Last time I posted I was leaving for vacation and now, I’m back! Vacation was awesome. I had a wonderful time, and best of all, I really got away from my worries. That’s what makes a successful vacation for me: If I can spend the time not worrying about my house, my kitchen, my laundry, my car, my bills, my work, my husband’s work, my sons’ schools, and the like, I’m a happy camper. (Literally, in this case)
I’m sure I’m not alone in that I need some time every year to unplug and detach from my day-in-day-out. It’s healing and leaves me invigorated to go back to my regular routine. It’s also good because when I do go back to the real world, I’ve got a little distance, and can evaluate what’s working and what needs to change.
My evaluation this year basically came down to ‘I’ve got to do what I want to do’. Yeah, I know. This is pretty low-level self-awareness stuff, but I’ll take inspiration where I can find it. What I mean specifically (because the devil’s in the details) is I’ve got to stop feeling so bad that I’m not living by someone else’s rules of what a ‘good and successful’ person does, and make up my own rules that work for me.
What has this got to do with writing? Because writing is making stuff up. In our stories, we make up all the rules. We decide what’s normal and what’s not. We decide if our heroine is being truly self-destructive or simply flighty. We draw the boundaries and we can change them, as we will.
I’ve talked before, (and others have as well) about how we writers live in our own heads. It’s obviously necessary to build our stories there. But the really cool thing is that if we want to, we can shake up our ‘imaginary world’ like a snow globe. It’s awesome to be able to take a situation and flip it sideways, and look at it from a completely different way.
For example, it’s a rule that in the beginning of a Pride & Prejudice book, Mr. Darcy is proud and angry towards Elizabeth, and at the end of the book, he’s loving and generous towards her. But what if I wanted to flip that over- he starts out loving and generous towards her, and then becomes angry and proud? What would cause him to behave like that? How would it resolve?
In my head, the thing that would really set Darcy off would be a pregnancy. Especially if Elizabeth had to travel while she was pregnant. That would make him angry at whatever the cause was, (And to be fair, I’d have to be pretty serious- like her mother suddenly dying) and when he’s angry he, like everyone else, falls back into his not best behavior. So, then the pride comes up. After all, anything interfering with a pregnant Elizabeth is also interfering with his Heir! And the heir to Pemberley needs to be. At. Pemberley!
Oh, yeah, he’d be a complete mess and I’m a happy person because I’ve shaken up the rules and have an interesting plot as a result*. Of course, being the writer I am, I’d end things back in a happy place, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy putting my characters through the wringer to get there.
So, what does all this navel gazing mean? Let’s summarize.
1: Vacations are good.
2: Writers are very mean to their characters.
3: Rules sometimes work best when they’re broken.
What is your favorite rule to break? I’m open to suggestions here. Leave them in the comments. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a good transition from Lazy Summer into Industrious Fall. We’re hopping around here and I’m sure things are at your house too!
*I know this is not an original idea, and that it’s possible some of my fellow Austen Authors have done basically that exact plot, but it’s the first time I’ve thought about it.
Heather Lynn Rigaud is the author of Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star. Her next book will be released in late fall 2012.