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.