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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tricky Words and Tantalizing Phrases

Up until now, I've chosen to pass on the use of certain words and phrases popular with many authors today.  It isn't that my characters don't possess the same physical attributes or perform the same intimate acts, I just haven't felt the need to describe them in quite the same descriptive detail.  I fully realize this may limit my market somewhat.  I can see for myself how well those words and phrases sell.  That said, I'm confident there are readers whose imaginations are quite capable of taking them beyond the page.  They may even enjoy a scene more on their own, if the truth were known, based on their personal experiences and preferences, without the need for me to spell out every move.  All that said, while this approach has worked well for me so far, with this new venture, I find myself hovering at the edge of a verbal minefield.

In telling Peg Shannon's story, there's real potential to employ some of those words and phrases, taking my readers beyond the insinuated to the explicit.  As one reader told me when she learned I was working on this book, Peg is a woman most people will recognize, a woman today fondly known as a "cougar."  Granted, this is how we first met Peg, a mature woman attracted to a much younger man and unafraid to let desire take the lead.  That affair was implied, discussed and even dissected, but never painted in any but the broadest brushstrokes. I doubt anyone has read about it without understanding the precise nature of the relationship, yet I never even mentioned a kiss, much less the other intimacies which must have been shared.  But in telling Peg's backstory, there's real possibility for more detailed imagery, and greater risk of crossing my own boundaries.

I rarely sit down to the keyboard until the words in my head have begun to line up in more or less the order they will take on the page.  Part of my mind is constantly at work, translating scenes into sentences and playing a mental game of tossing words around until they've landed in a number of possible sequences.  Recently, a new feature has been added to this exercise, which I'm coming to think of simply as the "bleep."  Much like those annoying little sounds used to cover the offensive or ill-considered word on television, those words which land on the wrong side of my internal censor are being crossed out and returned for a more suitable replacement.  Images deemed inappropriate for general consumption are likewise being sent back to the drawing board for revision.  My vocabulary and descriptive powers are being tested as never before, and frankly, I'm loving it!

How far will I go verbally with Peg's story?  Probably no further than I've gone before.  That's the challenge, to find a way to adequately tell the tale without those tricky words and tantalizing phrases.  There's still the need, on my part, to discover the emotional and psychological basis for Peg's behavior, as well as that of her counterpart, the aforementioned Kendall Gregg.  Because I prefer characters who at least consider their choices rather than simply seizing every opportunity, there has to be a plot beyond the pursuit of pleasure for pleasure's sake.  And there must be, as there are in life, consequences resulting from those choices, rewards as well as regrets.

So now you see the task I'm facing--to remain on the right side of that fine line I've drawn for myself, still painting a realistic and entertaining picture of a colorful woman's life without delving  too deeply into the details of her lifestyle.  There's also the little trick of, when writing the story of her past, staying within the lines previously drawn, respecting the facts already established in her future story.  I see myself tip-toeing cautiously through this one, rather than the mad and exhilarating dash I've enjoyed previously, when I gleefully followed my characters around blind curves and up dark alleys with no fear of blowing us all to smithereens.
 
Maybe, if I were wiser, I'd just let this one slide and develop one of the simpler plot lines dangling in my brain.  It might be safer and the outcome more predictable.  But there's some reason I'm drawn to this story, something that must need to be said, or at least something I need to try to say.  There's always the chance it won't even make it to print, that I won't be happy with the final result.  I'm willing to accept that risk, to stretch myself in the effort to bring this to life.  I've taken a number of risks in my time, and there's one thing I'm sure of.  No matter the outcome, I've learned something of value from each one.  With this book, if nothing else, I will have learned some clever new ways to skirt those tricky words and tantalizing phrases.  I may also have learned more about living, about people and about the lessons we can learn from both.

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