Thursday, March 26, 2009

Getting to Know You

Before I begin this post, I want to personally congratulate all the GH Finalists in Southern Magic and Heart of Dixie, my new writing chapters. I'm going to the National Conference and I am so excited to have people to root for and cheer on! Now, I also want to congratulate those of us who entered and didn't final. We did what we set out to do and accomplished our goal. And that is a victory in and of itself. Now smile and wave and get back to work because if we aren't writing, we have nothing to enter into contests or to try to sell.


Now to my post: Getting to Know You... what does that mean to me? Well, it's the root of my writing. I love people. I love hearing their stories and I love finding out what makes them tick. I guess that means I am more character driven in my writing than I am plot driven (but I can plot).

The trick to getting to know people for me is to get them to talk. How do we do that with people we don't know? Especially if, like many writers, we're shy? I'm not shy. Or, I guess what I should say, is I am reformed introvert who's learned to deflect attention from myself by asking a lot of questions while at the same time divulging just enough about myself to get people to open up to me.

The stories I hear are amazing. And you can bet many of them are woven into my manuscripts. My most recent vacation yielded many stories for me. In one session by the pool, I met a grandmother watching over her two grandsons while her son and DIL were at a conference. In the course of 45 minutes, I heard about her three sons and their professions. One used to be an extreme fisherman in the Beringer Sea (have you seen that show? It's scary stuff). He finally went and got his dental degree after seeing someone die again. He was 30. Imagine the possibilities for writing a great story about this man. Her other son is a fisherman in Alaska. And he loves it. Another is disabled due to a fall but is happy and living life to the fullest. And she is a widow (her husband died just before 911) who lives on an Indian reservation in Washington State. Many stories are dancing in my head after hearing about her history.

On the way home from the Magic Kingdom, I was standing up in front of a family from Alabama. I learned a lot from them in just a ten minute ride. He's a retired high school counselor and had brought the entire clan, grandkids and all, down to Disney for the week. From him I learned what my daughter needs to do to get some scholarship money. Maybe not a novel amount of history, but useful just the same.

One time we hopped the monorail to watch a the light parade at the Magic Kingdom. We stood next to a lovely lady who was there with her mother, her husband, her grown sons and her four year old daughter. As we chatted and watched the children enjoying the show, I learned that they had come to the resorts as a last wish for her mother who has cancer. A hug, a promise to pray, and heartfelt tears were exchanged between us. Yes, we were strangers in one moment, but because we listened, in another moment we were bonded by the fragile human condition of life and death.

All of these interactions are tucked away in my mind. One day they might emerge as part of a story I am writing. That's why I write romance. Because I love people and I want to weave their stories into the fabric of mine. In that way we immortalize not only our own words, but their words as well.


Carla Swafford said...

I enjoy sitting on a bench near a popular store and watch the people. Usually, I go away feeling so normal.

Christine said...

I read the Life stories in the obits too

Louisa Cornell said...

LOL Carla ! Try that at Wal-Mart! Not only will you feel normal, you will feel like a fashion plate right out of a magazine. I am AMAZED at what people will wear to the grocery store.

I have met so many people in my travels sometimes for only a few moments and sometimes for a few hours or days. I am always fascinated to think about what happens to them after we part. It's the idea of going down the road less traveled. Great post, Christine!

M.V.Freeman said...

This is a great post Christine,
I love people too, but I have to confess if I am in crowd for too long I tend to try and find a quiet space!

I work in a profession where I talk to people, sometimes at the worst time of their lives. What I have learned from human nature does color my stories as well.

You know, we have to be able to observe if not interact with others to write a good story--because what do you read a story for? I read it not only for the plot, but how the main characters deal with it.

I applaud you Christine! :)-because you are far more the extrovert than I! (I'm a snarky wench)

Christine said...

Oh, the plethora of stories one can get at the local walmart here is amazing. I tend to shy away from it and generally head to Target.

I am an extrovert but I also need my down time. Big crowds are not my thing at all. They tend to sap my energy and drain me. I love working a smaller crowd though.

I hope I get to see some of you tomorrow. I am trying to get up the nerve to drive down from Madison... but the weather Gods are conspiring against me.

Louisa Cornell said...

Drive safely, Christine. Wish I could be there. I am living for the day I can write my way out of Wal-Mart and attend ALL of the Southern Magic meetings!

Christine said...

Louisa, I ended up getting nervous about the winds so didn't go. And I totally understand wanting to write your way out of Wal-Mart. I've been a maid at a truck stop and also pumped gas to make a living... ugh. And office work is not much better. I never want to put pantyhose on again unless it's to accept an award or to be in an interview about my fabulous writing career.