Sometimes they say when you ask the Universe a question or more precisely, put your intentions out there, that sometimes It answers.  That was the case with me.  I had my newly minted MFA (and pending student loan payments) and I knew I wanted to do a bit of free-lance writing.  I just had no idea how to get started.  You know how you ask people in certain industries, how they got a job and they say with extreme smugness; it’s all about networking?  Right. Well I accidentally networked it seems, because a friend who I originally met at a conference and again later as a classmate contacted me and  and said she needed writers and thought of me since she was familiar with my writing. It kind of literally fell in my lap (but I would never tell anyone to sit back and wait for something, so really once again, my advice is useless when it comes to my own life).

Also, how hard could this be?  I ate food everyday, watched cooking shows ALL the time and I even have photos posing in front of a vintage AGA cooker (stove) we came across in a cheese store in VT.  We’ve even been known to plan vacations around our favorites eateries — so again, how hard could this be? Just write about food, right?  Easy.

I had pitched a short article (it was my probation if you will) about a local eatery I had just discovered.  I was nervous talking to the owner, because he was kind of serious and I felt like I didn’t really have any credentials that legitimized me as a writer (you know, except the eight years I had spent earning my writing degree).  I was also nervous because I’m an introvert and meeting new people brings a bit of anxiety for me as well.  I carried a pen and a notebook, dressed professionally (that’s right, I wore a smart blazer like those lovely ladies on the Great British Baking Show) and my phone, thinking I would more than likely just record our conversation and thresh out the article as I played it back.

That would have been brilliant, only he refused to allow me to record us and seemed a bit suspicious that I would even have the audacity to ask to record him.   It felt like we were starting off on the wrong foot. In my trying-not-to-panic mode I had a very important epiphany; I was interviewing someone who was passionate about their work — the way I was passionate about my writing.  Also, this wasn’t just a fun hobby, but their actual livelihood depended on it.  They had figured out a way to earn a living off what they loved doing just as I was searching for a way to make writing my career.  Once I made that connection, I realized I wasn’t interviewing someone, I was having a conversation about creativity and following  dreams.  Once I recognized that I found that I really enjoyed interviewing the owners or chefs of these establishments.  I only ever brought a few written questions, because I often discovered that the more we spoke, the more that I was engaged and asking questions not because it was necessary for the article, but because I was curious and having fun.

Also, food writing isn’t just about the food – and really there is only so many ways to describe taste. It’s about the people, the culture, the atmosphere, the history.  Every doughnut, latte, and souffle has a story.  Think of it from a writing perspective; every chapter of a novel has a reason for existing; it builds the story.  The menu is the baker/owner/chef’s novel and each offering listed is a chapter that tells a piece of a story.

I also have a few self-imposed rules.  First, I always eat in a place first as a customer and then if I am moved, I pitch the story to my editor and then set up an interview. It is important to me that I experience a place as a patron first because for obvious reasons, it is the fairest way to approach an article.

Second, when I do my interviews, I always make sure to buy something and be firm about the fact that I am indeed planning to pay.  It makes it less awkward, but also these are small businesses and I want to support them (and I’m getting paid to write about it). In very rare instances where I have to bring my son along, I order first, pay and then ask to meet with the owner so that there will be no obligations for them to feel like they owe me.

Third, I never write bad reviews.  My writing mentor once passed this advice on to me when I was working on book reviews.  She said we didn’t need to tear each other down.  If  something wasn’t good, people would figure that out on their own.  Besides, this is what Yelp and other review sites are for (I will post a future article on how Yelp can get is in trouble).  I can recall about three articles I scrapped, because I was disappointed by the food (but more usually the service or the owner).  In the end, these places will suffer because they lack something (probably passion) and I really don’t need to be part of that.

Fourth,  I never write about what I don’t know and this includes beer, wine, and sushi (duh).  I pass up those stories because I know I’m not the writer to do it justice (and remember these stories effect people’s livelihoods so I owe it to them to write honestly). I could easily cover any latte story in multiple states, but I don’t like beer.  Yes, I know.  it’s sad and yes, it was  a pain in college too.  The closest I came to covering it was when I sampled a chai brewed with beer hops. You just have to accept your strengths and while that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expand your expertise, it does mean that you need to understand your own limits. It’s okay to say no.

I’ve taken a break from freelancing this past year for many reasons (spoilers!  I’ll disclose them in other posts), but I will say that writing these articles never felt like work.  It was the closest I’ve been to earning money off of something that was FUN and something that almost seemed ridiculous to me to even get paid for (because again, did I mention how much I enjoyed writing them?!). I’m open to exploring other writing platforms, including hopefully securing agent for my novel and maybe trying to keep up with some regular blog posts.  This is probably the least focused blog site out there, it’s, but I genuinely appreciate that you’re reading it, contacting me with messages, and hopefully enjoying it.

Cheers, to new writing adventures!

*Food writing actually requires a great deal of research.  My experience has included learning different cuts of meats, ingredients, styles of cooking, roasts of coffee, types of alternate milks.  It’s endless and fascinating!

Sorry About 2017…

blank bloom blossom business

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Reader,

I haven’t posted anything in ages. It seems that I kind of bailed on 2017 which if we’re all being honest, many of us did.  It was a strange year personally however, I did manage to get some major stuff done in the world of my writing.

I finished my novel which took three years of writing (lunch breaks, late nights, vacations, weekends — sometimes sitting in my car or the train).  Then it was almost a year of heavy edits — leaving it for months sometimes so I could look on it with fresh eyes.  I had intended to finish it 6 months earlier — but then I almost died* and that delayed it a few months more.  But then I didn’t die so alas, it’s done!

*Note: I know that they say when you are close to death your life flashes before you like a pretty little slideshow. That was not the case.  My first thought was, I’ll be sad to leave my husband and son (my poor son orphaned so young! — yes, I know he wouldn’t have been  a true orphan, but still my thought).  My second was — Fricken figures that I will die before I finish that damn novel and either no one will read it or a good meaning friend will finish it as a tribute and I will spend eternity thinking, “that’s not how it goes at all!”  

I joined a local writer’s group born out of mostly alum from my MFA program. It took a great deal of persuasion for me to join as it’s really a commitment, but this was a small group (five in total) and I finally relented to my friend’s insistence.  It was truly a great move.  I was slightly worried since the other members were all YA writers whom I had never met before, but I soon adjusted and found the meetings to be something I really looked forward to.  My advice is that if you are a writer, seek out other like-minded writers who give you honest, critical, and insightful feedback.  I was struggling with my ending and after one night of genuinely solid feedback, I realized that the real end of the novel happened three chapters from the end.  The final two chapters were merely tying up loose ends that weren’t necessary and didn’t add to the overall story. I cut them and it made all the difference.  You have to assume your reader is intelligent enough to come to the conclusion you’ve hinted at.  Or not.  That’s the experience of reading a novel, after all.

Although, I have since temporarily stepped away from Write Club (as we fondly call it), I still regularly reach out to these friends and ask them advice when I hit a wall (and while I query agents — which is a time when moral support is most needed).  I’m hopeful that I will return to full membership as soon as this second novel takes shape.  While writing is a solitary art, you must have your own little tribe of trusted advice givers who you can meet up with for a coffee and (OMG – Jason’s incredible brownies from a box) and discuss writing — even if it is just gossip over the latest literary twitter wars.

I also spent the better part of the year writing articles of the local chapter of a national food magazine.  It was a lot of fun and you can read most of my articles here. It was nice to meet other creative people who were living out their passions and taking some major chances in the pursuit of their dreams.  It was truly inspiring, and it really fed my creative energy, but unfortunately that kind of writing (the paid kind with deadlines) also pulled me away from working on my next novel and of course, blogging.  Still, it felt pretty legit, when my accountant listed “Writer” (and self-employed) on my taxes.

I’ve also returned to reading — as in devouring books – both physical and audible.  It’s a difficult balance to read and whittle out time to write, but absolutely necessary.  I try not to think of my time as either reading or writing, but rather reading feeds my writing.  If life experience is fuel then reading is like oil for your creative engine.

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One last thing — my seven year old had his first Writer’s Workshop.  I am a super proud mum!  I asked him if he liked writing and he said, “It’s really hard work and it takes a long time!”  Welcome to my life, kid. I hope he also finds it equally rewarding. This particular story was part mystery and part thriller.  There was even a car explosion on page 3 of this 6 page story.

The End.

With Pumpkin Spice Lattes Comes New Changes

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  There’s something exhilarating about the trees shedding orange and red leaves — a beautiful and sensual undressing. It’s kind of… sexy.  The air is crisp and holds promises of a new beginning. For me New Year’s might as well start in fall.  I can blame the academic calendar — since childhood the fall meant the end of the summer and the beginning — new clothes, new teachers, the promise of new friends – the possibility of being a new version of me.

As an adult it means I can pull out my jeans and knee high boots, wear sweaters and not have to worry about the humidity messing with my curly hair.  I can eat everything pumpkin until my little heart is full of warmth and I need to unbutton my jeans so I can breath.

It still feels like a new beginning even as an adult– hope for new possibilities.  And it is with that sense of hope that I now find myself restlessly considering some major life decisions.

For starters, I gave up Starbucks.  Like really.  I went from using it as a reward to myself for showing up to work every morning to using it as a “once in a while” treat to myself. Even though it is not officially Pumpkin Spice Latte Season, I have in fact started making my very own Pumpkin Spice lattes to bring to work.  I love it.  I mean who says that I can only have pumpkin deliciousness in the fall?  No really, I’d like to have a word with them.

*I’ll even share my recipe in another blog page as my gift to you. It’ll post this week*

I’m trying (always trying) to eat better and exercise more. It seems I’m on some sort of mid (ish) life crisis — or more like an evaluation where I am determined to make things cou2015-07-04 19.40.04nt.  I’m determined to start hiking with Finn. Finn — by the way is fully grown (hopefully) at over 100 lbs. I bought a hiking pack (which yes, is designed to turn him into a pack mule) because although I have plans to exercise, Finn usually doesn’t make it too far before requiring water. Carrying water for both of us is a bit more than I am designed for — so he can take one for them team and carry our H20.

My husband and I briefly considered training for a tuff mudder type event — until three seconds later when we both realized that it was ten miles (TEN.MILES!) to which we both agreed to push off training.  In truth, I figured if the training got too difficult, I could just get pregnant and legitimatize my excuse to back out.  BUT the idea of training for something does kind of seem like a great motivator. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of rock wall climbing or ropes courses lately — which is super weird because I am NOT a fan of heights.  Then again if you spend as much time shopping at outdoorsy stores (Cabela’s, LL Bean, Columbia) well then you pretty much have to actually consider being — outdoorsy — once in a while (please note that while I say “outdoors” I’d probably prefer an indoor rock wall).

Beyond that, I’m close (SO close) to finishing my novel.  This September marks the two year anniversary of when I began writing it, with nothing more than an image of a young woman breaking up with her boyfriend and a question of what had happened to her that caused her to tell lies.  I was intrigued, so I wrote to find out who she was and what had happened to her and what she was going to do about it.  I threw myself into my MFA program finally understanding that it wasn’t a choice anymore — to write that is — it isn’t a choice at all.  It’s what makes me feel alive.  I’d spent years envying people who said that they loved their jobs because they were doing what they loved. (WAIT…what?  How does one do that?).  It was admitting that for years when I tried to not be a writer (because writing is REALLY hard), that I just had to give myself over to, that the story would persist within me whether I ever wrote or not. It was the acknowledgement that I am an artist (why couldn’t I have chosen something more financially profitable?).  But alas, it’s who I am.

Which leads to change — how do I continue to fund what I am doing?  In the new year, I hope to send a final manuscript to some agents (one who was kind enough to ask me for a finished copy).  Fingers crossed and maybe something will materialize. But i fit doesn’t — well I am pretty eager to start my next novel.  My main character is getting anxious.  She’s getting irritated that I keep telling her to hush.  Her name is Willa.  I don’t know her very well yet, but I can tell you she’s growing impatient.

The point is that, my life  right now is totally awesome on so many levels. On top of this I have a head start on drinking pumpkin lattes AND I feel change coming — but good change (I’ve felt the onset of bad change as well and I can tell you this isn’t it).  I’m excited for the changing leaves because I feel like I am about to embark on something new and for the first time in my life I have no fucking idea what that is — did I ever mention I have mild OCD and I am type “A” and I love to plan — EVERYTHING?  And yet, all I can say is I don’t know anything for certain beyond my plans to keep making art.

When Do You Confess To Being A Writer?

A very good friend and fellow writer, Howie Gunston, recently launched his blog/podcast Writers Comma Ice Cream — which premiered a few weeks ago (check it out).  This season’s topic includes what it take to be a writer and his interviews range

Writer's Comma Ice Cream Interview (photo by Howard Gunston)

Writer’s Comma Ice Cream Interview (photo by Howard Gunston)

from those in weekly writing clubs straight through to published writers. My interview with him will launched this week and you can listen to it on i-tunes or here.   You’ll hear us discuss what it takes to be a writer as well as why it is that I believe Howie will not last long in a zombie apocalypse and why on earth Ben & Jerry’s would ever retire White Russian Ice Cream (I suggest we stage a massive write-in on this!).

We’ve been discussing for some time now, what it means to be a writer — but also when do you tell other people that your occupation is writing? I struggle to answer this question.  Is it when I get paid to write?  Is it when I get published?  Or is what makes me a writer perhaps the idea that unlike most people who yearn to be writers, I actually write — on a  regular basis — constantly- WRITE.

But also, with confessing that you are a writer comes the following questions:

  1. So have you written anything I can see?

    Well that depends what you’re asking.  If your eyes are working properly, then yes, you can give me a pen now and I can write something, my name even and you can see it.  But you’re probably really asking (rather inarticulately or perhaps over politely) whether I’m published or if you can read my unpublished first draft.  If it is the first, I promise you, my introduction will always be, “Hi, I’m Carri and I’m a published writer.”  It may seem pretentious, but at least I’m getting it out of the way.  The second part will be, “You’ll have to go to a bookstore to buy my book, because I gave away the extra copy I usually carry around with me, hoping to bestow on someone I’ve just met.”

    Now if it is the latter and you’re asking to read my finished, unpublished manuscript, unless you’re an agent or a friend who’s opinion I value highly, my answer is a firm “No.”  It’s not to be insulting but there is nothing worse than a  complete stranger with little to no writing background telling you how you should write your novel. In fact, it’s like the worst workshop class ever. It’s also like handing over a new born baby to someone you don’t know — who hasn’t washed their hands before touching their delicate skin.  It’s immune system isn’t quite ready for strangers.

  2. What’s your book about?

    Simple question, right?  Wrong. If I’m a decent writer, it’s taken me several years to write my novel. You want me to summarize it in small talk so you can judge my credibility.  And yes, I should have a log line — a little movie trailer (which perhaps I will record on  my phone and hit the play button for each time I am asked this question), but I can’t tell you what it’s about precisely.  It’s like saying that The Lord of The Rings is about a ring, or that it’s about hobbits and a journey to save Middle Earth.  What about the Shire, the Fairies  err I mean Dwarves, trolls and orcs?  Yet, it’s also my job as a writer to summarize my years of work into an accurate yet interesting description of what it is.  But until I do that, I usually respond, “It’s a story about a boy wizard.”

  3. You know, I fancy myself a writer too…

    Do you?  Do you wake up in the middle of the night because two of your characters are angry with each other and they want to duke it out here and now?  Do you walk around in a daze for week trying to figure out why that one really well written chapter just isn’t working with the plot, or do you panic in realization that one of your characters is going to die and you have no power over it?…Or do you think writing is just an easy thing to do, you know if you ever sat down and actually wrote anything? I want to be supportive of ANYONE who writes — even if it is terrible — but without sitting down and writing, please don’t fancy yourself a writer.  Fancy yourself as someone who would love to write but doesn’t feel motivated enough to do it.  I understand — we’re all busy.  Somethings simply never happen. I’ve always wanted to play the guitar and yet, it hasn’t happened.  But let’s be clear, I don’t fancy myself a musician either.

    At a writer’s conference, I met a retired math teacher, who in his seventies was pursuing poetry.  I got up early everyday so I could sit with him at breakfast and talk about writing. I wish I had kept in touch with that man, because he was inspirational.  Just because you don’t have time right now, doesn’t mean you won’t have time later (although that’s a dangerous gamble).  He never stopped wanting to create art and it was in his retirement that he was able to pursue it.  And I fancy him a poet, because he wrote some beautiful poetry — because he sat down one day and picked up his pen.

    Also, everyone’s pretty terrible in the beginning.  I don’t imagine that you get to paint tportraits without having at some point drawn stick figures.

  4. Do you write Romance Novels?

    No, but if someone will pay me, then ABSOLUTELY. This question sometimes gets under my skin.  For me, love is kind of central to the human condition. Everyone is motivated by love OR the lack of love. Depending how they perceive this, they react differently.  I mean even in horror, isn’t the villain usually someone who either feels outcast from society (unloved) or has a skewed and perverted idea of what love is — but still — it’s love.  Isn’t a soldier who dies for their country or their comrades in some way acting out in love?  Didn’t the Hobbits do it for love damn it?  My point is that Romance has a lot of meaning.  Love can be unromantic.  Romance can be considered less legitimate writing. And once upon a time the genre of Romance was entangled in the Gothic genre.

    So which Romance would you like me to write, and how much are you paying?

Okay — that’s it for now.  Please listen to my interview. Let me know what you think.

The Difference Between Being a Therapist and A Writer

Dear Readers,

I have not abandoned you!  I lost the month of January thanks to a bout of the flu, bronchitis and an ear infection.  February was full of both literal and figurative digging (snow and writing).

Since this has always been intended as a writing blog, I decided it was time to address some writing issues/observations. This post deals with the difference between being a therapist and being a writer.  It’s pretty simple really — a therapist will find the quirks in a person and help fix them, making them more like everyone else, whereas a writer will expose those quirks, and still make that character more like everyone else (while also making them unique).  In both ways, the therapist and writer make people/characters more human by either fixing their faults or highlighting them.  It’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

There are many different ways to go about it.  Writers can take something that seems peculiar only because no one mentions that everyone else does it — and write in such a way that most readers recognize themselves.  Like real people, good characters in novels can make readers feel uncomfortable about them (the character) or about themselves (the reader).  For example, in an impromptu short story that I am working on for a graphic novel course, I wrote about a female superhero who takes a vacation to get away from the low paying and unrewarding job of saving people, only to find herself alone and bored on a beach.  She misses her work so much that she secretly hopes that a child will start to drown, just so she can save them.

After a reading — in which I got much laughter, people came up to me afterwards and said it was both “funny” and so “wrong.”

I’ll tell you why it was both.  People can relate to wanting to abandon the chaos of their lives, only to find that when they do, they miss the very things they were trying to escape.  That was an element of realism.  Then I took it a step further by creating the worst possible scenario — an innocent child in danger — and one thing worse would be hoping that a child would find themselves in danger.  As a parent, there is nothing worse. So why was it still funny?  I think it worked because the reader  was in the head of a character who wasn’t perfect.  She had evil thoughts as most humans do and it catches the reader off guard to think that someone who is supposed to be on the side of good is so — well kind of not a nice person.  How many of us are?  Have you never wished that someone would fall down on a sidewalk?  Or maybe laughed when they did?  (Which by the way, you shouldn’t — please go read my post about Karma). But to take it one step further, it also makes the reader uncomfortable.

The point is, that real characters and authentic writing should in fact make us uncomfortable — I might even say whenever possible. These are the books we can’t put down.  They should remind us that being human is so terribly and wonderfully flawed. And we shouldn’t fix that.  Leave that to therapists to ruin humanity (I’m saying this figuratively — so no angry e-mails from you therapists trying to “fix” what I said).

Therapists and writers are more alike than different, in that we want people/characters to become vulnerable with us.  It’s the only way we can really figure out what to do with them.  Neither of us can understand our client/character until we figure out where the hell they got broken.

And isn’t writing about a character much like leading a therapy session?  This week I followed my protagonist into the woods and watched her have a meltdown.  Did I lead her there, or did she lead me?  Together on this journey, we both discovered not only when she was broken, but I passively watched her attempt to put herself back together with glorious cracks and missing chunks — because as a writer, it’s not my job to fix her — not completely.  My only job, was like that of a National Geographic camera crew — to follow and not interfere.  To let her find her own way, even in the madness of circling the woods, when I might have known all along the trail that led out. To watch her and not judge. Most importantly, a good writer (in my opinion) will always let their characters get messy and maybe even stay a little messy.

So what am I really saying?  Perhaps that writers are therapists for fictional characters?  That therapists are useful for writers who are therapists of imaginary characters?  It’s still the idea of fixing vs. exposing to me.  Therapists tend to lead to moments of self discovery with the intention of correcting it, whereas writers simply follow the characters to it.  Maybe the difference is slight. Maybe we flaw the characters we create in order to fix ourselves…