Now I do.
It’s funny how that works, how life gives you pieces of the puzzle when you’re not even expecting it.
In my case I was watching a hockey game. I have never watched a hockey game in my life with the intent of discovering a hero. But when I was least expecting it, there he was.
Of course I didn’t really know it at the time. He was hidden behind a mask and pads and shin guards and about 30 lbs of camouflage that pretty effectively made him look like every other hockey goal tender in the world.
But then the game was over and he’d made, oh, I don’t know, thirty or forty saves, and so they were interviewing him after the game.
That was all it took.
He didn’t even have to say anything. Well, I suppose he did for the hockey crowd. But for me it was purely visual.
Something clicked. I didn’t know him at all. But he looked like my hero. Pretty much exactly like my hero. I knew it in my gut.
Just for the record my hero does not play hockey, though I guess he might have when he was a boy. We haven’t discussed it. Do Greek boys play hockey? I suppose if they are raised on Long Island as Lukas was, they might.
And he does have a scar on his chin, my hero (though this particular hockey player doesn’t). How did he get it?
I trust the answer will come along when I need it. They usually do.
So I had a hero.
But where was my heroine?
In a magazine. I found her at the dentist’s office. She was smiling. Blonde-haired, elegant. She looked like a woman who could put together a state-dinner with one hand tied behind her back, who could settle children with the skill of Mary Poppins, who could Get Things Done no matter how many things there were.
And yet I saw something else – something that said she would love nothing more leaving it all behind and going off to wade in the surf wearing cut-off jeans and a t-shirt, with the wind blowing through her hair, and not a care in the world. Then the smile would reach her eyes. She would become whole.
And once I had the two of them – my hero and heroine -- the other pieces started to come together.
The setting: New York City – Central Park in particular. The bow bridge – a pretty romantic place. And a loft with high ceilings and lots and lots of light. A neon sign from some restaurant.
Thai food. Why? I don’t know. But somehow something tells me they like Thai.
A father who has Plans. Don’t all fathers? Grace’s does, at least. And Grace agrees with them. Except . . .
There are gaps.
There are pieces that haven’t turned up yet. Conflict pieces (naturally).
I played with the ideas I was getting (before I had my hero and heroine) during one of April Kihlstrom’s wonderful Book-in-a-Week sessions. But then I had to get busy and finish the book I was working on then, so this new potential book sat on the table, waiting for me to come back to play.
Honestly, I’m not one of those who puts the borders of puzzles together first. anyway. No one ever told me that was how you did it. So I do pieces here and there – get a glimpse of what is happening, then look for more pieces that will tell me details.
It’s not a very efficient way to put together puzzles. Nor is it an efficient way to write books.
But it works. For me.
Everyone’s work is different. But for me the journey develops not from pre-determined pieces, but from creating the puzzle as I go along. I don’t know what the finished pictures is supposed to look like. I discover it as I work.
For my last book I put together a collage I loved. It sat on my desktop screen as wallpaper and I looked at it every day. It had characters and bits and pieces of the story that were significant when I started.
The end had the same characters. Everything else had changed. EVERYTHING.
But I still love the collage – and it still, for me, evokes the feelings of the characters and the essence of what the story was about. I figure, if the art department can play fast and loose with my story, why shouldn’t I?
So here I go, making my collage, putting together my puzzle.
This is my “getting to know you” time. The fun time when Lukas, my hero, and Grace, my uber-competent heroine, and I will learn about each other. I like this part of writing the best – when nothing is set in stone. Everything is possible. The road stretches out before us – me and my hero and heroine – full of potential, hope, promise.
Who knows where it will take us?
Not me. That’s what I’m going to be finding out.
* * *
Are you a reader? Do you like opening a new book and getting going on a story? Or do you like middles where you’re deep in the conflict? Or do you open the book to the end and check it out to see if it’s worth your time? (That’s me!)
Anne’s latest book, Savas’s Wildcat, was out in April from M&B Modern and Harlequin Presents Extra. It might still be lurking on shelves in some parts of the world. If you see one, put it up at eye level.
Her father would thank you. She will, too.