A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Accept the characters that are within you and free your inner villain!

Good evening!

I have never been analyzed, but my handwriting has.  When I was teaching in Detroit, a group of teachers got together for one of those "meetings" that was supposed to "Further educate" us.  The speaker was a handwriting analyst.  It was very interesting.  I didn't put a lot of stock in that sort of thing, mostly because at the time I prided myself in the fact that I didn't have any one style of handwriting.  (In reality, I just had really, really bad penmanship.)  I thought I could fool this guy.

So we were supposed to turn in a sample of our handwriting.  He thumbed through most of it until he came to mine.  He said the words didn't matter, but he read enough so that I knew it was mine.  He studied the handwriting for a moment and said, "This is a person who is searching for a father figure."

One of the other teachers, a woman who has known my dad since high school, blurted out, "That's nonsense, she has a wonderful father."

The guy said, "Yes, but if her father is a parochial school teacher, is he ever available to her?"

A light suddenly clicked for me.  I realized that everything I'd written involved a rescue of some kind.  An older man rescuing a younger woman, or a girl.  I've always idolized men decades older than I am.  I have little time for the younger crowd.  Come see me when you hit 45 boys. 

And I love heroes.  I LOVE THEM.  I have 5 seasons of "Emergency" and 10 seasons of "JAG" on DVD to prove it.  Oh I enjoy the bad boys (Russell Crowe, Johnny Depp come to mind)  but I like it better when they're the hero  ("Gladiator" anyone?) 

I should also mention that, in addition to my obvious love of the heroic, I am a basically happy person.  Well, I would rather be cheerful mostly because it's just easier to be cheerful around folks than to dwell on whatever is wrong.  Ya gotta love the Lutheran upbringing!  "Just be happy, put on a smile, and pass the casserole dear."

But I've always embraced that darker part of me, even though I never really acknowledged it as being part of me.  In high school I read Poe, Plath, and the Sisters Bronte endlessly.  "Light hearted" reading for me was "Gone with the Wind."  It got to the point that my father, then my English teacher, wouldn't let me do an oral report on Sylvia Plath because I'd just done one on Edgar Allen Poe and he figured I should read something more cheerful.  (I smell my mother's hand in dad avoids conflict at all costs...telling me I couldn't do a report on Sylvia Plath at the height of my "Bell Jar" period was just begging for a weepy evening listening to Julie London records....loudly.)

More recently, I've seen a pattern in my reading and listening habits.  I love Rick Springfield's music, but my favorite of his albums is "Shock Denial Anger Acceptance"  a loud, generally dark collection that I shred when I sing along in the car.

It's a collection of mellow love songs...really...

I got to thinking about this today as a very interesting, very evil character leaped from my fingers to my computer screen today.  When I'm writing fiction I love to have a villain and I like her to be a woman.  "Dream in Color" is an exception to that rule because that book was more about one woman's journey through a maze of reality into something far more interesting, rather than multiple character story.  Of course, then I fell in love with Jesse Alexander and TAH DAH  a romance was born.  Besides, I've always thought of REAL LIFE as being the villain in that story...that and the mother character comes across as sort of villainous.  The thing about this new villain is man, she is twisted.  My Serena Shiply Chapman is one very evil, very twisted beauty of a villain.  She's doing and saying things I would NEVER...

I was shocked.  I said, "I can't write that!" 

Then  I pondered it.

What if Edgar Allen Poe had said that?  There would be no "Tell Tale Heart."  There would be no "Cask of Amontillado."  And the House of Usher would still be standing.

Daphne Du Maurier...what if she had said, "Well, there shall be a Manderly, and everything will be lovely.  Rebecca will just be a cranky ex wife, and Mrs. Danvers will make cookies through out the book."

What if....horrors...Emily Bronte had said, "I can't possibly create a character as bold and twisted and sadistic as Heathcliff...and make him the most romantic character in literature."   THANK GOD she said, "Oh wait...yes I can!"  And she was ridiculously good at it.  So much so that she pretty much didn't need to write another word.  Heathcliff in all his dark beauty, was her masterpiece.

Today's writers seem very different.  I meet a lot of authors and writers who ask the same question over and over again, "WHAT DO THEY WANT?"  I've done enough pitches for agents and editors to know that, while they say they want a fresh voice...what they mean is they want a book they know immediately where to sell.  In the two minute pitch  (ten seconds, if you're pitching to a certain agent who shot me down in...yes ten seconds.  I barely had my name out there.

 I said, "Hi, I'm Sarah Bradley.  I have a single title romantic suspense set in a small town, the main-"

"Nope.  I can't sell that."  that was it.

I'm not ripping on agents and editors.  I WOULD LOVE to have an agent. And I really liked my editor at The Wild Rose Press.  But they have a lousy job.  These days, with the economy the way it is, there's really very little margin for error and therefore, no margin for something that hasn't been tried before.  If you want to break into print these days, you'd better have the right formula, or you're not going to get past the pitch.

I've found that female villains who have...interesting...sexual appetites don't play well in the traditional romance world.

And yet here I have this magnificent villain.  A villain so scary I'm almost afraid to open up my files for fear she's done something really depraved. 

Now you know you all have that character lurking in you.  We're all way more Bronte and Poe than we are Jane Austen.  (Seriously...I love Jane Austen made into movies, but her books.....not exactly my speed.  Where's the death?  Where's the mayhem?  Where's the dark, alcoholic in need of spiritual rescue?)

That brings us back to my need to rescue and be rescued. 

It's taken me a very long time as a writer to know who I am.  Turns out, I'm a bit schizophrenic, like my dear departed grandmother.  One the one hand, if you read my humor blog  It Can Only Happen to Sarah you'll know I'm a completely normal woman who likes to see the funny in every situation.  BUT, as a fiction writer, I'm really more interested in writing characters I like to read. 

I'm hoping that if I give Serena Shiply Chapman enough page time, I'll have the female version of Heathcliff.

And she can create mayhem while my heroine and hero are busy rescuing each other.

Now, let's see if I can pitch that!

Meanwhile, the rest of you, pick up a copy of my romantic comedy Dream in Color  at the Wild Rose Press site.  It's available in digital as well as paperback!

Now go forth and WRITE!

No comments:

Post a Comment