Anne is enjoying spring along the Mississippi – flowering crabapple trees, lilacs everywhere, tulips by the dozen. Spring took a long time coming but it has definitely been worth waiting for. While she was waiting, she had a long conversation with her current hero.
We took a road trip last week. It was a two day trip to Red Wing, Minnesota, to visit a son who was there for a week while doing a course for his work. We got to eat dinner with him and breakfast with him, and then we turned around and drove home. Short and sweet. I’m so glad we did it.
It reminded me, while I was driving along a road close to Red Wing that I hadn’t driven on before, of the joys of doing just that – seeing new things, discovering new places, finding the unexpected where you were expecting to find, well, not that – whatever that might happen to be.
We found a high bluff lookout vantage point from which to view the town and the river that we hadn’t been expecting where we found it. Then we went to the Historical Society for a friend and discovered some intriguing documents called Alien Registrations that all noncitizens had to fill out at the onset of the First World War. Definitely wasn’t expecting that! Got awakened in the middle of the night by a burst of light and a loud pop that, as of this moment, is a mystery to me, my husband, and the desk clerk at the motel where we stayed.
It made me think, as I drove home, about the book I’m currently working on (have been working on for longer than I want to think about). It’s a book that has had more incarnations than I even want to think about. I was thinking about why – and I thought, it’s because I need the unexpected.
It starts with something unexpected for the hero (not unusual for a book. It’s the inciting action that gets things moving). But it wasn’t unexpected for me. I knew it was going to happen. And I thought, yes, so? And then what?
And then, truth be told, things flowed rather easily. Too easily.
There were complications but not serious complications. Not serious enough complications.
My hero was halfway up a metaphorical cliff, and it was a hard climb, but he could do it. We both knew he could do it. Where was the fun in that?
I needed something unexpected. Something to make him wonder if he was really going to get it done or not. I needed to throw a few rocks at him, maybe a grenade or two. So I started doing just that. I threw whatever I happened to find, whatever odd things occurred . And suddenly my hero wasn’t the only one having to think. I was having to think, too.
I got engaged in the story again, curious as to how he would handle it, wondering if he had the cojones to do it. The unexpected does that. It makes you question what you thought you knew. It makes you take another look, wonder about the stakes. Are they high enough? Tough enough?
You can’t mess with my head, my hero said. But I noticed he was sweating a bit for the first time quite in a while.
No. Don’t try to push me into any corners, he said flatly.
Or you’ll what? ( I’m the writer. I can push if I want to.)
He just shrugged. Elope with Grace.
Grace? The heroine of this book is called Holly!
Another shrug. But I’m engaged to Grace.
Because you have bad judgment. You don’t love Grace!
Love is over-rated. Messy.
So is writing a book when the hero is trying to elope with the wrong woman. What sort of judgment is that?
Guess you’ll have to try and stop me. Give me an incentive to rethink.
Whatever happened to the hero who takes charge while I just get to sit back and write about what he does – heroically does, that is?
Dunno. I’m just your average irritating guy with a mind of his own.
Fine, I said. Elope with Grace. I’ll find Holly a real hero. Someone who can sweep her off her feet, help her make peace with the past and set out with her on a wonderful future. Not you, obviously.
Hey! Hang on. I never said I wasn’t interested in Holly!
My turn to shrug. You’re going to elope with Grace.
The hell I am!
* * *
Heroes! Sheesh. Sometimes they’re like dealing with two-year-olds.
Anne’s most recent book was Breaking the Greek’s Rules, which was out at Christmas in UK and might still be lurking about somewhere in online bookstores.
1) copyright: Jacklyn Kennedy, used with permission
2. Lake Pepin, http://www.mn.nrcs.usda.gov/news/features04/driftless.html via Wilimedia Commons
3. By Maria Ly (Flickr: crux?) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons