by Janis Patterson
People who don’t write don’t believe that stories and characters take on a life of their own, and if you don’t agree with them the story stops. Writers know what I mean.
Now my writing process, I have been told, is different from most others’. There are many ways to write - plot wheels, detailed outlines, multi-page character interviews, etc. To me personally, that is the fastest way to kill a story. By the time I have plotted it I am bored with it. Now I do have a general idea of the basic construction of the story - a beginning, a probable end, a couple of major plot points - and then the characters come. Yes, come, just like real people. They walk into my mind, tell me their names and all about themselves. The stories come to life through the interactions of these people.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. I’ve had characters - fully formed, believable people - not like a turn the story has taken and shut down the entire process. One hero, who was perfect for the story, was insistent on a certain name. A name I hated, and immediately changed. He didn’t like that, and refused to talk to me. The story stalled and none of the techniques I’ve learned over the last decades made it work. Finally I surrendered, changed his name back to the one I hated and the story flowed like warm cream. It is one of my best sellers.
But there is more to a good story than storyline and characters. There is viewpoint. Is the story told in first person or third? Or even in that modern horror - second? I have been known to return a book when I find it is told in second person. Is it traditional indefinite past tense (I went to the store...) to the other modern horror, present tense (I go to the store)? I always return a book when it is in present tense. A most definite personal choice.
Once I was working on a story - a novella - with a good strong storyline, good visuals, great characters and even a good moral. Working is the right term. Normally I’m a very fast writer. This time ... not. I was struggling. Oh, I was writing, but slowly. Word. By. Painful. Word. Sort of like pulling long-rooted teeth.
Life happens, though, and everyday things must be done. One day I was running errands and a traffic back-up from a wreck kept me sitting in the same spot for a quarter of an hour. Well, a writer is always writing, so while my body waited for the wreck ahead to be cleared my mind went to work on the story.
How, I thought, would I feel in such a spot? What if the man I loved was in such danger? I’d...
Then it hit me. I was using the wrong person for the book. I had been writing in third person, and it just didn’t work. This book should be in first person.
Now my personal preference is and always has been first person; to me it is more engaging and intimate, making the reader a part of the story whereas third has an inherent distance. However, there seems to be such a backlash of dislike of first person that I often write in third. This story, though, demanded first.
I had a little over 12,000 words already written. Not necessarily very good words, but a good solid first draft. It had taken me several weeks to get that far, and the deadline was approaching with the delicacy and hesitancy of a runaway train. Still, I had a feeling...
It took me two days to rewrite that 12,000+ manuscript into first person and then it took less than a week to finish the book. It worked. And it’s still one of my most popular books!
For those of you following my republishing blitz, all is going just as planned. I think we’re all defeated by the heat, so both September’s releases are Christmastide Regency romances - September 13ths was called THE RESURRECTION OF REGINA and CHRISTMAS TANGLE comes out on September 27. Believe it or not, this blitz is almost over - next month is the end of it. And... if you’re in the mood for Halloween I’m fortunate enough to be part of the wonderful Kate Hill’s Halloween promotion which goes live October 1st! The link is https://kate-hill.com/halloweenpage/participating-authors/janis-susan-may/