Writing has always been a driving force in my life. From the moment I took up a pencil and pile of notepaper, and later notebooks or tablets, I always found myself writing something –whether it was the random thoughts of my first diary (complete with lock to journaling in the park during college to banging away on my first manual typewriter on weekends, I was always writing something. People in my apartment building in Seattle called me “the typist” whenever they saw me come out of my apartment to catch the elevator. (The elevator was right next to my apartment door)
What was I doing with all that typing” Well, fictional stories, of course. I had enough of writing true life stories every day in day job in a TV newsroom. The murders I committed on the written page were easier to write than the true life murders or diseases and other problems I had to write about that actually happened to real people or affected those around me.
At times though I had those real stories in mind as I wrote my fiction. At least in my stories, I made certain the women were not left waiting at the train station or searching for children they might never find. I got to decide the outcome of the story and that made them easier to write. At the same time, the emotion I saw in people deeply affected by traumatic incidents stayed with me and allowed me to put some of my frustration into the fiction I was writing. I got to decide if there was a happy ending for the woman who so badly wanted to find a loved one or bring down the roof on a bad actor who was hurting those around him. I got to make those decisions and give the reader a satisfying ending.
True life can spawn real stories and ideas gleaned from happenings every day around writers can be taken and spun into wonderful tales. I don’t know how many times I have heard writers asked where they get ideas for stories, and so often the answer is familiar or similar to one of my thoughts. Those stories are all around us. The idea for my first romance came from a simple phrase my mother told me when I was young. She was a teenager the first time she saw my father wrangling broncs at her uncle's ranch. Her first thought when she saw him -- "I'm going to marry that boy one one." And she did! True it took her some growing up and a war that came between them for a while, but she eventually got her happy ending. It took that comment and wrote "Home Fires Burning" around it.
As fiction writers, all we really need is a snippet of an idea or a person with a problem. The best part about writing fiction is that we get to make up the story we want. We get to decide how the bad guy gets punished or if he or she doesn’t get punished and comes back to wreak further havoc.
We get to make the decisions about how much misery we want our main characters to suffer and we get to decide which characteristics they have that will help them to overcome their problems.But there is more we as writers need to keep in mind as we weave those tales spun from ideas that might spring around us. We also want to teach lessons about humanity in our work – whether it is to show someone who is a really good guy or to show someone how that person might be able grow or learn about themselves. I was living in Las Vegas when I got the idea for a woman who lives for others, and never realizing her own value or worth from a friend's story. It grew into the story of a woman rediscovering herself -- becoming a Desert Blossom.
The joy of writing can also carry with it the responsibility of helping the world. As a newswriter, I always knew we were charged with doing our best to be fair as journalists, to get the facts right or to make certain both sides of a story got told.
As a fiction writer we can have bad guys win sometimes but we still have to be careful not to glorify certain things. The ability to write carries responsibility as well. Yes, some might have the power to spin an evil or false tale. A responsible write keeps that in mind. And, while good guys don’t always win, we need to show why or how much they tried to win.
When I first began writing romance, I was told we always had to have an ending that is happy, and sometimes that can be a real challenge. Bringing the bad guy or gal to justice is also important, but sometimes that doesn’t always work in a story. As writers we need to be able to decide which works best. Making the wrong choice can mean you’ll never sell another book.
At the same time, making a choice that makes you uncomfortable as a writer or is against your own wishes doesn’t work either. As writers we need to remember why we are writing and make the choices that work best for us and for our characters.
The result won’t necessarily give you that happy ending as a writer, but it can make you a better writer in the end.