Friday, October 20, 2017

Sink into the Past, Prefer the Present, or Fancy the Future?

Our topic for this blog is to discuss what time period we prefer to set our stories – past, present, or future?

Okay, I have never really set a story in the future, but I have used bleeding edge software in my stories that will only. exist in the future: software agents, info war and facial recognition software.  Of course we are now in a period of Information Warfare, and "agents" are used all the time.  Facial recognition software is becoming more and more sophisticated.  Speculating about technology can be tricky, and so far I have been lucky to stay ahead of the curve, but I've actually stopped writing about technology, because it changes so fast that by the time the novel is written, edited and published, well, you could be talking about yesterday's latest and greatest.  That is a problem with the PRESENT.
My last published novel dealt with facial recognition technology, but this software identified whole groups of people. Not sure if this is available yet, but you can bet that it will be.

Festival Madness, A Burning Man Novel 

And the past?  Ah yes, the past.  I wrote a historical women's fiction novel, as yet unpublished, set in 1928 Southern California.  Prohibition, graft, corruption, get-rich-quick schemes.  Everybody on the make. Well, almost, everyone.  This was such fun to write about because there was such a wealth of material with built in conflicts and characters, both good and bad with their own conflicts.  The research?  I had a whole bookshelf and letters and photographs, even scrapbooks.  By the time the novel was finished, I felt like an expert on the 1920's.  It was fun. But the past always presents some challenges.  For example, I knew there was a hospital in Mexicali in 1928. But try to find a photo of it, or even a drawing.  Googled until my fingers were stubs.  I did find the nurses uniforms, a boon and made the hospital look kind of like the Mexicali schools.   So I like the past.  Just so long as it's not too distant.
Proposed cover of my California book

Currently, I trying something tricky, as least tricky for me.  I've started a novel set in 1953 Kansas, and also set in 2017 Kansas.  The main characters are grandmother and granddaughter who never knew each other.   I'm writing the past and present in alternate chapters.  This is going to be a real challenge,  and I hope I'm up to it.  It's fun, and 1953 is not that long ago, is it?  Maybe it is.    The novel is set north of Wichita in a Mennonite community, and I drawing on some family stuff as I did in the California book.  

So, I like to construct stories set in the  past and the present.  The future? Not so much.

Here are some bloggers who will give. you other perspectives on stories set in the past, present and future.  

Marie Laval
Anne de Gruchy
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Heidi M. Thomas
Marci Baun
Helena Fairfax
Diane Bator
Rhobin L Courtright

Friday, September 22, 2017

What Makes A Character Memorable?

I am a collector of characters, starting when I was a girl and read The Little Colonel books by Annie Fellowes Johnson.  How I loved that character!  She was so different than anyone in my Colorado town.  And was she ever spunky.

 My next favorite character was Scarlett O'Hara.  Another spunky woman.
  Do we see a pattern here?  I admired her tiny waist and her green dress, but it was her bold personality that fascinated me.
 A shy kid, I had few characteristics in common with The Little Colonel or Scarlett, but that didn't keep me from fixating on them. And admiring them and even wanting to be like them. Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, a comic book character was brave and daring and got herself into awful scrapes. I cowered and read on.

Anne of Green Gables was another character that I loved.  When our teacher read those books aloud to us, even the rowdy boys shut up and listened. Anne was spunky too, but no Scarlett!

When I began reading the classics, I found a lot of the major characters downright scary.  Ulysses and Achilles were so bloodthirsty! I didn't identify with Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina, but then I read War and Peace and discovered Natasha.  I still always see her as a young Audrey Hepburn.  She was a girl I could relate to. It was a shock at the end of the novel when Tolstoy said she grew fat, but I always thought of her as a slender young girl.

Characters from Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet have stayed with me:  Justine, Balthazar, Mountjoy and Pursewarden, as well as Clea and Justine and Lila.  Darley and Nessim.  These characters were like no one I had ever read about, not larger than life but living very vivid lives, so different from mine.  I think that the city of Alexandria was also a compelling character.  I read these books over and over, never tiring of them.

Of more recent vintage is Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone, a private detective.  Of course she is spunky, but she also has doubts.  She is never a TSTL (too stupid to live) character.  I can relate to her and I love her sense of humor and fair play. It will. be sad to see the series end.

Do I find any of my characters memorable?  If you have lived with a character throughout a series, he or she stays with you, eats with you, sleeps with you, and hangs out with you.  So yes,  Emma Lee Devens, no better than she should be, is gutsy and sometimes brave, but also sometimes foolish.
I created a character in a historical novel (set in 1928 California and as yet unpublished.)  Carla Curby is loosely based on my mother, but bigger, bolder and yet vulnerable and uncertain.  This was psychologically wrenching to me, because she was and was not my mother at a time in her girlhood that I just had a few clues to work with.  I am sure she is my favorite, although I am now writing about a Mennonite woman, forty years old and a widow, who will solve a crime.  She is another gutsy one who went off to be a missionary in the Congo before World War II.  I like characters who decide to act, rashly or wisely.  The words gutsy and spunky rise up again.

What kind of characters do YOU like?  The authors below will tell you about theirs:
Anne Stenhouse
Diane Bator
A.J. Maguire
Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
 Fiona McGier
Heather Haven
Beverley Bateman
Rhobin Courtright

Rachael Kosinski: