Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Guest Post - Erin McCahan, Author of "I Now Pronounce You Someone Else"
Earlier this week, I was pleased to offer you my review for the day three stop on the I Now Pronounce You Someone Else blog tour. Today, I'm super excited to offer you a follow-up guest post from the author, Erin McCahan. My question:
"What came first the characters or the plot? Building a Story"
It’s funny, by which I mean happily coincidental – so, really, it’s not technically funny at all, is it, but only idiomatically funny – and where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, it’s funny (see above definition of funny) you ask this because I’ve been thinking about doing a post on my own blog about this very thing. I was going to call it: How It All Starts.
For me, whether it’s short stories or novels, it all starts with one small idea – either a scene, an object, a sentence, a conflict or a title. Never a character. The characters grow out of the idea, which first has to grow into a story.
For example, every Sunday, as my husband and I drive north to a monastery for our church service, we pass through a town called Widowville. Widowville is a handful of farmhouses set in very pretty farmland, and one of the houses always – ALWAYS – has a hand-lettered sign out front that says, either, eggs for sale or free kittens. In their side yard, cats and chickens wander and scratch, unconcerned about each other’s existence or proximity. So – a couple Sundays ago, I asked my husband this: What would the story be if the title were Welcome to Widowville, and it’s a comedy, not a horror story or tragedy?
Here’s another one I’m fooling around with. In this case, the Starter Idea is the opening sentence:
On the night before her wedding, Brigid Sullivan did something she always wanted to do. Brigid Sullivan . . .
I haven’t settled on an end to the second sentence yet, but these are some of the endings my husband and I have played with:
. . . married the man she truly loved.
. . . ran away from home.
. . . robbed a bank.
. . . vanished.
Then we started asking how old Brigid Sullivan is, where she lives, who she’s marrying and if she’s even human. This one’s percolating more than Welcome to Widowville, and Brigid is starting to take on certain characteristics based on two possible scenarios. As soon as I commit to one, she’ll start to grow on her own. And that’s one of two points I love about the writing process.
1. When the characters start becoming real, or real to me, anyway, and
2. when everything is in place and the story starts to tell itself.
Usually this second part of the process happens about a quarter of the way into the book, and it’s palpable, and it’s a relief, because from then on, when things aren’t working, I know I’m forcing a situation on characters rather than letting the characters work through their own situations.
Here’s the Starter Idea I’m working diligently on at the moment:
Then my grandmother knocked on my bedroom door, came in, closed the thing behind her, told me not to cry, that she was there to help. And she hugged me, which was nice, as I had not seen her since she died.
I want to thank Erin McCahan so much for taking the time to craft this guest post for me! If you click on the review link above, you'll see how much I thoroughly enjoyed I Now Pronounce You Someone Else. It was an honor to be part of this blog tour. Make sure you check out the other stops...you can see the full list at The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly's post.