Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Puppet Master

I recently had a conversation with someone regarding authoring books, specifically fiction. This person seemed to be under the impression that being an author was a bit like playing with puppets. You dangle your characters on the end of a string and jerk the paddles, making them dance or twirl or walk or collapse on the stage.

You know, that would be pretty cool. If I didn't like someone, I could just toss them off a railroad trestle or send them on a looooonnnnggg boat trip to Antarctica. If a character felt superfluous, they could suddenly contract Hepatitis B, which would progress much more quickly than doctors would anticipate, and voila, no more character.

The longer I write, though, the more I'm finding I'm not as much in control of my characters as what I would have assumed. I find that they don't like their feelings/emotions/characteristics messed with.

As an example: one of my characters in a book I recently finished is a loyal, wonderful young man. He's tenacious to his goals, and he refuses to give them up, even when the odds seem overwhelming. Switch to me, who knows the ending of the story and of the series, and realizes that this young man will have to walk through fire before it's all said and done, and all his efforts may yet be for naught.

I want like everything to smooth the road for him, to lead him along a path blooming with daisies and roses, and let him step into his happily-ever-after, and who cares about the consequences for everyone else that his ending affects? I seriously considered scrapping the ending and letting this young man and his compatriots have their perfect, albeit fluffy, ending.

But as my mind went over the character I'd worked hard to mold in him, the loyalty, the never-say-die attitude, his idealistic world view, I found I couldn't do it.

Sure, I could force his character into a jello mold and make the story come out sunshine and roses for everyone, but in so doing, I would lose the best part of this young man.

So as sad as it makes me, I will watch his character walk through the fires of his future, knowing that even though it's no fairy tale, his character will stick with me, in my thoughts, in my future writings, maybe even for the rest of my life.

There's a valuable life lesson we could all take away from this. But I won't spell it out. I think, if you really think about it, you'll figure it out. ;)

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Sloppy Wet Kiss

I think perhaps I'm in the minority.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to play piano for the worship team at church. I always enjoy doing this; it's sort of a creative outlet for me to be able to let my fingers dance on the keys in harmonious collusion with the other instrumentalists on the team. Slow. Fast. Soft. Loud. Getting Louder. (Or the equivalent Italian terms which are far too difficult for me to spell.)

One of the songs we led yesterday was a favorite of mine. It was called "How He Loves," and one of the lines in the song is "Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss, and my heart turns violently inside of my chest."

Beyond the rest of the lines in the song, which are excellent and meet some deep point in my soul as I belt out the words, this line in particular resonates with me. I've actually heard lots of people talk about how that line makes them cringe, and I suppose there are opinions, and then there are opinions.

When I hear that line, I see my two-year-old daughter toddling up to the couch where I sit, working. She climbs up, her eyes wide and her voice insistent. She wants attention, and reluctantly, I put aside my agenda for a moment and curl an arm around her. She raises one pudgy, dimpled hand and pats my cheek. "Mommy," she says in her clear, indistinct toddler voice. "Wuv, Mommy."

I smile and say, "I love you, too, Darlin'." She pushes herself closer, her knee digging painfully into my thigh. And she kisses me on the cheek.

It's wet. There's some saliva involved. It's no chaste peck, dry and barren. This is a kiss filled to the brim with love, and it spills over, leaving a large, glistening circle of drool on my cheek. It's sloppy.

To me, that is love in its truest form - pure, innocent, completely without expectations. She doesn't require me to kiss her back (though of course I do; how can I help it?). She doesn't ask me to give her food, clothing, shelter, a paycheck, and then she'll kiss me. Then she'll show me her love.

She loves me simply because she does.

God loves me simply because He does. I could never in a million years earn that kind of love, but God gives it without a price, without me even asking for it.

Just like a sloppy, slippery, saliva-filled, juicy, wet, thoroughly love-filled kiss.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

On to the Ushy-Gushy

So, the last two books I've written, I have two main characters, a male and a female. Of course, by the end of both books, they are thoroughly smitten with each other, and love conquers all, right?

I grew up a hopeless romantic, devouring books with a warm, fuzzy, happily-ever-after ending, and enjoying the squishy feeling in my stomach that they left behind.

But that doesn't mean that I enjoy writing about it.

I guess I grew up with enough of a sense of modesty/decency/sense-of-fitness that when I write a romantic scene between two people, I feel a bit like I'm committing a flagrant breakage of the common law of PDA (Public Displays of Affection). You don't stand out on a sidewalk in a big city and spend copious amounts of time in a lip-lock (though goodness knows, I've seen my share of people doing just that). The affection of my main characters is natural and God-given, but the war in my mind over how they should keep their embraces private when hundreds of people are reading about their kisses is hard to resolve.

I feel like I should stick something in here to say that I don't write erotica, nor will I ever. But I do think that the love of a man for a woman and vice-versa is at the top (or near the top) of the totem pole for what most humans will feel at some point in their lives, and this needs to be included in many stories (not all).

But then it comes back to the point. I'm embarrassed, because I myself would not kiss my husband in front of hundreds of viewers, each one analyzing just how it's done. It's at this point where I must step outside myself and write from the perspective of my character. What does he or she think? How does he or she feel? How can I translate those feelings to the reader without making the reader think about the author and how the author feels?

How can I write about this thing called Love? It's so all-encompassing, isn't it? Love isn't just kissing, sex and physical attraction, is it?

Love is family.
Love is best friends.
Love is discipline.
Love is understanding.
Love is sacrifice.

My next book coming out will have two people in love with each other, and yes, there will be some kissing. But I hope that behind the outward expression of intimacy, real love blazes through the words on the page. Understanding and sacrifice, patience and give-and-take. Equality. Grace. Healing.