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Blogging By the Sea
Friday, 17 March 2017

March Round Robin topic is: Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?

As a reader, I remember one scene, actually a chapter, that I was listening to on audio in the car on my way to a meeting. It was an action/adventure thriller – a genre filled with angst and tension. When I got to my destination, I turned off the car and headed into the building with this intense feeling that I was late and needed to hurry. But when I got there, I was actually early. At first having no idea why I was feeling this intense need to get there. Only as the adrenalin rush wore off, did I realize I’d been so drawn into the immediacy of the story that I was feeling all the same anxious pressure the characters were feeling in a life or death situation. All I could think was WOW!  That was great writing.

As an author, I can only hope I can bring my readers to that kind of a precipice when they’re reading my books. I don’t write Action/Adventure, though, so my scenes aren’t going to leave my readers coming down from an adrenalin rush. As a pantser, I tend to write character driven stories, and since most of them are romance, there have been scenes that leave me drained emotionally. Some romance scenes: falling in love, making love, happy ever afters etc aren’t usually emotionally draining so much as leaving an emotional high. Either you have a wonderful world view that grows out of a satisfying romantic connection or you’re hunting for your mate and hoping you can get them as aroused as you are. But the scenes in romance that tend to leave me drained are the “Black Moments.” That crisis moment in the story when everything seems lost and your characters, and you, the author are going to get your heart broken.

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In the most recent release in my Cameron’s of Tide’s Way series, my hero finds out something he feels the heroine should have told him herself, years ago, and he’s hurt and disappointed. What he started out as a conversation to find out what happened and why she hadn’t told him turns into an angry scene as his anger overcomes the hurt and any chance the heroine has to make her case. When she finally storms off, it seems like all is lost. When I finished writing that scene, I was emotionally drained and just as hurt as my hero, AND just as crushed as my heroine. I had to collect my dog and go for a walk on the beach while my emotions ebbed and the physical reactions calmed. I was surprised at the time because I hadn’t felt that bad when they said good bye all those years ago, even knowing what was going to happen to them. So, YES, there are scenes that leave me totally, emotionally drained.

My characters are very real to me. My stories are character driven so I spend a lot of time before the book even starts creating my characters, writing their backstory, learning who they are, what they like and what they hate, their favorite music and hobbies, their strengths and their faults. I know that motivates them and I know the dark things they try to hide from the world. I know what makes them vulnerable. SO, when the story finally gets underway, most of the time I never have to ask what they’d do next because I already know how they are going to react. But sometimes they surprise me. I created them and yet suddenly I find myself typing something about them I had no idea of before. Sometimes I have a plan for their story arc, and they plant their feet and defy me. They have other plans. I usually go with the flow and let them have their way. Other times I let them have their say and then we return to the plot I had in mind.

My characters are so real, I find myself sharing what’s happening to them with others, mostly other writers, but occasionally a friend or family member or even a reader. I talk about them as if they were real and the problems they are facing are real. Just like I would talk about something that happened to me, or to someone I know. My writer friends understand. My other acquaintances look at me as if I’m losing it.

But the time I know without a doubt that my characters have become real to me is when I write The End. Even on the first draft when I still have lots of editing and revising to do. I have this lost feeling like my best friend just up and moved to the other side of the country. I might email them or call them from time to time, but it will never be the same as it was while I was writing their story and they were living in my head. I know the story now, I know how it ends and they are leaving me. I miss them terribly until I begin the next book and find new friends to invest so much emotional capital in. I have a new sweatshirt that boasts in large letters across the chest: I am an author. That means I am creative, cool, passionate . . . and a little crazy. And maybe having people I’ve made up out of thin air become that real to me is a little crazy, but if it is, then I’m perfectly happy with crazy.

Want to know what other authors think?
Victoria Chatham 

Marci Baun  

Margaret Fieland

Judith Copek 
A.J. Maguire  
Connie Vines 
Rachael Kosinski 
Dr. Bob Rich   
Heather Haven 
Beverley Bateman
Kay Sisk 
Diane Bator 
Helena Fairfax  
Rhobin Courtright 

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 09:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  10 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 14 March 2017

I belong to a large and beautiful Catholic church, but during Lent I am always drawn to participating in the Way of the Cross services at a tiny little church a half hour west of me. They hold it in the garden beside the church (weather permitting which it nearly always does) at noon. People of all ages take part, right down to toddlers more interested in exploring and school age children who take turns saying the prayers. Instead of rushing from one station to another mumbling the words so fast one can’t really even follow them, never mind contemplate the meaning, the pace is slow with time and space to think and reflect. As I was leaving the lovely service this past Friday, I got to remembering the most vividly intense Way of the Cross I ever joined.

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I’d been in Tonga for more than a year and had experienced the spiritual depth of prayer both in and out of the church. But the Way of the Cross was special. Dressed in mourning clothes, which is black garb and traditional woven mats wrapped about the waist, I headed downtown to St Joseph’s Cathedral in Neiafu. There the procession winds from the church steps, around the streets of the small town, stopping fourteen times to offer prayer. A young man dressed as Christ carries a very large and heavy cross and it is obvious early on that the work is hard. He is sweating and his steps grow more weary after each stop, until we finally return to the steps of the church where he is tied to that cross and the cross lifted up. There were no nails, of course, but a tiny chock beneath his heels. As the prayers went on, his limbs began to tremble and his face was contorted with the effort to remain where he was. Looking at that young, earnest face, it was so easy to picture Christ upon his cross, trembling with fatigue, thirsting and finally calling out for his Father do to His will. For the rest of my life, that young face will color my interpretation of the Way of the Cross, and encourage me when I balk at carrying my own cross.

              

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 28 February 2017

It’s human nature to become comfortable with what we know and what we surround ourselves with. My mom, bless her, never wanted anything to change. As a kid growing up that used to frustrate me. I was eager to explore new places and do new things. I’ve never really outgrown that, but I’ve begun to appreciate where my mother was coming from, too. I especially feel that way about technology. I was born long before computers were even created, never mind becoming an important part of all our lives. So, technology is a challenge for me. My husband bought our first Apple computer. At work I learned to use MS DOS – God help me, if I had to go back to that blank blue screen and remember all the commands I’d need to make something appear now, I’d be lost. So, maybe Windows was a good thing for all the complaining folk did. And, since I operate on a Mac, I love OS X and the endless menus. We no longer have to memorize the commands. We can just fish around reading menus until what we are looking for appears. But I still find myself groaning when an app on my phone gets updated and something I knew how to do disappears. Then I have to learn all over again.

But just as the constant changes in technology bring good things along with the challenges, so does the world around us. When Eisenhower’s new Interstate Highway system got underway there was a lot of grumbling about the land the government had to take back, and then there was learning how to use it. My grandfather never did absorb the need to get up to speed on the entrance ramp and scared the bejeezus out of me when he stopped before entering the highway. But once we altered our behavior, and our expectations, the system became a part of our environment we now take for granted. All 47,000 plus miles of it. We like our little town just the way it’s always been, why do we need a parking garage? But once it’s built we wonder how we ever coped with hunting for illusive curbside spots.

I moved into my little bungalow by the sea here in St Augustine just a month after back to back nor’easters pummeled the dunes on our beach. The waves breached the dunes and pushed into the Summerhaven river. Once breached more sand was pushed into the river on every high tide, eventually clogging the river. Wading birds and fish went elsewhere. Kayaking and oyster harvesting ceased. That change was not welcomed by those who’d lived here for years and they spent the next several years lobbying to have the river rehabilitated and the dunes rebuilt. They were up against the crew that felt Mother Nature should be left alone to do what she wants. No matter who won that argument, someone was not going to be happy. In the meantime, new to the area, I just enjoyed being able to walk onto the beach every day. Well, the restore-the-river folk won in the end and now it’s changing all over again.

The dunes are growing again and every day it’s a new challenge to figure out how to get onto the beach. I have no idea what it will look like when they’re done. Maybe that access to the beach will disappear. Scrambling down over high dunes is pretty easy, but climbing back up might be impossible. A man I only ever knew as John used to ride his bike down to the little cove and perch on the rocks above the beach to read. I’m not sure where he’d sit today as that beach is now ten feet under the new dune. I’m sure the ocean itself will have a lot to say about the final disposition of all those tons of sand, but like it or not, change is happening.

But I’ve decided to welcome the change. Not that I can stop it, but let’s be positive. At the moment, some enterprising folks salvaged some of the flotsam from Hurricane Matthew and built a new stairway with a railing at the other end of my road. I can always visit the beach there – at least until the next big storm moves those rocks and destroys the stairway. So, just like being willing to try out a smart phone and discovering it’s the best little gadget I’ve ever owned, perhaps the new access to the beach over the dunes will turn out to be awesome, too. 

I had grown comfortable with the way it was before, but I just might love the changes even better. So, unlike my mom, I’m going to welcome changes in my life and rise to the challenge. After all, don’t they claim that challenging yourself is a way to keep your brain young?  

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 03:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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    Skye Taylor
    St Augustine, Florida
    skye@skye-writer.com

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