Happy last day of March. What a fine day to welcome Maggie Toussaint. Spring is showing off in Georgia and it's about time! I knew letting Maggie choose her topic was brilliant. I knew I could trust her to say what we need to hear. I was right, and so is she. Welcome to the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers blog, Maggie. Take it away!
Write what you know
By Maggie Toussaint
Write what you know. I can’t tell you how many times I heard this advice as a new writer, how many times I still hear it. Sure you can research to your heart’s content, but there’s nothing like knowing something, of having experienced it firsthand. When you convey that level of understanding, the words leap off the page.
That’s what writers, editors, and readers want.
A story that leaps off the page.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I decided to try this approach.
With an eye toward blockbuster sales, I listed my previous careers: aquatic toxicologist, technical writer, chemist, industrial hygienist, biologist, college student, golf course worker, movie house ticket sales… None of those screamed best seller. They’d been rather routine jobs.
Had I missed the point of write what you know? I was more than these job titles. I was a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, a guitarist, and so much more. I’ve felt loss and injury and injustice and yearning for things I couldn’t have. I’ve marveled at a baby’s perfect fingers, hugged a sleeping puppy, and fried myself silly under the southern sun.
A resounding aha moment occurred. It sounded a bit like mental thunder, felt a bit like virtual lightning. Could writing 3-D characters really be so easy?
Once I changed my perspective, character possibilities rolled in like flood tide. I’d known the terror of being in a car careening through a ditch on two wheels. I’d known heartache from bad breakups with boyfriends. During my rebellious teen years, I’d inadvertently hurt myself and others with my behaviors. I’d been the mother of an unconscious child, despairing and praying.
A glittering universe of ideas beckoned.
I rolled up my sleeves and let the ideas flow.
The longing I felt to
, connect with my late father became the story seed for HOUSE OF LIES. The sisterly tug of war over jointly held property became SEEING RED. The shadowed woods where I kept losing my golf ball became the murderous setting for IN FOR A PENNY. And the financial black hole of keeping a nonprofit for horses going became NO SECOND CHANCE.
Were these entire books scripted from my life? No way. But the story seeds, the “what if” moments, came from an emotion attached to events I’d experienced.
Once I embraced emotional depth, characters yammered at me day and night. Don’t get me wrong - my friends and family aren’t poured onto the page verbatim. (Only my mother would read that!) Instead, I layer my characters taking a bit from this person a bit from that one. It’s like having an entire wardrobe of coordinating separates. You match them up, add a little attitude, and off you go.
Here’s what I learned. Write what you know and who you know. Do it in a way that is interesting and expressly you. Be real about the truths in your writing.
Agree or disagree? Leave a comment and your email addy. One lucky commenter will win the Maggie Toussaint book of their choice. The winner will be announced in the comment section of this blog, so check back by noon on Thursday to see if you won.
And, since I have your attention, two new Maggie Toussaint releases are on the horizon. MUDDY WATERS, a fall 2010 romantic suspense, features the secret passions of a small town. ON THE NICKEL, a March 2011 mystery, sprang from the indestructible car my daughters drove in high school.
No Second Chance, buy a book, help a horse
It's our turn to ask questions and I expect good ones.