Have you ever wondered if the book you were reading was more truth than fiction? Authors place the disclaimer in the front of the book stating it's fictitious. Yet, sometimes, I wonder. Is it real or pretend?
Then there's my writing.
My husband, brothers, kids may see some of my traits in characters I've written. Are any of my stories autobiographical? No. Definitely not. Huh-uh. No, sir. But how can I not include myself, at least a little bit, in tales that come from my heart? Perhaps, it's kind of like making stew. As authors, we take a little bit of reality, add a dash of half-truths, a pinch of that thing that happened once, and a whole bunch of imagination, and mix it all together, and wa-la! We have a tasty dish that doesn't resemble anything it used to be. It's stirred and heated--for hours and hours--and made into something else. So it is with my real world mixing up with my pretend world.
When I'm coaching teenagers for theater, one of the ways I get them to empathize with the character is to imagine a similar experience they've had, and then relate that to the emotions they're portraying. In the same way, I can take myself back to a past situation and ponder the feelings, and use those to dig deeper into the character's personality. I won't write my actual experiences. But some tidbits of my world definitely get stirred up in that other place.
On Tuesday, October 20th, I'm launching my third book in the 2nd Chance Series--Summer's Dream. And I got to thinking and wondering about the things that are actually a part of my story.
Here's me writing Summer's Dream in my backyard earlier this summer:
While I don't want to give anything away, here are some of the tidbits that leaped from my real world into my pretend world of Hart's Camp:
- When we lived in Alaska, Jason and I owned land in a remote setting. We got to it by riding in a skiff, beaching the boat, and hiking into the woods about a quarter of a mile. When we left the islands, we were especially sad to leave our property. So, years later, when the opportunity arose, we purchased land in the country near the Wash/Idaho border. Hiking through the woods is one of our favorite pastimes. In the summer of 2014, as I sat in my backyard writing April's Storm, I'd think about how I'd like to "someday" write a story including our rustic setting--gorgeous woods, a lush valley between mountains, big gardens, etc. So, when I sat down to write Summer's Dream, in my mind's eye, our land became a camp and retreat center: Hart's Camp--Changing Lives, One Heart at a Time. All I had to do was stare into the trees, the mountains, go for long walks, and I could see it all.
- A couple of years ago, we built a seven-foot-high fence in my backyard to keep out deer. In Summer's Dream, Em has a big garden in back of her log cabin, but it's overgrown and much of it has gone to ruin due to her poor health.
- My husband has an old Willy's Jeep truck. In the story, Josh stole Uncle Mac's Willy's Jeep, and totaled it. Now he's returning to Hart's Camp to make amends with his uncle.
- My niece-in-law's name is "Summer Day." I asked her if I could borrow her name for this story, and she said yes. I knew I was going to call the heroine "Summer," but adding the "Day" part made it extra-special.
- My nephew's name was Joshua--he's in heaven, now--and his parents fondly called him "Joshie." In the story, Aunt Em refers to Josh as "Joshie." Each time I wrote that endearment, I thought of my nephew.
- When my oldest son was a little kid, he leaped off the porch and fell on a Tonka truck, splitting open his lip. In Summer's Dream, Shua--Summer and Josh's four-year-old daughter--did the same thing and split open her chin.
- Earlier this summer, we received warnings from neighbors about cougars spotted near our property. It made me wary of hiking in the woods. And my fears brought about the cougar intrigue in the story.
- Jason plays guitar and leads worship in church. When we were young, we used to sing together. But there was a time--I hate to confess this--when I felt resentful of the time he spent by himself, playing his guitar. At the time, we were struggling in our relationship, and I wished he'd spend more time with me. While I don't harbor those feelings now, at one time in my life they were real. To get into Summer's thoughts, I dug up those old emotions and fed them into how she responds to Josh pursuing his musical dreams at any cost.
There's a blurred line somewhere between an author's real and pretend worlds, isn't there? A friend of mine tells me our experiences are never wasted. As authors, I think that's especially true. We may adjust details and outcomes, but many feelings, situations, and dialogues come straight from real life. And all those emotions and heart-stirring layers make our characters more authentic.
I love it when people talk to me as if my characters are real. And, hey, they are, right?
To read the synopsis for Summer's Dream, visit http://www.maryehanks.com/new.html