Even a Bad Book Might Need One More Chance to Be Loved
Have you ever heard two siblings argue over how something “used to be” back when they were still at home? One kid remembers never eating anything but spaghetti. The other insists it was only ever meatloaf. One remembers that when Grandma came, everyone had to be quiet while she took a nap. The other remembers how when Grandma came everyone got special treats and extra trips to the park.
And that picture window that got broken at the house down on the corner? She says her sister did it by dropping a log next to the window while they were all moving the log pile. However, her sister saw that crack appear when the kid of the house and the other sister were setting down their logs. Not that anyone asked until she got in trouble for something she didn’t do. Oh, wait… that was me… and my cousin… And what idiot has five-year-olds move a woodpile anyway?
What does all this have to do with books? A lot, actually. You see, the way different readers get different things from books is a lot like how kids grow up in the same house with the same experiences and completely different perspectives.
I can read the same book as a friend and while she found it boring or lacking in Christian themes, I might see the opposite. Perhaps it’s where I am in my walk right now, what I’ve been studying in the Bible, or even just what’s going on in my personal life. It may be the opposite. My friend may have something going on that prevents her from seeing it in the same way that I do.
I’ll go one farther. Let’s say I read the book next month instead of this. Then, I might not enjoy it at all. The reverse happens, too. I’ve read books and seen movies that I couldn’t stand the first time I encountered them. Later, after a reread or a second viewing, some of those have become my favorites. This is actually why there’s one author whose books I do not enjoy that I try to reread every now and then—just to see if my tastes have changed. Nearly everyone I know loves her work. I want to like it. Someday, maybe someday, I will.
And you know what? It happens to authors, too. Sometimes we just don’t like something we wrote for whatever reason, but then after a while, we go back and reread it and discover that we don’t hate it anymore. That happened to me with Speak Now. I wrote it for a friend, but it just didn’t do anything for me. But one day I started rereading one section and went back to the beginning. You know what? It’s a pretty sweet story with some really fun characters, and I like it! I’m even giving away a copy this month because I think I have a lot to make up for after years of saying mean things about it. *Blush*
So… I’m going to issue a reading challenge. That author you didn’t like the first time you tried his books? Maybe give him another go! The book you were sure you’d love and didn’t? Maybe it’s time for a reread. And even the book you didn’t finish because you just couldn’t get into it? It just might be the right time for it.
“Sometimes it feels like life really does come full circle.”
Those words were spoken to me this week in reply to something I’d said and while I’ve never thought about something like that in relation to my own life, I actually love to go full circle in my books. It feels like if I can bring a story back to where it started, even if it’s only in some small way, then that story is complete.
The very first story I wrote ended up going full circle. (It hasn’t been published, and may never be published because I’ve learned a lot since I wrote it, so I don’t feel bad about “spoiling” the ending for you.)
The meet-cute happened in the dead of night in a dark barn where the heroine couldn’t see who she was speaking to. So she spoke to the shadows, and eventually the two parted ways without the hero saying anything to give himself away. The heroine only finds out later who she was speaking to, which could either be gratifying or embarrassing depending on what she said.
At the end of the book, the girl is back in the barn, thinking she’s alone. Once again it’s dark, so when someone else comes in she can’t see who’s there, and reminiscent of that earlier scene, she starts talking to the shadows. The only difference being that somehow, the hero gives himself away.
My point being… the book went full circle, with an almost identical scene at the beginning and end. It rounded out the story.
And like that, there is one area of my life where that sense of having gone full circle has happened to me (minus the barn and talking to the shadows part, of course).
When I was a kid there was one thing I hated more than anything else. One thing I avoided as often as I could: writing stories. I loved writing letters and copying Bible verses in my neatest handwriting and things like that, but when it came time to think of even the shortest story possible, my mind would go blank and I could never think of a thing to say. There were so many other things I could think of that I preferred to do. Like anything really, the list of possibilities was endless as long as it didn’t involve writing stories.
And so, it seemed crazy to me that my sister would want to write.
Because back then, she spent a lot of time writing. She wrote stories for fun, she wrote stories for school, she even had a short story printed in a small collection through our school. And, for a while at least, she wanted to become a reporter which would require writing reports which are basically real-life stories.
Writing stories interested her, but I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to spend their time staring at words on a page. How boring could that be?!
Fast forward twenty some years and… my sister may still write some, but now she mostly spends her time doing things like… anything, really. Her list of crafty endeavors seems endless.
I write stories.
Sometimes, I even stare at a screen all day, my brain desperately trying to get all the words out. The more the merrier. I’d be even happier if my fingers could keep up to the voices in my head. Because the stories are there, just waiting to be written down. That very thing I hated so much, that I could never understand the appeal of… is my creative outlet.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
As I enter into my eighth year of writing, there is one question that is a constant in my conversations with people.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
I wish I had a beautiful answer for each person. Something that might be enlightening or encouraging. But the short answer is, “it’s all in my head”.
Funny story – When I was young, I kept to myself. I don’t recall having many friends, and while both of my parents worked, I remember spending most of my time in my room playing with my dolls and “imaginary friends”. Even after my younger brother was born, my dolls were my constant companions. If someone were to ask who I was playing with, I would often reply “boys and girls” as I hadn’t invented names or personalities for them yet, but there were hundreds wandering through my mind. When I first told my mom I felt that writing was something God wanted me to do, she chuckled and replied, “So, the boys and girls are starting to talk back?”
Her question wasn’t entirely out of place, no matter how silly it sounds. I guess you could say that’s exactly what happened, because when you hear me talk about my characters, they are as real as you and I. Sure, it sounds crazy but other creative types would understand. We see in our mind what we want to put on the canvas or on the page and we create from that. There are moments when certain scenes in my books are derived from images that play out in my head as if I’m watching it happen in a movie. And not just any movie—it’s 3D with scents and sounds, and even textures. From there I do my best to write what I’m seeing and how it makes me feel because I want the reader to experience what I’ve experienced. My husband says there is nothing weirder than walking in my office while I am writing and seeing me twisting my face or trying to hold my own hand so that I can get the full effect to the reader.
Now, there are times that my “boys and girls” are very similar to the people in my life that I love. Take my very first book for example. It starts with a young couple with three children. The conversation they have at the beginning is one that my husband and I had once or twice when our children were little. The father taking a moment with his sons is one I witnessed several times before my husband left for work and the imagery of it has been engrained in my mind. In “I Know the Plans”, while I tried to take great care as not to writing anything triggering, but the scene of Tiffany miscarrying was something a friend shared with me in detail. Her willingness to share her story with others stuck with me, and still does. Even in my Independence Islands books, there are situations that have come from memories of my walk with the Lord as well as my own romance with my husband.
The conversations, interactions, emotions felt–every element of life in my characters is a memory that I recall of the people I admire and are engraved in my mind. They inspired me to write and willingly allow me to share their stories with the world.
I say “Thank You” to each and every one of you who have opened a window of your life so others can be inspired by you.
Love Under Construction Character Inspiration: Cynthia Brady
One of the most exhilarating things as an author is developing characters. In our imaginary worlds, we create characters with personalities, hopes, dreams, and motivations. Of course, the main characters are the best to create, and they stick with us writers for much longer than after we’ve typed the words “The End” on the manuscript. But what about secondary characters? Those in the supporting roles, whether good or bad?
How many times have we seen the memes and coffee mugs warning people that if they are crusty, crabby, or just plain difficult, they may find themselves in the pages of our next novel? To be sure, we writers have all had “influences” that have woven their way into our creativity and starred as the antagonist(s) in our books.
What about the godly secondary characters? The mentors, the ones offering discipleship, the loving parent, grandparent, friend, or relative?
For my most recent novel, Love Under Construction, I needed a secondary character to play the role of Cynthia Brady, my main character, Irelynn’s, mother. It couldn’t be just any secondary, but a woman full of faith, one who loved and was there for Irelynn, and who had struggles of her own.
Cue my mom.
Just like Cynthia Brady, my own mom (ironically, or maybe not so ironically, named Cindee) fit the bill. She is a strong woman, not only in the sense of personality, but, even more importantly, a strong woman of faith. Life has not been easy for her in the past decade, with diagnoses of scleroderma, fibromyalgia, and severe chronic pain. From the time I was a young girl, she tenderly guided me through the challenges of life with a listening ear, a hug, and wise words of advice. Most importantly, through the years, she has discipled me in my walk with the Lord.
Cynthia Brady does the same for Irelynn. At this moment in her life, Irelynn faces some huge obstacles. The main theme of Love Under Construction is relying on God during all times—the good and the bad. A tender and uplifting story with plenty of humor, this novel also touches on the topics of motherhood, adoption, financial challenges, and PTSD.
While there are some differences between Cynthia and my mom, namely Cynthia doesn’t struggle to the same degree with her health and she has raised Irelynn single-handedly, there are similarities.
Everyone has a story, and every story is filled with ups and downs, crabby characters and cheerful characters. As you go about your day, try being the type of “character” that makes someone’s story happier and better.
This post originally appeared at https://juliearduini.com
Stacy T. Simmons
We Have a Holiday for What?
Happy summer everyone!
For all the parents out there of school age children, I hope y’all have wonderful next few months. Mine will be filled with writing the third novel in my Briar Creek Love series, spending time with family and friends and marked by occasional jaunts down the rabbit hole, i.e., social media.
While perusing social media, have you seen some of the interesting national days for this month-National Donut Day, I could get behind this one occasionally, cough cough. International Bath Day (I hope this is more than a once-a-year occurrence?). There’s a National Tapioca Day as well as a National Handshake Day, so a mix of delicious and friendly, very nice.
On June 2nd you can celebrate the National Leave the Office Early Day, but, would your boss understand? I’m not going to try that one out myself, she’s super sweet but…
For all of us who shun shoes, there’s the National Go Barefoot Day, mental note to me, don’t try it-the Texas summer sun is hot enough to fry an egg in eight minutes. Side note- when my kids were little, we tried this and geekily timed it. Bless my now grown children’s hearts having a teacher as one of their parents they were subjected to a lot of learning even on their days off.
However, you spend this glorious sun-soaked summer, may it be a joyous one! Excuse me while I go enjoy a Bomb Pop on its national day and sip an iced tea on its special day. Take care!
Never have I ever…written a romcom.
You might be saying, but you already write Christian romance and Christian fantasy. Why romcom?
I asked myself that same question. Here’s what I discovered. I seem to have a sense of humor and sarcasm that lends itself well to the genre. More than one person has commented on my ability to fling sarcasm into a story as one might toss icing on a cake.
It’s a hereditary trait. (Thanks, Dad!)
When it comes to writing a romcom story, I don’t have to worry about dialing back on my proclivity to send characters falling into mud holes or dumping entire gallons of sweet tea on their significant other. I get to be mean to my characters in an entirely new way.
I love it!
Stretching my writing skill and imagination is never a bad thing. Considering how much fun I had writing the story, I’d say change is a good thing. I’m the type of reader who gets bored when I read the same genre over and over. Though the stories change, my mind wanders. The only way to keep it fresh seems to be to jump from genre to genre, then rotate back.
Apparently, my writing style may follow that same chaotic pattern.
Here’s to a new genre, a new series, and hopefully a full belly laugh—or two—along the way.