Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writer's Wednesday ~ Characters From Nowhere

Today Pink Heart Society editor and Harlequin Superromance author Jeannie Watt discusses the surprising appearance of Characters From Nowhere.

I’m pretty much a scientist. I have a degree in geology and I teach high school science. I love organization, breaking things down into small logical bits that fit together sequentially. My life became better when I bought smaller plastic bureaus into which I could sort my underwear according to type and function. Oh yeah. Left brain in action.

Therefore, it seemed reasonable to assume early in my writing career that I was a plotter—a writer who knows every detail before writing. A writer who has the story broken down into small logical bits that fit together in an orderly fashion.

I’m not and it’s taken me a long time, and several characters from nowhere, to admit this.

I should have had a clue while writing my first book, A Difficult Woman.  My heroine was behaving according to plan, wallpapering her B&B, muttering to herself about the uselessness of men, when there was a knock on the door.

A knock on the door? Where’d that come from?

I had the heroine answer the door, because I was curious as to who was there. Come to find out, it was her first abusive boyfriend whom I didn’t know existed. At least my left brain hadn’t been aware of his existence. I’m sure my right brain knew or he wouldn’t have knocked on the door. Ryan became an integral part of the story and was actually mentioned in my first RT review as a great villain.

This character-out-of-nowhere tendency has occurred in almost every one of my books. Sometimes it takes the form of an animal, such as Hiss the snake in Cowgirl in High Heels. Hiss is part of the scene in which the heroine realizes where her allegiance lies. 

Other animals out of nowhere include the Houdini-like pony in The Horseman’s Secret and Clyde the poodle in All for a Cowboy. Clyde instigates the scene in which the hero suddenly sees his situation and his relationship with the heroine in a new light.
And sometimes kids show up out of nowhere. In Once a Champion, my hero sees a car in his driveway as he’s approaching his home. Who is it? My left brain was just as curious as it was when I wrote my first book. It turned out to be the hero’s cousin, there to drop off her teenage son for a few weeks while she pursues a job opportunity. Wait a minute, my left brain cried, I don’t want to write a teen. But the kid was there to stay. He helped show to the reader an entirely different, more giving side of my apparently self-absorbed hero and I ended up loving him—even if he was a teen and I didn’t want to write a teen.

The moral of the story…just because the left brain thinks it’s running the show, don’t be afraid to let your right brain have some say. When you feel an odd nudge to go in a different direction, to answer that knock on the door…do it. It may take you in a wonderful direction and add things to your story your left brain never considered.

Jeannie's most recent Harlequin Superromance release, All for a Cowboy, features a stray poodle that was most definitely not in the original synopsis.

Jordan Bryan didn’t know how much longer he could drive without finding a place to pull over and sleep. His travel partner had been drifting in and out for most of the day, but once it got dark, the poodle had conked out for good.
The poodle. 
Go figure.
Once he’d made his mind up to go, Jordan had tried to slip away while the dog was on his neighborhood rounds, but Clyde had come scampering around the Arlington apartment complex at the last minute, skidding to a stop at the curb next to the car, curly head cocked to one side as if to say, “Really, man? After all this you’re running out on me?”
Yeah, he was. He was running out on everything and nothing. He was running and he couldn’t even say why, except that every day he stayed where he was, doing the mindless job he’d been given, had added to his raging sense of unrest...

To learn more about Jeannie and her books, please visit her website.

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