Sitting in the Rest Area Thoughts

RestareasignAnother “on the writing road again” post. Indeed, I’m finding my writing journey endless—though a most enjoyable discovery adventure—with my posts here at Writers in Residence, metaphorical rest stops[i], and my actual books, destination arrivals in places I’ve never been.[ii]

Looking back, I think my journey started with scenery, North Bend, WA, and now it’s the Mojave Desert and Route 66. And I’m thinking many would agree, questioningmanthat setting/scenery is the initiating spark for many a tale. Often being the impetus for the plot—or at the very least, the enabling/hindering plot action backdrop. I’ve spent a lot of time these last few years pondering over how to enhance my writing in those areas.

But now, with the arrival of 2021, when I think about the books, DVDs, and TV  I enjoy most, it’s the ones with great characters that have brought me the most enjoyment. Fotosearch_k8817762To mention a few, Agatha Christie (Poirot and Marple,) Neil Richards and Matthew Costello’s Cherringham audio series, Midsomer Murders(my all time favorite,) Justified, The Good Wife, Marilyn Meredith’s[iii] Tempe Crabtree and Gordon Butler, Craig Johnson’s Longmire, Simon Brett’s Charles Paris, Patricia Gligor’s Malone and Morgan—and not to sound like a publicist for Writers in Residence(smile), love Johnny Casino and the Harlow brothers.

There are many more… Good plots, enjoyable get-away settings—but most of all, it’s the Characters. And it’s not just the protagonist, but most importantly, all the story and backstory characters that bring a richness to the tales.

More particularly, is it their niceness? Their eccentricities? Do they remind me of people I’ve known? Is it because they make me smile and reminisce? Not sure, but my next writing travel-leg starting now at this rest stop—is to make my characters the best they can be.

How?   GroupOfPeopleThere are a lot of us characters out there! https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

So far on my writing journey, if asked, I think I would say “they just popped up” in my head. But I’m pretty sure the “just popping up” is based on many things—like past experiences, people I’ve met, people I liked, and people I wasn’t that fond of! Whatever that process is, I want better control over it.

Not sure I can add to what my fellow Writers in Residence have already quite helpfully said on this blog—but no matter what great advice one might get—I do know so much of writing is “personal.” I.e., you have to figure out how it helps you—by and for yourself. Sigh. It’s not math, you can’t just add up the column of great advice, come up with a sum, and you’re done.

I want my books to be populated with Midsomer Murders characters! I want my characters to be people a reader enjoys hearing from, and wouldn’t mind knowing and appreciate—well maybe not the murderers! (Smile) And I definitely think this is an important part of writing to think about… I’ve closed many a book, and turned off many a show because either I didn’t like the characters—or in some cases, actively disliked them.

So, on the road again…and hopefully something for you to think about. Not just from the “doing” perspective, but also from the experiencing side. Why did I dislike that TV show kind of thing. All thoughts welcome!

AnotherRoadSign

Happy Writing Trails!


[i] In younger days, on the road with hubby and pups, would sometimes find myself waiting, and would avail the time taking in, and talking to some of our fellow travelers. I wonder if some of those people stuck in the brain and psyche??

[ii] Not as many “destinations” as I planned at this point. I thought 20 books, ha! Only nine…  Author and friend Marilyn Meredith is my guiding light and star when it comes to “getting it done!”

[iii] As it happens, Marilyn has a recent post up about her characters. She even mentions Tempe Crabtree! https://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2021/02/mystery-author-marilyn-meredith-on.html

Here’s my latest group of characters (smile) Just out…https://www.amazon.com/Rhodes-Never-Forgotten-M-Gornell/dp/1943063605/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1613418531&sr=8-1

 

21 thoughts on “Sitting in the Rest Area Thoughts”

  1. Without characters all a story would be is a travelog. But you do place your very interesting characters into a great setting so we can enjoy the view while we get to know the folks who populate your stories. And maybe letting those characters discover who they are (with the help of the writer) is a perfect way to round out their personalities. Again, a very mind-stimulating post, Mad.

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  2. Thanks, Gayle, that’s a very good point! Letting your characters fill out who they are themselves–via their actions in, and in response to their environment. I think I knew that, but for sure plan to do more of that.

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  3. It’s always a challenge, but an enjoyable one, to introduce your special characters to yourself and others, then keep them developing as the story unfolds. A fun journey, whatever the setting! I enjoyed your post, Mad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, it is fun, Linda. It’s a very good point about the “fun” part. From initially thinking about through their “antics.” I often forget the “enjoyment” part of writing! Thanks for reminding me…

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  5. Scenery can give a boots-on-the-ground realism to a story, but when it inspires the writer, I think it’s used more keenly. Jackie once described good writing in terms of photography – you need a foreground, a middle ground and a background. If scenery is the background and the plot is the mid-ground, then characters make up the foreground. Another great post, Mad. Keep on ‘traveling’.

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    1. I really like the foreground, middle ground, and background analysis. A very apt way of laying the three elements out. The photography perspective is very nice…I can see the metaphorical picture! Thank you for your kind words, Miko–and I think I’m going to be traveling a while longer(smile)

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    1. Thanks, Maggie, for the setting being a character perspective, and I can certainly see that(even without an example(smile)! And for me, both familiar and unique setting pull me in. So, if I take that farther, there should be both uniqueness and familiarity in a character. A good line of thought for me to go down…

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  6. First of all, Madeline, thank you for mentioning the characters in my two mystery series. I’m honored!
    Secondly, I just read “Rhodes Never Forgotten” and I loved it. Leiv is quite a “character.”
    Last, but not least, I couldn’t agree with you more. While setting and plot are important to me as a writer and as a reader, the characters are, by far, the most important element.
    Great post!

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    1. I especially like, Patricia, the secondary characters in your novels. They enhance the setting, story, and give what I call a “richness” or “depth” to the story. And thanks for the great review on FB and Amazon! You never know…in that what you hear and see in your head and like–might not actually be good. So, so pleased you liked. Smiling.

      Also glad to know characters are the “secret-sauce” for you too.

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  7. As Gayle said – without interesting characters, it’s a travelogue. I love your characters, as well as your super cool settings of Route 66 and the Mohave Desert. Have you been watching the re-runs of Route 66, by the way? The thing about the Midsomer Murder characters is there is always a vulnerability, some hidden story – what I call a “who’d have thunk it?!” about some quiet, unassuming person. And I am thoroughly enjoying your journey you’re sharing with us. Another great Rest Stop along the way. Thanks, Mad.

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    1. Yes, Rosie, isn’t that a great line from Gayle. And true! Funny you mention the Route 66 TV show. I never really got into the lead characters that much–except as a young adult at the time, they were definitely both attractive(smile)! Yes, Midsomer always has more than one story, with multiple intriguing characters, with their own complicated backstories, and for the TV Series, great actors to bring those characters alive. A very happy combination of attributes to my way of thinking and my favorite.

      I’ve watched all the episodes on Britbox of another series that I’ve become fond of setting wise(Stratford-on-Avon(spelling)) and character wise. Sadly, I’ve wized through all the episodes. Sigh. It’s called Shakespeare and Hathaway.

      Thanks for hanging in there with me on my writing journey!

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  8. I have always loved your most interesting and intriguing characters who like you love living in the desert. And thank you for all the plugs. Sure will be glad when I can actually see you again.

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    1. Me too, Marilyn, will be so glad to see you that is. I do read all your blog posts, but sometimes can’t get my comment to take…but always like hearing what you say, because I so easily fell in love with several of your characters so fast… I’m thinking it’s because I like their personalities kind?, but there’s more, like with several others…like Gordon…the quirkiness maybe? I’ll be thinking about what you do(smile).

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    1. Hope you like Never Forgotten, Jackie! I just watched a Neil Dudgeon Midsomer, though John Nettles is my favorite. But I think it’s all the quirky characters and subplots that really grab me. Hope you enjoy!(Rhodes and Midsome(smile))

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  9. You’re so right about liking/disliking the characters. The Mister and I will turn off shows where the protagonist isn’t likeable such as DCI Banks. Love Endeavor but feel a bit dicey about Morse. The setting contributes to the characters reactivity but you’re right. If I don’t like the lead character there are plenty more books/shows to experience. Good post, Maddie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel the same way as you do about Morse and Endeavor! And Yes, Thonie, there’s a lot of choice out there these days–but sometimes we find it hard to find something. Watch a lot of British shows. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. We’ve watching “Law & Order: UK” on Acorn recently. It’s pretty formulaic, but we’ve gotten attached to the “Law” (coppers), and the “Crown Prosecutors” (lawyers). Like you said, it’s the characters. Good acting, and they don’t always win. Recently they’ve taken each of the coppers and one of the prosecutors (so far) in different episodes and explored their backgrounds is pretty intense episodes. I find I like them better too by knowing them deeper.
    But, I have to say, Madeline, that I love your writing style, or voice, or whatever you call it too. It’s a style that makes you think as you read along. Your stories so much more than is literally on the page. They create images and impressions worth savoring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Jackie, thank you for your kind words! I’m floating…to know enjoy reading my stuff is music to my ears. Your use of the words “savoring” takes me to Never Forgotten(smile), and Leiv “savoring” his drawing room…feeling, smelling, seeing, appreciating…all that stuff!
      I envy your streaming capabilities…we’re too slow on the one satellite available to us to stream much without it timing out–or pay zillions of dollars for their super-service. Supposedly Elon Musk is putting up a new ring of satellites that will improve service for us backwards out in the middle of nowhere folks(smile) But I’m going to stay up late one night(service is good then) and watch Law and Order UK.

      Hope you got some good sleep! You are a busy lady.

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