When I sit down to write a story, I usually have a general concept and an end point. I know the premise and I know how the story will end. What I don’t know is how I will get there. I begin to write the outline for the story as though I were telling it to a friend. Before too long I find myself meandering. Sometimes, after an hour or two, I may ask myself, “how did I get here?”
Writing affords me the opportunity to get lost in a character. While plots are fun and provide an arc for the story, it is the characters that drive the story. The characters allow me to explore different personality styles. They serve to reveal different aspects of my own personality and to play out different roles. Through the characters I can explore my dark side and my feminine side. I can expose facets of myself that may not often be shared. I can experiment with different types of relationships, different career paths, and even live in different cities.
I remember as a kid playing the game, “what would life be like if …” Well, through writing I get to play those ‘what-if’ scenarios out through the characters and the story they tell. I get to play a woman, a gangster, a cop, a stripper, or a physician. I can insert myself into their psyche and for a few hours, become them.
While as the author of the story I may have an idea of where I want overall story to go, it is the characters that lead me. They seem to make decisions that take the story in directions that I did not anticipate. It is as though the characters have a mind of their own and take me along for the ride.
When I sat down to write The Midnight Shrink, I knew that David would discover some truths about himself. I knew that he would end up taking a journey to places that he had never visited and he would reveal parts of my life that not many people know about. The serial killer arc was a vehicle for him to learn some deeper truths about himself and his attachments to people.
None of my characters are simple; they are all multidimensional. Tommy, for example, lives on the street – by choice. He is not just a bum. His story reveals his humanness. Whether a main character or a bit-part, each character allowed me to explore what motivates people and for a moment become another human being.
The same is true for the characters in my other novels. There is nothing simple about Dolores in Gag Rule as she struggles to find her voice in a marriage to a dominating, narcissistic man. Or Harry in Shattered Direction who goes on a journey to discover himself, loses his way, and has to struggle to become than man he had hoped to be. 12-year-old Mickey in Mickey and the Plow Horse, learns how he defined himself by how others saw him and by his physical limitations until he meets Jackson and through their connection discovers his own truth.
In Buddies I wanted to challenge the typically male idea that being emotionally vulnerable is a sign of weakness. The four men in this story, each of whom took a different path in life, maintained this common belief. Their emotional reserve, paradoxically, leaves them more vulnerable to the exotic Sasha resulting in their downfall. Unexpectedly, I found myself most drawn to Sasha. Becoming her was the most fun and my biggest challenge. Seeing the world through the eyes of a sexy woman struggling in a male world deepened my appreciation of the female psyche.