When you leave a comment on THIS post by 6 p.m. CT Sunday, June 30, 2013 you'll be entered in the DRAWING for a copy of the book below. If you mention in your comment that you’re a follower (see in the left column “Join This Site” and “Follow by Email”), I’ll add your name a second time in the drawing. You must be eighteen, have a U.S. mailing address, void where prohibited. You can read details about my book giveaways at Disclaimers.
Cracks in the Ice by Deanna Klingel
Our guest is Deanna Klingel, author of Cracks in the Ice. Deanna lives and writes in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina. She writes middle grade and YA (young adult) literature, inspired and encouraged by her husband and golden retriever, Buddy. Deanna will give away a copy of her book to the winner of a random drawing among commenters of this blog post.
Contacts for Deanna: http://www.booksbydeanna.com/, facebook Deanna K. Klingel, and twitter @deannakklingel.
Truth in Fiction
by Deanna K. Klingel
Readers of fiction, do you ever go, “yikes, I wonder if that’s true?” If you have to ask, then it probably is true, and it’s not there by accident. Fiction writers are attentive to research and details. They don’t “just make that up.” Historical fiction writers spend an equivalent amount of time researching on behalf of their story as they do writing it. But, all fiction has an element of history or event that requires research. The plot needs to make sense in the time period of the story. The character’s decisions must make sense based on their motivations, events and personalities. Fiction doesn’t get “made up” as it goes.
The character Gina, as a young girl has a dream of Olympic gold as a figure skater. I did a lot of research on her behalf concerning the realm of figure skating in the 1950s. There were a lot of interesting scenarios Gina could have gone plotting off into, but my job was to keep her focused and on task. She wanted to be a figure skating legend. Together we’d keep our plot headed toward that goal.
The internal development of the character, however, is a different matter. Once the character is established, she/he, is going to grow, change, and become more real as they live their life on the pages. The author has to respect that. While the author has to keep the character on her task, goal, her plot line, the character can take the author into new and surprising places on that journey.
I knew and understood Gina wanted to skate. She made it clear she wanted to be in charge of her own life. “Okay,” I said, “I get that.” I’ll give her every tool she’d need to achieve that. Her struggle will be trying to be in charge, of anything. We’re skating along.
Then she told me things about herself that I hadn’t known or realized. My playhouse had a table and two red chairs. I never knew who was supposed to sit in the second chair. She was lonely. Later, as a teen in the training center, without friends, she struggled to fit in. I sit quietly watching the girls taking sips out of their fancy flasks they carry in their expensive bags, secretly. They laugh; they just laugh and wriggle and squirm on my bed. Sometimes they get so silly they slop their booze on my bedspread. One night I finally give in. I take a sip. I want to laugh, too. Then I take some more sips, and I do laugh. I actually giggle, just like them.
I looked back at earlier chapters and realized how Gina had been set up, unwittingly, by her family. Her uncle the mobster, never without a crystal decanter nearby, means well when he encourages her to celebrate her victories with a drink. Later as a young woman who doesn’t like the taste of alcohol, she’s instructed how to drink in moderation, how to be “classy” about it. When guilt clouds her vision and a rash decision changes her life forever, she hides in a dark bottle.
I didn’t intend for Gina to become an alcoholic. I wasn’t writing a story about alcoholism. I didn’t know anything about alcoholism. But it happened. It’s where it was going from the beginning. I find several early passages indicating it. It’s easy to see it now, but I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know until Gina did, that her mother’s secret was alcoholism. Gina, I discovered in my research, has a genetic propensity toward alcoholism. I hadn’t known that.
I had to follow Gina down her crack in the ice and wait for her to come back out and be my heroine, restored in health, ready for a future, with relationships repaired and under construction. She’d ride the Zamboni for the rest of her life, smoothing cracks and rough spots. That’s okay. Life’s like that.
I had to research alcoholism in order to take this journey with my character. I learned why teens begin drinking. I found Gina right there with them. She had all the criteria. I learned what drinking does to teens. I saw her right there on my pages doing all those things. I learned about the difficult recovery process, and I was tormented watching Gina struggle with hers.
My character taught me a lot about a very important issue. The research helped me present her to readers as a strong girl, a victim of loneliness and guilt, a girl with a trashed dream, and yet one of hope who can still be a winner. There are other victories besides gold medals.
Every book I’ve written has helped me grow as a person by understanding the character that I “made up.” Characters take on living persona, not just for the reader, but for the creator. Research is an exercise in (hum along) “getting to know you, getting to know all about you…” Authors have to live in the skin, walk in the footsteps, and dream the dreams of their characters. It’s what makes the job so exciting and so difficult. We don’t just make them up. They are created.
When you read a character that really grabs you, one that gets under your skin, one that you’ll remember, you can be sure the author did some research to make it “real.” The author kept the character on task, but stepped back and let that character develop into a believable “person” that you readers will love or hate.
Other works by Deanna Klingel:
Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, nonfiction, Seal of Approval Catholic Writers Guild
Avery’s Battlefield, middle grade historical fiction, Stars & Flags National Book Award winner
Avery’s Crossroad, middle grade historical fiction, Stars & Flags National Book Award winner
Bread Upon the Water, nonfiction, YA biography, Seal of Approval Catholic Writers Guild
The winner of last Thursday's blog post for a copy of Collette's Crusade by Michelle Sutton is Patricia. I'll email you to get your mailing address and get the book out to you. Thanks all for commenting. Watch for more book giveaways.
Till next time … keep on smiling.