THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
March 19, 2016
Greetings story tellers, story writers, and anyone who enjoys hearing or reading or writing a good story! This week, I’m pleased to present mystery writer Elaine Faber. Elaine has an interesting relationship with her characters (some human, some feline). They seem to have minds of their own, and they often steal the plot and run with it. Elaine’s solution? Let the characters have their way. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
Read Elaine’s essay “Highjacking Characters,” which appears below, for a good laugh and some wise words. But first a reminder:
For those who don’t know, I feature 99-word stories on this blog during the second week of every month. You’re invited to participate by sending me your stories.
The prompt for next month (April) is “Spring can really hang you up the most.” In case you’re wondering, this prompt is taken from a torch song by the same name, written by Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf. The song title is in turn inspired by T. S. Eliot’s line from The Wasteland, “April is the cruelest month.” What did Eliot mean by that? You tell me. NO, you show me in a 99-word story!
For further details, see the rules below, at the bottom of this post. Now please turn your attention to guest author Elaine Faber:
by Elaine Faber
As an author, I often hear the question “Where do your ideas come from?” An idea for a novel may come from a newspaper article or a personal experience. Often some aspects of our characters are based on friends, relatives, or neighbors. Some authors develop a rough idea for a plot and characters, and let the characters tell their own story. That’s how I write.
I’ve found that my characters may highjack the story. I follow their lead until the scene plays out. When this happens, it may take surprising directions. It is most unnerving and I have to ask, “How do I get him out of this?” Of course, about then is when the mischievous character decides to take a vacation and leaves me trying to resolve the muddle they just created.
My parents used to tell me that as a toddler, I buried my toys in the sand and my dad had to dig them up. Aha! The proverbial light bulb flashed over my head! What if years ago, a toddler buried something and it became the clue to solving a murder?
With that concept, I started writing my first novel. I thought it was a story about a divorcee who wants to solve her father’s cold-case murder, but without my knowing why, Black Cat (Thumper) jumped into the tale, took over, and became the catalyst of the story. Black Cat’s Legacy was born. With his ancestors’ memories, he must help Kimberlee solve the murder. This led to Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer and Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. (available at Amazon in paperback and e-book)
I also often hear the question “What about writer’s block?” Again, authors have many answers. When this happens to me, I ask, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I conjure up several alternatives, pick one and run with it.
Here’s an example: My character is frying bacon and the skillet catches fire. What’s the worst thing that can happen? (WTWTTCH?)
She pulls the fire extinguisher off the wall. It’s empty! WTWTTCH?
She grabs her cellphone to call the fire department. Dead battery! WTWTTCH?
She runs, screaming, to the front door. “Fire, fire! Help!” WTWTTCH?
A religious zealot on the doorstep, shouts, “You tell it, Sister. Repent! Avoid the fires of Hell!”
You get the idea. My skillet-fire illustration just got away from me. I had planned for the character to extinguish the fire. I hadn’t planned anyone at the door... But, my 30-second character took control and finished the scene better than I planned. With my characters, I’m never totally in control. I’m sort of just along for the ride.
My newest book is a humorous WWII novel, Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot. An elderly Agnes Odboddy, self-appointed scourge of the underworld, sees conspiracies and spies among neighbors and friends. Surprise! Her WWI lover returns to town with romance in mind. Then, a visit from Mrs. Roosevelt creates challenges that put Agnes to the test, and she must prove she is a true warrior on the home front.
A second and third Mrs. Odboddy mystery will follow next year.
Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association. Her Black Cat Series is a litter of cozy cat mysteries. With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Thumper helps solves mysteries. Black Cat’s Legacy; Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, and Black Cat and the Accidental Angel are available at Amazon.
Elaine’s latest novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot is a riotous romp through small town California during WWII, where conspiracies and spies run amuck…at least in Mrs. Odboddy’s opinion.
Elaine lives in Elk Grove, CA, with her husband of 53 years. (That’s a marriage of 53 years, not a husband of 53 years). They share their home with four house cats, the inspiration for her Black Cat Mysteries. The Agnes Odboddy character is a figment of Elaine’s vivid imagination.
For more about Elaine, visit her website: http://www.mindcandymysteries.com
Books Available at Amazon:
http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm Black Cat’s Legacy
http://tinyurl.com/lg7yvgq Lethal Lawyer
http://tinyurl.com/07zcsm2 Accidental Angel
http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot
Calling all authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com. Please consider this good promotion opportunity. The May guest slot is available!
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for April’s 99-word story submissions is April 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for April 9 and will remain on the blog during the following week.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: “Spring can really hang you up the most.” In case you’re wondering, this prompt is taken from a torch song by the same name, written by Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf. The song title is in turn inspired by T. S. Eliot’s line from The Wasteland, “April is the cruelest month.” What did Eliot mean by that? You tell me. NO, you show me in a 99-word story!
So long, folks. As always, thank you for stopping by. And as always, may you continue to find pleasure in the Joy of Story.