They say truth is stranger than fiction. We write fiction, creating unique and different worlds within the pages of our books. We also create familiar and comfortable worlds, populated with characters readers can relate to, and therefore care about. But every once in awhile, truth blows us away. A real life event motivates us to create a story around it, but the idea is so strange that we find ourselves thinking there’s no way anybody would ever believe we dreamed up such a thing, and who would buy it? And yet the event really did happen.
Is that why so many people are obsessed with reality TV? Can people or situations presented on TV really exist as they are portrayed? What’s the attraction? And why do we care?
The 24th season of Survivor began last week, which means I will be parked in front of the TV every Wednesday night for the forseeable future. I’m not interested in being a member of the cast. Are you kidding? One, I’m not a water lover. Two, I don’t like spiders and snakes. And three, just. . . no. I’m perfectly happy watching from the relative safety of my family room. I watch the show because of the people. The writer in me is fascinated with their motivations and interactions. There are obviously different mentalities on how to play the game. What makes these people tick? How do their personalities shape their game strategies? What makes one player “click” with another and form an alliance? How much trust can you have in anyone playing a game for a million dollars? My mind churns with character possibilities.
Other than Survivor, I’m not a big TV watcher. I’d much rather curl up with a good book 99% of the time. But occasionally, as hubby flips through the channels complaining that there is nothing on (again or still), another reality show catches my eye.
Call of the Wildman is unique. A backwoods kind of guy (Turtleman) travels around removing nuisance critters from buildings and properties. In lieu of payment, he accepts whatever the owner can pay - ranging from gas money to food to furniture and other goods. It’s obvious he does what he does because he loves helping people. He’s funny, but the show is heartwarming, too. How many people go out of their way to help others and expect nothing in return?
Mantracker pits two people against two trackers on horseback in remote areas. The people have 36 hours to reach a prearranged spot, 25 miles away, without getting caught by the trackers. Sometimes the people have wilderness experience, sometimes they don’t. But their goal is all the same: to outsmart the trackers and reach the spot without being captured. Many people today are looking for ways to get back to nature. This show offers an opportunity to pit your skills and knowledge against nature and man.
What young girl (and yes, some of us older ones, too!) hasn’t dreamed of being beautiful and skinny enough to be America’s Next Top Model? Diverse personalities make the modeling world a different and sometimes difficult place, one which not all are cut out to thrive in. This show provides a glimpse of the hectic pace and the hard work that goes in to being a model. How far outside your comfort level are you willing to go, especially when your job is on the line? I vividly remember one episode where the models were expected to showcase jewelry - while “wearing” things like giant cockroaches and tarantulas. I would have lost that job.
Music and dance reality shows offer people the chance to strut their stuff, to show off their talents and maybe even launch careers. The Biggest Loser offers obese people the chance to get help with their weight problems and change their lives. Who Wants to be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link provide opportunities for people to match wits by answering trivia questions. Viewers may envy the singers and dancers their opportunities for fame. They may watch the Biggest Loser to learn ways to bring change to their lives. And who doesn’t think they could go farther than at least some competitors on trivia shows?
The purpose of some other reality shows eludes me. Big Brother – don’t we have enough Big Brother in the world already? Who needs to live in a house with strangers to experience this? The Bachelor or The Bachelorette – I know a lot of women who love these shows but they don’t do anything for me. Fear Factor – um, NO, do not put me in situations you think will make me overcome my fear. I’ll only hate you for it.
But in my opinion, the worst of them all is Honey Boo-Boo. Children are supposed to be cute and natural, not made up to look like teen-age celebrities gone bad. Previews are made to get viewers’ attention and entice them to watch shows, but these previews are downright scary and I refuse to watch the show. That child is going to be a holy terror as a teenager. What is that mother thinking?
Reality TV shows represent different worlds, worlds as diverse as those writers create for their books. Obviously there are people or situations that viewers relate to, or the shows would not be as popular as they are.
What reality TV shows are you hooked on? Why do you care about the people on the show? Do they fuel your writing in some way? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I'm an introvert, hence I’m someone who naturally goes for the deep meaning, the explanation, the "ya see, Timmy," when things in life go right and when they go wrong. When my children are going through tough times my mind tends to suggest things like, "This experience builds character." If a job opportunity doesn't pan out, my brain may suggest, "There's something better coming."
This tendency goes for my writing, as well. If I don't sell a story idea to a market or my latest book is rejected, once again, I find myself looking for and maybe assigning an abstract meaning to the rejection – it's a sign I'm not meant to write. Maybe this tendency is an influence of my fundamentalist upbringing. Nothing happens just because; there is a message or lesson. It can be exhausting. Such is the life of a member of a self-aware species, an introvert and the survivor of an intense upbringing.
It also can be exhausting to simply be present with what is. It's hard to stay put and persevere when things don't seem to be going well. To avoid the move away to something more comfortable or the quick explanation. If I do that maybe I'll see that my book is crap. Maybe I need to do some serious revisions. I have started more than one story but I can't sustain them, so am I lacking in creativity? I'm struggling with finding an audience, so what does that mean? I have a healthy readership but now I feel like I can't do something different for fear of losing them. If I stay in the place of how situations like this make me feel, what are the implications? Cue abstract message: "Ya see, Timmy, we don't always get what we want."
The problem with moving to some meaning that may not be applicable is it may not be useful for anything other than assuaging the discomfort of the truth. My story is crap. I do need to revise extensively. I need to spend time doing more research so I have more information to draw from. I don't have an audience and how am I going to find it? If I change my writing, I may lose readers, but do I still want to change?
Wise people, people who are not me, suggest that in staying put and not resorting to the ya see, Timmy, writers may find a more meaningful truth about themselves and their writing. It may be an opportunity if we can sit with the situation for a bit and let it tell us more. It may be an opportunity we don’t want to miss.
This parable seems fitting:
A man built his house on a cliff by the sea. He was excited about the view. Soon, a month-long fog rolled in. He quickly hated the place because it pained him that it wasn't the beautiful thing he had envisioned. He moved away. A week after he'd gone, the fog cleared.
I'm frequently the person who curses the fog, not having the patience to wait and learn, and concludes, "It wasn't meant to be." Have you had a situation in your writing life where you needed to wait and because you did, you learned something? Share?
The Write Way Café is happy to welcome romantic suspense author R.T. Wolfe today. Hello, HiDee and Lynn. I enjoy your blog posts and am honored to be your first guest author! Thank you! When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance? Honestly, I never had a first thought of writing a book. I’m a bit of an insomniac. I’m not sure what made me write the first line in Black Creek Burning in the middle of one of those sleepless nights, but somehow the first line turned into the first page and then into the first hundred pages…It was absolutely addicting. The research, editing, revising…I truly love all of it. Nine months later I had completed my first book in the Black Creek Trilogy. As far as your question regarding writing in the romance genre, you mean to tell me there are other genres besides romance? LOL What was your path to getting this first book written and published? What type of research did you do? I used books listing literary agents, pitched at a writing conference and found my lovely Romance Writers of America friends. Each has given me equal knowledge. My contract offer from Crimson Romance came from a call for submissions, forwarded to me through one of those lovely friends. Where did the idea for your story come from? Was it always the first in a series? I wish I knew. As eccentric as this sounds, I simply don’t. Sometimes when I’m proof reading my work I say to myself, “Where did I come up with this stuff?” So fun. Book two, To Fly in the Shadows, started spinning holes in my head when I was about half way through Black Creek Burning and ideas for book three weren’t far behind. Each book is also a stand alone. It was incredibly difficult to make that work and some of the best fun I can remember! Why did you pick the setting you did? Since the heroine, Brie Chapman, is a landscape designer who works outside much of the time, I wanted a climate close to what I’m familiar with. Upstate New York is similar to where I live, although I did plenty of research. I’ve had the privilege of three Master Gardener reviews for Black Creek Burning regarding the authenticity of the mention of plants and shrubs twined throughout the novel. The first review is already on my website. Mostly, I needed seasons. I use subliminal metaphors when I write. The growth of Brie’s character tandems the growth of the plants she works with. Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself? The main characters are completely fictitious. However, Brie’s sister is an absolute duplicate of one of my sisters. Her daughters have previewed Black Creek Burning and have commented on how creepy the similarities are. Have I mentioned how fun this is? Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret? Ugh! That is such a scary question. I have never experienced writer’s block. There. I said it. Where is some wood to knock on? I’m not sure I have a magic secret. I expect writer’s block will hit me as it does most of us. What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after? Agents want something new and fresh. Yet, editors want the work of author’s to fit in a very tiny box. I work hard to listen to advice, but I try to listen to my readers a bit more than the others. After all, who am I writing for anyway? What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world, woodworking, education? I’ve learned boat loads about writing, but I’ve mostly been writing about what I know and what I know well. The hero, Nathan Reed, is a woodworking artist. I am knowledgeable on this subject as well as the landscape design and planting references in the book. Book two is about a conservation biologist who specializes in the rehabilitation and banding of eagles. I know a great deal about this, also. Again, however, I have a talented gal from the amazing custom furniture store, Sawbridge Studios, previewing Black Creek Burning and a biologist from the east coast Center for Conservation and Biology previewing book two for authenticity. What are some of your favorite books and why? Using all of my senses, I want to be taken into another place when I read. I like to learn new and interesting facets in life. I like books to be realistic with tangible and diverse characters. I only hope to have brought that experience to my readers. Some of my favorite novels include the Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson, Northern Lights by Nora Roberts (although not the film-ugh) and the Circle Trilogy by Roberts. What are you working on now? I am polishing book two for a possible February release. This would be my first self-published book. So, I’m not sure precisely how much time the set up would be for that new adventure. I also have another publishing company interested in taking a look at that one…who knows? I am very close to being finished with book three in the Black Creek Trilogy, Dark Vengeance. My readers are graciously hounding me mercilessly to finish. It’s all so humbling, as well as serving as a guest on your lovely blog. Thank you, once more! About R.T. Wolfe: R.T. Wolfe writes romantic suspense stories that manage to touch the hearts of her readers as well as their intellect. She lives in the Midwest and is a loving mother to her boys. She enjoys working in her gardens and spending time training her Golden Retriever and writing in and around each of these.
Black Creek Burning by R.T. Wolfe Brianna Chapman learns to handle just about anything. Witnessing the murder of her parents had that effect. Knowing the unsolved arson had been meant for her is the one thing she can’t handle. Instead of dwelling, she stuffs her guilt soundly into her subconscious through diving into the teaching job she loves by day and the dirt of the landscaping business she owns by night. Her habit of remaining aloof to personal relationships is, well, working. Will her guilt be as easy to keep buried if the killer comes back to finish the job? In the midst of juggling a scorched yard, dead animals on her doorstep and her vandalized car, the one thing she didn’t count on was the staggering Nathan Reed. A nationally renowned woodworking artist, Nathan and his two priceless nephews move into the run-down historical house behind her and over Black Creek. They have a canny way of maneuvering around her aloof demeanor and into her heart. Will they still want to be part of her life when they discover she is haunted by past memories and hunted by present dangers? Buylinks: Amazon Pre-Order buy link: http://amzn.to/Tycagh
My daughter claims to be a trisquirclgon. She does not roll with the punches – any punches. She cannot be neatly pegged into any type of hole. In spite of her denials, she’s very much like her uncle who is admittedly OCPD. Their world is black and white, with no consideration of gray. They have to be in control, and they have to be right. It’s good that I am a circle. I have a few rough spots that catch from time to time, but for the most part, I roll. I am adaptable. I am gray.
Gray is somewhere in between black and white. Being gray means being better able to accept opinions different from your own. Gray is not constant but rather reflects many gradations of the extremes of black and white. Each gradation is no more or less gray - they are just shades of the same.
Romance authors are encouraged to create a brand so readers will know what to expect, but there can be variations within each brand. Romantic suspense might be coupled with paranormal, and contemporary with a mystery. By adding these components, the original brand is enhanced. They are still romantic suspense or contemporary books but with shades of other elements.
Google “writers of America” and you will find several organizations probably familiar to writers. Western Writers of America, Inc. promotes the literature of the American West. The founding authors wrote traditional Western fiction, but the organization grew to include historians and other nonfiction authors, young adult and romance writers, and writers interested in regional history.
SFWA is a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres.
RWA stipulates membership is open to “all persons seriously pursuing a publishing career in the romance genre.”
There are also listings for outdoor, horror, and garden writers; football, golf, track and field, baseball, bowling, dog, and young writers of America. And in all of these organizations, rules have been made to include – and to exclude – certain types of writers. The organizations were designed to help writers of their respective genres. If you write something different, that doesn’t mean you are less a writer - just that your focus is a different genre or area. A different shade.
We all have our own beliefs and opinions, wants and needs, likes and dislikes. Does that make any one of us more right or wrong than any other? No, we are just different. We are individuals. But the best part is there is an audience for every writer because non-writers are also individuals. Not all of us are the same, nor should we be. So reach out and grab your slice of life, go for your dreams, and don’t let being different slow you down. Embrace your uniqueness.
Embrace your shade of gray.