Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writing From The Heart

Writing From The Heart

     Seems simple to say we should write from the heart but it just isn’t that easy,  as I have recently learned.  Getting deep into the character’s heart, what he or she longs for,  feels bad about or good about and what obstacles seem too insurmountable  to overcome is easy in some cases and dang near impossible in others.
     What does it takes for a writer to get under the skin of a character?  Well, just writing to get another book out there is definitely not the answer.  Getting into the character  takes soul searching  forays into our own character and that takes some insight and courage.  I have recently had to dig deep to find the heart of a character.  First, I’ve had to step away from the project and give myself some time to absorb the story.  I will have to get into the spirit and soul of the character   and try to discover what it would be like if the  events that happened to her had happened to me.  I don’t mind the work involved in a rewrite.  I just want to get it right.
     The easiest story I ever wrote from the perspective of heart was The Violin.  It is a story so close to the truth that I wish it could have happened the way I wrote it.  My Uncle John was born and died before I ever came into the world but, through my father’s stories about him, I came to love and admire the rebel of the family.  He played the violin that I inherited from him, rode an Indian motorcycle all around the country while he worked for a New York opera company to earn money for college.  He had just graduated as a civil engineer when he drown while fly fishing with his friends.  He had just turned twenty-one.  My dad said women from all around Northumberland County came to his funeral to mourn the handsome and intriguing John Douglas.

                                                                     THE VIOLIN
Genevieve has dreamed about him all her life, but it isn’t until she buys his violin and finds the remnants of his life and the mystery of his death in 1927 within its case, that she makes a decision that will change her life forever.  Is there a way to change the past and save the man who haunts her heart?
          He wasn’t quite the hero from a romance novel but he was charming in his own way, Genevieve thought.  He made her laugh.  Mostly, he made her insides churn all up.  He would say the sweetest things and then ruin it by just infuriating her.  She was sure there was no one like him, not ever.
          He took her out of her comfort zone, away from safety.  He made her step to the edge of her ability to cope, then convinced her in his own enchanting way to take just one more step.  But he always took the step with her.
          He made her nervous.  She couldn’t look at John without her heart racing and blood surging through her veins out of control.  He was turning her world upside down.
She looked across the table at him as his eyes gazed into hers, almost as if he could read her thoughts.  She felt the crimson tide of blood race up to her cheeks and neck in an embarrassing blush. 
          This was everything she had ever feared.  And hoped. This man, this attraction, this feeling.
          She was in another time and didn’t know how she got there, didn’t know how she would get back to her own time, and even worse, didn’t know if she wanted to get back to her own time.  She didn’t understand any of it. 
          She did know one thing and it came to her like a blinking neon sign; she was head over heels crazy in love with John Douglas.  It terrified her.  She didn’t really know him.  They had just met.  Her insides were rambling out of control.
          John reached under the table, pried her clenched hands loose, and took her right hand in his warm, comforting grasp.  He leaned across the table, peered into her eyes and said, ever so softly, “Don’t be afraid.  Every thing's going to be all right.”


Tina Donahue said...

I know what you mean about the difficulty of getting beneath your character's skin, Sarah. It's one of the most demanding things of good writing. I've found that when I'm in the car, listening to music, just driving around, it frees my thought processes. The songs spark something within me, they bring the characters to life. I start thinking of them, seeing them in my mind as the songs play. When I get home, I write down my thoughts and the next day's writing is so much easier.

The Violin is a beautiful story - I recommend it to anyone who wants an amazing book to read.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

That's a great idea about using music to get into your character, Tina.
Thank you for your kind compliment about The Violin.

Renee Vincent said...

Oh Sarah, what a beautiful post! And you said it so well. As writers, it is not about just getting the book written, it's about getting into the heart and soul of the character. I know I love to read a book where the hero/heroine is so real you could reach out and touch them. And then to get so deep in their heads is twice as nice.

Your book, The Violin, sounds amazing and I bet you did your characters justice. Thanks for sharing something that is so close to your heart. I could feel your passion in these words.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you so much for your compliments, Renee. I truly appreciate them.
I wish I could have written The Violin before my dad died. I think he would have liked the story about his brother. I know he deeply loved John and spoke of him often.

Delaney Diamond said...

You're right that just getting out another book isn't the answer. I stop writing a story if I feel like it has fizzled. It's important to put out good product for our readers.

The Violin sounds like an emotional and passionate read. It's wonderful that you chose to pay tribute to your uncle in that way.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you for dropping by and commenting, Delaney.

Cheryl Pierson said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Uncle John. Talk about an interesting life--so sad that he died so young after accomplishing so much in his short time. There's no telling what he could have done.

I'm like Tina with the driving and listening to music thing. LOL Driving always has relaxed me--of course, I'm talking about driving on a road trip, not in 5:00 rush hour traffic. But there is something about that that just lets me think and lets my mind work again in the "writer's mode."

Getting into the heart of a character IS one of the toughest things sometimes, to make it real to the reader. I sometimes find it easier to see things from the guy's perspective than the girl's. Weird, I know. LOL I'm reading a really good book right now by Patricia Potter called THE DIAMOND KING, and I am really loving the hero and heroine. These characters are very well drawn and interesting throughout the story.

Great post, Sarah!

Rawiya said...

Great post Sarah!

I also agree that delving into another bk isn't the answer. I also will leave a story for a while if the characters are not saying anything. it is best not to force it.

:D Hugs!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you for commenting on my blog, Cheryl. Maybe, instead of driving my car while listening to music for inspiration, I could just listen to music while I lounge around. I'm going at lounging. LOL

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Rawiya, thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. It means a lot.

Judy said...

I enjoyed your post, but that was sad he had to die so young. There is no telling what he could have done!!

The Violen looks like a good read.

Judy said...

Sorry, I misspelled Violin.

Willa Edwards said...

I completely agree. Its hard sometimes to get to the heart of a character, and as many character interviws, graphs and charts you fill out you just can't push that connection. That's what makes writing so frustrating sometimes. But when you do it amazing.

Great blog Sarah.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you for your comment Judy. His death devastated my dad's parents and my dad. He talked of Uncle John often and I could tell how much he admired and loved his older brother.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you so much for your comment, Willa. You're right, when you get a character deep down to his core, it is amazing and so satisfying.

Paris said...

What a moving post and what a lovely tribute to your uncle. The excerpt really drew me in, outstanding job. The Violin sounds like an amazing book.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Paris, thank you so much for your lovely comments about my blog today. You are so sweet.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, what a heartfelt and heartwarming post. Such a wonderful tribute to your uncle. It's such a shame he passed so soon. The Violin sounds really wonderful and is definitely being added to the TBB list as we speak.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you so much for those kind words, Liz. It means a lot to me.

Redameter said...

Sorry I was so late Sarah. Trying to pack up and get ready for my move. But anyway, I'm here and this is an interesting comment. Also interesting about your Uncle. I hate it when someone dies before their time, or what I think is before their time.

Getting into a characters head can be easy, but getting out sometimes is hard. I find my getting intos a lot easier than my getting out ofs. But once you do, I think the reader can really relate to a person's story much better if you succeed in getting inside the head. It comes out in the writing.

Great blog, Sarah. And you and I are on the same level with blogging, so you aren't alone.

Love and blessings

She said...

The Violin was wonderful. I find the 1920's a fascinating time but so few stories take place during that time. It was good to read yours.

Fiona McGier said...

My kids learned that when Mom has "that look" they are not to bother me, because I'm "listening" or "working through a scene". It's great when the characters are flowing into you, but frustrating when they take the action in a different direction from what you were thinking! Like unruly kids!

It has been said that the only immortality that we can be sure of is having other people remember you. What a wonderful tribute you created to a man you never met, so that his memory will live on...good job!

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Thank you, "She", for reading The Violin and I am very happy that you liked the story. I appreciate your support.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I agree, Fiona, that immortality is achieved through remembrance. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

Carol L. said...

Hi Sarah,
What a beautiful tribute to your uncle. I loved your post. I definitely am putting this on my TRL at the top. I love everything I've read about it. The 20's are a great time to read about in books . I'm only sorry it took me so long to learn about The Violin. But the important thing I did and now I'll get to read it. Thanks you.
Carol L

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I really appreciate your very kind and supportive words. If you do get the chance to read The Violin, I hope you love it as much as I did when I wrote it. Thank you so very much for dropping by.