Monday, November 30, 2009

How New Friends Can Help Us Keep Our Writing Fresh

Portrait o fZaíra Fortes--1944  Candido Portinari-1903--1962 My daughter’s best friend is Natalie. Natalie’s parents moved here from South America nine years ago.

I always enjoy going to their house. I think it’s because I’m so aware how different we are. We have lots of similarities, too, but I feel like such a gringo when I visit there.

The Spanish I know came from Sesame Street in the early 1970s. They speak excellent English.

I’m always in a tearing hurry when I arrive there—I’m either there for two minutes because I’m on my way to something else, or I quickly realize something that I need to do. They move at a very slow-pace. I must appear like I have ADHD to them.

I can go there at any point during the day and something wonderful is cooking. And the most exotic aromas are wafting out of the kitchen. If you come to my house, unless it’s a crockpot day, I probably haven’t figured out my plan for supper yet.

When I went to a party at their house recently, their jaws dropped when I started to help clean up their kitchen after supper. They were very uncomfortable with that, although they were smiling politely. I realized that none of their Hispanic guests were cleaning…in fact, they were looking at me with a rather puzzled expression.

Although I’m the same exact person at Natalie’s house, I feel different. I’m very aware how different I am from them, in a nice way. When I’m with other busy moms, I’m very similar to them all. I may be the only writing mom in the group, but I’m not the only frantic mom who is doing too many different things at once. At Natalie’s house, I’m the exotic person. Which makes it interesting.

When we move out of our comfort zone, our days can go in completely different directions. I usually end up sitting down and visiting and having a bite of something delicious that I can’t pronounce and have never eaten before.

It’s only natural for most people to congregate with people who share a similar mindset and background. We do tend to set up tribes with like-minded people. But I think it’s good for us as writers to grow a little bit.

I look at my characters and they tend to colonize with similar types, too. They hang out with family, and their circle of friends. And, of course, a killer. :) I do write mysteries.

I’ve realized that when someone radically different or an outsider is introduced in my books, they usually end up dead.

This is a challenge for series writing. On the one hand, series readers usually enjoy checking back in with their favorite characters. But we also need to keep it fresh and different---mix things up a little so our protagonist isn’t hanging out with the same people all the time.

If I feel like I’m growing a little every time I make a new friend (especially a friend who’s so different from me), then it’s got to be good for character growth, too. Especially for a series.