The only good thing that happened during the recent U.S. government shutdown was the jokes. I’m tempted to quote a few, but this isn’t a political post. This is about the dark and the light in books that mirrors real life. My most recent release, Christmas at Angel Lake, starts off with Maddie, the heroine, in trouble. She’s broke, pregnant, deserted by the baby’s father, driving in a snow storm…and then something wonderful happens to her. The caretaker of a house that’s been empty for years thinks Abby will be staying there.
This is a lifesaver for Maddie, and she vows to pay it forward. It’s because she lives up to her vow that she meets the hero.
We authors torture our characters, so I love it when something wonderful happens to them (although at first Maddie doesn’t view meeting the hero as wonderful). This morning I was writing my next book, and things weren’t going well for my librarian heroine. At least that’s what I thought. But instead of something bad happening, something good did. I hadn’t planned on writing that, but when I did, it felt right. This not only changed my heroine’s life, but it made me feel good.
I’m a method writer. When I write about a woman in trouble, I feel her worry, her fear, her desperation. Writing in the character’s point of view, I was feeling a bit depressed, and this change energized me. New plot possibilities opened up, and I’m happy. Along with the darkness, I need the light.
In books, it’s the author’s job to get the characters in trouble…and then make it worse. But sometimes the reader and the author need a reward. I sure need it in my real life, too. I’ve had a lot of good things happen in my life lately—and a few not so good. Though I’d love to have good all the time, maybe we need the bad to appreciate the good. To not think that we’re special and entitled.
The truth is, we’re all special in our own way. But maybe we wouldn’t grow or change if we didn’t have any darkness. A phrase that used to be popular when someone was going through a bad time was that he or she was “building character.” As a professional character builder, I love that phrase. Sometimes we need that kick in the ass. I started writing when my husband lost his job. Thank God he soon found another job, but I needed that kick to get out of my comfort zone and do what I really wanted to do. And how many of us have mourned the loss of a boyfriend or a job—and now we’re thankful for that loss? It led to something better.
Like my book, this blog is turning in a different direction than I planned, so I’m stopping here. Can you think of a bad thing that turned out good for you?