Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why We Write What We Write

When I first started writing romance five years ago, I had an idea for a nice, sweet romance and I sat down at the computer to write it. By page three there was someone lurking in the shadows and I knew my heroine was in danger. By page twenty, two people were dead. I was smart enough to go with it, and 250 pages later I’d completed a romantic suspense.
I’ve often wondered why I write about stalkers, kill­ers, kidnappers, criminals and bad things happening to good people. I think it’s because I’ve led a charmed, happy life and to keep my writing exciting, I need to write about extraordinary events. But there’s a deeper reason too. I truly believe that bad guys will get what’s coming to them and good guys will prevail. What goes around comes around. And writing a novel where that happens again and again feels good.
However, writing romantic suspense leaves me with a dilemma. We’re told to write what we know. How can I write about police procedures, forensics and prisons when I don’t know anything about those things?
Thank goodness for experts! I’ll be heading out on a police ride-along this month with my local county po­lice department to experience a shift on the force. And experts in the field of forensics and law enforcement have been very generous with information and are only a phone call or email away. I’ve also attended some great workshops (my favorite was the MRW workshop with Dana Kollmann, forensics expert and author of “Never Suck a Dead Man’s Hand.”)
What I’m learning is that “write what you know” can really be “write what comes out, then learn as you go.” Don’t shy away from a genre because it’s not something you know a lot about—if you sit down to write, and keep an open mind, who knows what might turn up on the pages!
In an effort to find out more about why people write what they write, I’ve asked some romance authors of dif­ferent genres for their opinions on the subject.
Loree Lough—Romance Genre: Inspirational
“I write what I write because I cannot NOT write it. I’ve tried fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, even some steamier stuff within the confines of the romance genre, and while most of it has sold fairly well, the end results just don’t make me proud, don’t fulfill me, don’t satisfy my ‘What am I contributing to the writing world?’ drive. Inspira­tional fiction, in a word, DOES. Hundreds of letters let me know that the themes I’m threading through the nov­els are resonating with readers. They share their own personal stories because what’s happening to my char­acters is similar to what’s going on in their own lives. I can count on one hand (and have fingers left over!) the number of letters that DON’T say “I identified with your heroine” or “My husband is just like your hero!” So I guess you’d say another reason I write what I write is because my readers have asked me to. And I refuse to let them down.”
Upcoming releases: “Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska,” (October 2009) “Be Still and Let Your Nail Polish Dry!” (A devotional w/A. Boeshaar, S. Bricker, D. Mayne, 2009) “Midnight Frolic” (2009) “Love’s Sweet Attack” (2009), “Love Finds You in Folly Beach, South Carolina” (2010) and five other novels coming out 2010/2011.
Susan Gable—Romance Genre: Contemporary
“The need for a Happy Ending goes without saying. I want my beloved characters intact when I get to the end of a story.
There’s a Chinese saying: May you live in interesting times. I think it’s actually more a curse than a blessing. But I think we do live in interesting times, and I like writing books that give me opportunities to explore the emotional ramifications of the “stuff” of our times. I’ve written about a surrogate mom who kidnapped the baby in-utero, exploring what defines a mother in this day and age. My recent book explored the impact on a family when a child witnessed one parent kill the other. We live in messy, messy times. Writing my books helps me try to make some sense of it all.”
Available now: “A Kid to the Rescue” –Harlequin Su­perromance (Feb 2009, still available in eBook format). Upcoming release:“A Family Recipe” – Harlequin Superromance (August 2010)
Sharon Buchbinder—Romance Genre: Suspense
“I like a character driven romance, and enjoy the thrill of a good chase. I love all the CSI type shows, and can use my medical/healthcare background to inform my writing. I DO enjoy the HEA, but in my latest completed MS, the Villainess gets away...so I can bring her back in the sequel, of course! Plus, I liked her too much to lock her up or kill her off. She changed over the course of the story, too, because of the power of love. Isn’t that what we’re about?”
Upcoming releases: “Moral Inventory,” being pitched at agents and editors everywhere!
Jenna Petersen—Romance Genre: Historical Romance
“This is where I get my ideas and where my ideas re­ally excite me! I love the rules of Society, I love breaking them, I love everything about my time period (Regency) and all the fun ways I can play with it. The moment the ideas stop coming or stop thrilling me, I’ll switch to something else. But until then I’m a historical girl!”Available now: “Her Notorious Viscount” (April 2009). Upcoming release:“What the Duke Desires” (November 2009).

2 comments:

Lana said...

Joya,
Great post! I agree that writing what we already know is boring. I write because I want to know what happens to the characters in my head. If they act just like me, they'll end up just like me. While that may not be such a bad thing, it just doesn't intrigue me enough to bother writing the story.

And if I'm bored writing a story, why would I expect anyone to be entertained by reading it?

LM Preston said...

You are so right on with this. When I sat down to write I write a teenagers - mostly boys *yikes* but find that as an engineer who works with all men everyday, it just felt right. Oh, did I mention that I usually write about super heroes too? Well maybe because I like to pretend to be one most of the time.