One of my favorite things about being a writer is the ability to live multiple lives. Readers, of course, know what this feels like. Movie goers and actors experience it too. We step into another character’s shoes in a story and get to be someone else for a while.
It’s a gift I enjoy, whether or not I’m ever quite as good at it as I want to be. I’m perpetually in pursuit of my “best” story, continually trying to write a perfect book. Or at least, a wonderful book that readers everywhere love. But I always enjoy the fact that each book touches someone. Hopefully a lot of someones. I receive letters from readers on most everything I write, and I’m deeply touched to think a story of mine has inspired someone – usually someone who is not a writer by nature—to pick up a pen and put their thoughts on paper to communicate with me.
And while I’m fortunate in that I’m able to craft a story into words on paper, the harder part for me is finding the right story to tell. Choosing the right details for the right characters. Being honest to those characters and letting their story be about them and not what I think it’s supposed to about.
As I get older, I think that the secret of this craft –the deepest secret of the storyteller—is the ability to listen. I can read books on the art of storytelling all day long and it only improves what I do by small degrees. The most important thing that I can do to improve my storytelling is to listen to the people and the world around me, to absorb the stories and the minor details of day to day life and filter them in a way that readers can identify with.
Being quiet lets me see those things. In my youth, I was occasionally accused of being aloof or stand offish and I know that’s because I was simply a writer in the making—listening more often than speaking. I try to be cognizant of that because it’s also important to be and not to just live in my head all the time. But I also don’t try to be the life of the party when well-meaning people suggest I be more social. I have made peace with the fact that observing life is not only a pleasure for me, but also a gift for an artist. A decade ago, I would have felt presumptuous saying as much. These days, I’m really proud.
If I’m quiet, it doesn’t mean I’m not having fun. I’m just taking it all in. Making sense of the world in my head. And, with any luck, writing about it in a way that is authentic and yields stories that are meaningful. If I’m quiet, I’m just preparing for my next role, my next character, and hoping that you’ll be able to seamlessly slide into someone else’s shoes for a while as a reader because I got my story just right.
**I know you all love to step into a character's shoes as much as me! What character are you loving lately? Someone on television, a film, or in a book? Share with me on the boards today and I'll give on random poster a copy of my upcoming Harlequin Superromance, NIGHTS UNDER THE TENNESSEE STARS. And don't forget to keep an eye out for my upcoming co-authored release with Catherine Mann, THE WEDDING AUDITION!