One of my characters in The Twesome Loop is an abuser. Readers have commented that they really hated him, which, of course was the idea. However, during the editing/revision process, I was asked to give some sort of an empathetic side to his character (a reason for his behavior). This I did and it ‘explained’ his motivation to some extent.
When I recently watched the Ted Bundy tapes (which are truly terrifying due to his charm & ‘normalcy’ to those who knew him) it made me think that in fiction we ‘explain’ character motives but in reality there may never be one that makes sense.
Today’s question is: Have you been asked to ‘explain’ a character trait?
Were you happy to explain it or do/did you feel it took something away from the narrative?
Click on the post heading and then scroll to the comments. Looking forward to everyone’s opinion and experiences.
Traditionally, it energizes me, but not because it’s easy. Transcribing from images and feelings to the right words takes blood and sweat, no matter how well I know my story.
I’ve worked under schedules that have exhausted me, though.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Kryptonite weakens Superman, brings him to his knees, makes him unable to go on. For me, that has always been my work hours, which have not only been odd, keeping me out of writing groups and events, but also long. Determined to find a way to improve my writing skills and become part of a writing community, I connected with writing instructors and industry experts through international online courses since 2006. It was a community I could interact with by leaving messages in the middle of the night when no sane local person was awake. It has taken superhuman effort to write my first novel during many upheavals in my life and three jobs at a time, but I was determined to do it.
The second Kryptonite would be my fiction writing speed, which is much slower than my non-fiction speed. Taking part in NaNoWriMo means committing several hours a day to make the 1,667-word daily quota, plus writing about 12 hours on Sunday. I ultimately “won” NaNoWriMo in 2014 with over 50,000 words in 30 days while working six days a week.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I’ve looked into why some authors do it. Sometimes it’s because what they write conflicts with their job or image. Others simply want a name that sounds good and is more likely to sell than their real name. Still others want to cover their gender to prevent publisher or reader bias.
Using my real name just makes sense to me, even if it doesn’t have the eloquence and appeal of a best-selling author name. Or I could be Klára Dvořák.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
My first author connections were international, mostly from the US and UK. As a single mom, I was working through all the local author meetings and event times. I couldn’t be anywhere in person unless it was in the wee hours of the night. Thanks to the Internet, I had an extensive online community before I ever became involved locally. Even now, I miss all weeknight meetings, and I’m lucky if I can make a Saturday event. Fortunately, I know a small number of local authors (Edmonton, Sherwood Park, St. Albert, Morinville) with whom I meet in person several times a year. I wish I could meet with the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (WFSC) a lot more often.
More recently, my daughter, Leslie Hodgins, has published her first book, Rebel Destiny. It has been wonderful talking “shop” with her.
Author friends and instructors have helped with feedback on my writing, with knowledge of publishing, graphics, promotion, and events. But mostly, it just feels good to be in the company of other writers and be able to talk about writing or read their work. Special mentions go to Mandy Eve-Barnett and Linda J. Pedley.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
Right now, I have a published novel that could stand alone, although I have started writing a companion novel/sequel to expand on some of the situations mentioned in the first book.
The two other books in progress are stand-alones.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The absolute best money I ever spent was on writing courses in 2006 to 2012, which gave me access to professional critiques, editing, and communication with instructors who had worked as acquisition editors in publishing houses, instructed Fine Arts programs at universities, wrote for well-known magazines or publishers, and/or traditionally published their own books. These courses and individuals helped me hone my craft. After that, the best money I spent was to Dream Write Publishing.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
When I was very young and said something stupid that couldn’t be taken back with an apology.
Later, in school, I couldn’t impress anyone with my writing or verbal presentations—neither teachers nor students. A few teachers gave me credit for my mechanics, though, especially in writing dialogue.
Only once ever, in the final year of high school when I answered a child development/perspective question during a discussion period, did the class, much to my amazement, clap. (I was a nobody in school, so that was kind of a big deal.) I guess that’s the one time I can actually say I had insight beyond my years and an ability to get into the developing brains of children and youth, and actually advocate for them. That ability later became the foundation to my job, my parenting, and my writing, but the credit for it goes to my mother.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I can’t even begin to say.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Interesting question. I never thought about it and can’t answer this question even after months of pondering it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Three fiction books and a parenting/educator handbook.
What does literary success look like to you?
VJ Gage (January 2018) described it like this: “It would be that many thousands of people have read and enjoyed my books. I would want them to say they could not put my books down and that my plots are unique and clever, and that I have a great imagination. Then I would like to make lots of money.”
Writing a book is a heck of a lot of work, and prepping it for publication is a heck of a lot of work on top of that. With that in mind, it would be nice if my book had some traction, both in terms of readership, literary credibility, and sales. That’s just the reality of life. Anyone can write for the joy of it, but to make a book and keep making them needs some form of return.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on what kind of book it is. For my first book, the events, relationships, interviews, and readings from my whole life, distilled, were my research. When I needed more, there was the Internet. I researched the psychology of grief in real life as well as through literature.
For my fantasy and supernatural books, the process was different, since the decision to write each was sudden. But I did research locations, clothing, tools, mineshafts, etc.
Research can be done at different stages: before writing, at the beginning of writing when you come across something you need to know, and toward the end to verify or adjust information.
With non-fiction, though, the brunt of the research and organization comes up front.
How many hours a day/week do you write?
When I do get to write, it’s a marathon. I’ll write until it’s done (an article or short story), or until I drop. In the past, I had written for 17-20 hours a day for many days straight when writing novels. Unfortunately, this kind of time was rare and usually took long weekends and holidays.
I often can’t go near a novel (first draft or revision) unless I’m guaranteed an uninterrupted three to four hours at a stretch.
I do not get distracted by social media or anything else during these times. It’s very intense focus.
How do you select the names of your characters?
*Evil grin* I steal and collect names. I’ve had some sort of protagonist for as long as I can remember. He—yes, always he, though not the same one over my lifespan—often came with a family and a community of friends. These people needed names, so I was always writing down and saving names I liked. Nowadays, I search baby name lists as well.
It’s a little more difficult with last names. I have to be more careful.
What was your hardest scene to write?
One of the oldest yet hardest scenes to write was the first climax in my published novel. I grappled with it for over five years. It has been rewritten more times than any other scene in the book.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I’ve always written a form of reality fiction or literary fiction. My novel took on a psychological theme because I guess that’s what I know best.
As a child, I watched sci-fi, but I wrote adventures and was particularly interested in outdoor survival stories—for which I had no hands-on experience, and Internet research was still a good twenty years away. The nifty thing about living life is that you gain experience whether you want to or not. One day, I was finally in a position to write a book, but it was about a different kind of survival—more internal, more cerebral.
I wrote a fantasy adventure for NaNoWriMo 2014 because I could make that form of writing go much faster.
Each genre and book is so different that it’s hard to mix anything up because what belongs in one story doesn’t belong in another.
Random ideas for any story can be written down at any time. However, in order to complete a book properly and give it the best continuity of style, foreshadow, and character, it’s best for me to immerse myself in one book during the processes of revision and preparation for publication.
How long have you been writing?
Since before I could form letters. Then, during my childhood and right through university. I took a hiatus after marriage and while the kids were small. Writing was difficult to justify because I couldn’t produce anything worthwhile. I was alone with my passion until the age of the Internet, when I could seek help from people outside of my immediate geographical location. In 2006, online writing courses made it possible for me to connect with writing experts who taught me how to write novels (and articles) properly. Over the next decade, I began to find books and articles with valuable information for the professional writer. I educated myself as much as I could, conferred with my writing mentors, and practiced, practiced, practiced.
What inspires you?
Anything in life, real or fictional, can be an inspiration or become a part of a story. Authors see potential stories and character traits everywhere.
How do you find or make time to write?
There has only ever been one way, and it is not healthy: sleep less.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I began working on Beyond the Music (companion/sequel to Beyond the Precipice), Druyan (fantasy adventure), Ironclad (supernatural adventure), and a parenting/educator handbook. However, they are on hold indefinitely.
What do your plans for future projects include?
I would have to finish the above projects first, unless I got an incredibly hot new idea that pretty much wrote itself.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth to get started but once ‘in’ the time flies. I leave this world and am immersed in the work. I love that feeling when the heart starts to race a little; there’s a fullness to the breath; a hum in the muscles.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Procrastination in all its wily disguises.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I have enough challenges figuring out who I am on any given day with the names I DO have. I generally go by Laurel Deedrick-Mayne. How can you tell I got married in the eighties when everyone was double-barrelling their names? A pseudonym would only confuse the issue.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? I’m friends with a number of other authors and I am always simultaneously inspired, intimidated and encouraged by them. Some have such tremendous self-discipline. Others are such Smarty Pants I whither in their presence. But all of them remind me of the endlessly vast stories that are worthy of being told.
Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book? I definitely want each book to stand alone. A Wake For The Dreamland was Canadian Historical Fiction spanning 1939-1979 and somewhat male-centric, taking place during WWII and the aftermath. The new project is about an intrepid nurse in the Yukon from 1949-1958. There is some crossover in time period and sexual orientation of protagonists. Ironically, the published memoir of said nurse was titled: No Man Stands Alone.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Every penny I’ve spent has been worth it but the highlight greatest honour was touring the battlefields of Sicily and Italy with very elderly Veterans who were paying homage to their fallen friends, comrades and their own youth.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power? In the 60’s when I was very young the Jello company changed all their boxes to the same colour with the differing flavours merely spelled out on the box but no associated colour; ie: No yellow on the lemon, purple on the grape etc. My mother fired off a letter to the company and in no time flat we received a great parcel of – you guessed it – JELLO – in ALL the appropriate colours. But seriously, the power of words was bred in my bones: my forebears being great correspondents, my grandfather- a broadcaster and journalist. I grew up to the tap of the typewriter and texture of imprint on the page.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? I don’t actually have one.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? I spent a considerable amount of time writing at the Banff Centre in the Rocky Mountains and would often be visited by deer outside my studio window. They would stand stock still, always listening, alert, responsive, agile and swift. I took cues from them. As a writer I watch, listen carefully and when struck with an idea, run with it.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? There are three on the stove but only one on the burner.
What does literary success look like to you? Touching, connecting with readers. For example, at one of over 50 book clubs, a woman said she’d always had a problematic relationship with her father and not much sympathy or respect or even love for him but she knew he had been in the Italian campaign during WWII. While reading my book she felt like she began to understand what he had gone through, and she felt more compassion. She cried as she told this story because he had passed away and she could never tell him. That’s pretty powerful stuff. The book seems to inspire people to think about that generation which has largely passed on now and share their own stories. I’d call that success. Of course being 67 times on Edmonton’s Best Seller List means people are still buying and reading and talking about the book and that is hugely satisfying. Winning the Alberta Readers Choice Award and being a Finalist for the Whistler Independent Book Prize are both great honours, but somehow it still feels like I just got lucky. Many people want to write but never do. Success is in the process and completing the project to the best of one’s ability. Anyone who has climbed that mountain and finished a book has already achieved something extraordinary and should be celebrated. Literary success is probably subjective and certainly fleeting and hardly the most important thing in life.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? My method was to write the heart of each scene and honour the story first and foremost, at least in early drafts. I conduct my research concurrently, strengthening and supporting the story as I delve deeper into the well and wormholes of research. Some authors get so excited about what they have learned that they wear their research on their sleeve and it can get in the way of the story. It’s easy to fall into that trap because the learning is tremendously rewarding and exciting and we kind of want to shout our discoveries from the rooftops. I have read every page of the Regimental diary, hordes of newspapers (British, Canadian and Local) from the war years, dozens of books, listened to audio recordings and read countless diaries and letters and collected hours of interviews BUT that should not be blatantly evident to a reader. I have read books where all the clever and obvious research overshadowed the characters and their drama. I have followed in the footsteps of the Canadians in Sicily and Italy with Veterans who were revisiting. I have to know all those gory details and all of that research is the bedrock of the book but what appears on the page must be more lively and transparent and leave some room for the reader to connect and use their own imagination.
How many hours a day/week do you write? I still only have one designated day but much of my life revolved around child and elder care with my last book. My mother died the week my book went to press and my father 444 days later and I have been working through the process of grieving, settling estates, etc. etc. Life can get in the way and that isn’t a ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse. It is the way the world turns. I should soon be able to add at least one more day/week.
How do you select the names of your characters? Oh, I know it sounds corny but they kind of introduced themselves to me. I made a couple subtle changes as I went along. Part of my editing process includes reading aloud and recording and if a name (or anything for that matter) doesn’t sound right, then it isn’t right and needs to be tweaked a little.
What was your hardest scene to write? Some of the war scenes nearly broke my heart but were also the most satisfying. It wasn’t a technical challenge but an emotional one. Some of the love scenes had me in hysterics and gave me a whole new appreciation for writers who can pull them off.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them? Writing is like being an explorer and it is great fun for me to try different genres on for size: Goldie Locks-ing my way around the story finding what feels right, challenging myself, flexing my writing muscles. Even if I trip and fall, success is the quality of the journey. Quick! Call the Cliché Police.
How long have you been writing? Since I could hold a pencil
What inspires you? Oh—simply this crazy thing called life.
How do you find or make time to write? It’s my biggest challenge. And fear. Because I think there is so much to write about I’m afraid I’d never stop. But there’s a great deal of living to do as well and I don’t want to miss that.
What projects are you working on at the present? The work-in-progress is looking like a combustible and controversial biography. It’s about Amy Wilson, a Nurse In the Yukon. You can even Google her. It’s scary as hell, for many cultural and political reasons.
What do your plans for future projects include? There’s a Prisoner of War, WWI era play (or maybe musical) on a back burner. It’s not as ridiculous as that sounds.
Once an Arts Administrator, Laurel Deedrick-Mayne has been a dance publicist, concert promoter, ad copywriter and box office bunny. She has served on multiple arts boards while maintaining her ‘day job’ as a massage therapist. Her independently published debut novel, A Wake For The Dreamland won the Alberta Readers’ Choice Award in 2016 and has been on Edmonton’s Best Seller List for 67 weeks. She has been a guest at over 60 book clubs and other book-related events. A late bloomer to publishing but a life-long third generation letter and story writer, Laurel celebrates the ‘love that dared not speak it’s name’ while paying tribute to the generation who took the time to hang on to family letters, clippings, stories and poetry — all those ‘treasures’ that inspired A Wake For The Dreamland.