Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Biographies

Some people think you are where you came from. I used to work for a woman who introduced herself this way, "Hi, I'm D____ S_____, I grew up in ______________ and my family has farmed their land for over 100 years." She'd beam then, satisfied with her place in the constellation of life.

That summation made me grit my teeth.

What about the person she'd become in the many decades since she left her parent's house? Our business prospects didn't care about her past, they wanted to know whether she could help them today.

I'm in the middle of writing Chapter 20 of my first book, a murder mystery. The end is in sight. But at the beginning, before I knew I could write a book, I had to find the points of the star from which the lines would come--an opening, a death, a killer ending, and...characters.

How do you create a whole person from nothing? I wrote down their childhoods, where they went to school and what they studied, the kind of work they did, the families they created as adults. Their passions, their faults. The hard bounces they'd taken from life. The choices they'd made that formed them into the people they were when the book started.

Virtually none of that is in the book, but it informs every page. When I sit down now to write, I know the people and I let them take the scene where it needs to go, in their way, in their words.

They're still writing their biographies. I like that idea. I'm still writing mine too.

2 comments:

  1. That makes perfect sense,Kathleen. A belief of mine is that most day-to-day things in life have formulas. Some formulas just come to us; some formulas are THERE but we aren't aware of them, or haven't learned the steps. Well, writing a book has always sounded overwhelming to me and your character-biography formula cleared it right up! (No,I have no intention to write a book.) Thanks for your insight.

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  2. I'm a writer, Kathleen, but have nothing but respect for people like you, who can create new universes, peopled with imaginery folk who actually ring true. I could no more write a novel than create gold from mud. In fact, with the help of some hungry geobactor, that might be easier!
    I'll stick with the real world, which is almost too complex for me to handle. But, I'm glad to find this blog, where I can follow your footsteps toward the last few chapters of your book. Best wishes!

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My readers are all geniuses. Can't wait to see what you have to say.