Missing the Obvious

A few days ago, I noticed a woman giving me strange looks. After she stole several glances in my direction, I whispered in my husband’s ear, “Why is that lady staring at me?” His answer was immediate: “Because your hair is purple.”

Ah.

My hair has been various shades of purple off-and-on for a couple of years, so I don’t even notice it. It feels natural to me. That would not have been the case a few years ago, when I was still practicing law and going to court several days a week. I’m reminded of a time that I had to cover a court appearance for another attorney without notice. I didn’t have a jacket. Going to court with my arms exposed–and, therefore, my tattoos–made me feel like a spotlight was pointed my direction. Looking back, I would have felt the same way about going to court with purple hair. My perspective has changed.

Which brings me to my point: missing the obvious. I think this can be a useful tool in creating realistic characters and conflict. In real life, we often miss the obvious, which can cause feelings of confusion, bewilderment, sadness, anger, etc. (i.e., conflict). The same should be true of characters in books, right? Sometimes, my characters have a tendency to be too self aware, to the point of stretching credulity. It’s far more interesting to have a character who doesn’t know quite so much. Who misses something that is obvious to the reader (and perhaps the love interest or a secondary character).

Is anything going over your main character’s head? What might he/she be missing? How does this create conflict in your story?

ashley profile pic  My purple hair.

Coffee Injection, Stat

Finding time to write can be challenging. I’ve been stealing moments here and there when I can, usually in the evenings after work. There are lots of distractions, though. Stopping by the grocery, laundry, dinner, quality time with my husband, playing with the cats, making sure the chickens go to bed in their coop (instead of on top of it, or in a tree, or on the porch). Not to mention that I’m often mentally exhausted by the time I get around to turning on my laptop.

So, I’ve decided to try writing in the morning before work. I am not a morning person, so it hasn’t been easy. My friend Gail Nall is a talented Middle Grade author who gets up to write at 5:00 a.m. She’s been doing it for years and has several published novels to show for her hard work. I’m not quite ready to get up at 5:00 a.m., but for about a week now, I’ve been getting up every morning by 6:00 a.m.

I set an alarm and when it goes off, I pop up, ready to write!

Okay, you know that’s a lie. I hit the snooze button once — sometimes twice. Then I punch the start button on the electric kettle and pour 3 scoops of coffee into the French press. Less than 10 minutes later, I’m settled into my writing space with a warm cup of coffee and my laptop, ready to write. Right now, I’m getting in around 45 minutes of uninterrupted writing time. Eventually, I’d like to wake up earlier and write longer, but for now, the routine is working for me. I’ve written every morning.

And if I can do it, you can do it. Seriously. I fought to get out of a mandatory class in college because it was at 8:00 a.m. — and succeeded. I’m ready to go to battle for those few precious hours of sleep. But we make time for what’s important to us, right?

So, what do you say, writer friends? Would early-morning writing sessions work for you? Non-writer friends, is there something you’re willing to get up early for?

“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” — Wayne Huizenga

To Plot or Not?

I’ve mentioned before that my husband and I enjoy camping. We love to get away from the hustle and bustle of the everyday world, explore the great outdoors, and then snuggle by a campfire under a blanket of stars. It’s wonderful. However, there are some downsides to camping, and perhaps the biggest is that it requires more planning — and packing — than just staying at a hotel.

When it comes to packing, my husband and I couldn’t be more different. He’s a list maker. If it’s on the list, it goes. If it’s not, it doesn’t. This is true of groceries, too. It doesn’t matter if we’ve had a ten minute discussion about needing shredded cheddar cheese — if it’s not on the list, he’ll come home without it.

As for me? Sometimes I make lists, but when I do, it’s scribbled on a post-it or a napkin or the back of an envelope. It immediately gets lost (or stolen by faeries), long before I need to look at it again. If I do manage to keep up with it, I’m never able to stick to it. Something always gets added, or forgotten, or both.

With writing, I’m much the same way. I like to have a list — an outline — but it often gets lost, ignored, or changed.

Still, I have to admit that the writing process goes more smoothly when I have an outline. That’s not true of everyone. Some writers are 100% “pantsers” (they write by the seat of their pants, planning nothing in advance). To them, an outline is stifling and kills their creativity. Other writers create fifty-page outlines that plot out the book’s journey in its entirety, with routes from A to B to C all planned out. For them, writer’s block comes when they don’t know where the story is going. Then there are writers like me, who work better with an outline, but prefer it to be far less detailed. For me, the outline is like a road map with the destinations decided but the routes left to chance. Sometimes the destinations even change along the way.

There’s no wrong way or right way — as long as the book gets written.

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” – Erol Ozan

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