Tuesday, October 5, 2010
It's All in the Details...
We are pleased, proud and bustin' at the seams with delight over having one of our favorite authors, Linda Winstead Jones, blogging with us today! Linda is an acclaimed USA Today bestelling author of more than sixty novels, including Untouchable, 22 Nights and Bride by Command. She lives near our magnolia tree in Huntsville, Alabama. Please join us in welcoming her:
It's all in the Details...
You can give a hundred writers the same plot, give them a general description of the characters and then let them run with it, and you’ll end up with a hundred different stories. Every writer brings something of themselves to their writing, something that makes it uniquely theirs. Tone, setting, dialogue, atmosphere . . . detail.
Detail is important. Every detail. The little things make a story unique, they make the characters and the setting come alive. In the end, it’s all about voice.
This past weekend I was at an Auburn football game. In the state of Alabama, “Who are you for?” is an important question. Auburn? Alabama? Those are the usual answers, though the occasional Tennessee or Georgia fan makes their loyalties known. But that’s beside the point for this discussion, which isn’t really about football at all. For this discussion, it’s only important that I was at the game. While I was there I was flooded with memories. You see, I attended school in Auburn. Not after high school, like most alumni, but before grade school.
When I was four and five years old, my dad was a student at Auburn. I attended kindergarten there. More importantly, my first clear memories are of living in Auburn. Some are not all that pleasant -- like the time I chopped off my lovely long ponytail with a pair of scissors, or threw a new pair of shoes into a bramble-filled ravine. (Obviously they were unsuitable, in some way.) The first nightmare I can recall took place in student housing, and was Sleeping Beauty’s Wicked Witch related. I can still see the Wicked Witch standing on the landing of the apartments across the way from our own. But these things aside, most of my memories from those years are good ones.
I collected arrows from the woods behind the archery range. In hindsight maybe that wasn’t such a great idea, but at the time it was loads of fun. I can still remember the sight of a bonfire and a giant paper (yes, flammable) Georgia Bulldog. My dad was in a fraternity, and my little brother and I were the only fraternity kids. I still vaguely remember a couple of the guys, and Miss Olive, the house mother. She gave us candy, so what’s not to remember? I also had my first crush at that time, on the man who delivered the evening news. I didn’t miss the news, not even when I was five. According to my mother I used to go up to adults to talk about “that bad man Castro.”
We sat on a blanket on a hill and watched movies outdoors, and there was a skunk who liked to visit our student housing. The first song I learned all the words to was the Auburn fight song. War Eagle. (A song about love and marriage and another about an itsy bitsy teeny weenie yellow polka dot bikini were close behind.) My dad painted the walls of my room bubblegum pink and I told him it was “awful pretty.” He asked me which it was. Awful or pretty?
One thing I don’t remember, but was reminded of a few years ago thanks to a friend of my parents, is that I used to write my own newspapers and go door to door selling them for a penny. I was a writer, even then. Shoot, I even got paid.
So what does this have to do with voice? What could all those early memories from such a long time ago have to do with writing? Easy. Those years, those memories, are a part of who I am. They are an important ingredient in the soup that provides all the important details that make their way into my books. That soup made up of memories, as well as genetics and other things I can’t even begin to understand, forms whatever it is within me that makes it possible for me to create a story that’s uniquely mine. It’s a simple truth that we are who we are, that we’re shaped from our first breath to be one of a kind.
I think if you look too hard for voice and style, if you try to create a voice instead of going with the flow and embracing who you are, you’re headed for trouble. It’s easy to look at another writer’s work and say, “I want to write like her.” But you can’t write like her. And on the flip side, she can’t write like you.
Do I purposely call upon a combination of skunks, arrows, Castro and Wicked Witches when I’m plotting a story? No. Are they there, somewhere, along with other important and unimportant moments in my life subconsciously contributing to every word I write? Absolutely.
I am who I am. War Eagle.
Linda Winstead Jones
Please visit Linda at www.lindawinsteadjones.com/ to find out more about her fabulous books!