Friday, February 20, 2009

Writing Unleashed - Larger Than Life Characters

I feel like my current novel has unleashed some latent quality in my writer's voice, because it is intense. Yet, I'm also trying to make it fun. Like this:
He was leaning against a water truck on a cactus-covered hillside in a tiny mountain range southeast of Phoenix. Behind him, he could hear a bike rev. He turned around. The director yelled for action and after a few moments, the bike came sailing over a gully. It was a beautiful sight. Not for the first time, Max thought about learning how to jump.

He'd spent the past few days tearing around the desert for the camera. He took a nasty spill early on and slid right into a cactus, and ended up with cactus balls sticking in his rear, right through his leathers. He could have sworn the cactus balls actually jumped off the cactus onto him. One of them left a thorn behind that the paramedic had to yank out with a pair of pliers. Then, he had to drop trou and let the paramedic prod his butt cheek with tweezers and antiseptic wipes. It was humiliating, but it gave him a healthy respect for the damned things.
I found a cute intro to Jumping Cactus on You Tube.

It's all true! Even the location of this scene. It's the Santan Mountains in Chandler Heights, Arizona. My husband and I spent a lot of time, driving around, exploring old mines, shooting the .44 and listening to the coyotes.

Anyway, I'm learning there's a fine line between larger-than-life and over-the-top. I think with Abriel, I strayed perilously close to over-the-top. With Max and Karen, I needed to keep them as realistic as possible, while also having them do things that I wish I had the guts to do. When Karen and Max first meet, Max is so impressed by something that Karen has done that he's a bit in awe of her. And by the end of the book, Karen is so impressed by something Max has done that she is in awe of him. What I'm aiming for is for the reader to have the same reaction that Karen and Max have to each other.

I'm also enjoying writing a novel that takes place in the here and now. I have never been able to use a term like "drop trou" before. It's pretty fun.


  1. Yay! I have successfully embedded a video for the first time!

  2. I know what you mean about it being nice to write something in the here and now for a change. Just last night, I was looking around the room at the blue glow cast across the walls by the TV and thinking, "What a great setting detail for a story!"

  3. Ditto on the here and now--I always write fantasy and I'm midway through my first contemporary. It's kind of fun...and research is more readily available :). Love the cactus!

  4. Um, that last comment was really from me...


  5. I lived in Arizona. My husband told me the story about the cactus spine in someone's butt, and removing it with pliers. I just had to add it to my own story.


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