My hubby was watching a nature show this morning when I dragged myself out of bed and wiped the crud out of my eyes. His first words to me each morning is “hello, beautiful.” Those words kind of turn me from a cranky day to a smiley day. And yes, I can be very cranky even when I get the warm fuzzies.
The photographer that was taking camera shots of these huge brown bears, got pretty close to them. He had shots of a mother and cub, feeding and bumping each other. He had other shots of a female bear grooming herself and by dang she looked like she was a model posing for his camera.
I know the stories of bears. I was born where black, brown, grizzly roam and feed. I know the scary side of them. So I thought the photographer was foolish to be so close to these huge animals (and they were magnificent) without protection of any kind. Yes, I am sure they love their children– we learn every day that mammals (and maybe even birds) have the brain capacity to do things that are equal to man’s capacity. Still, I would respect a bear’s boundaries.
So what does brown bears have to do with writing? When I was writing poetry for publication (yes, I have quite a few credits) I learned quickly that writing poetry was so emotional sometimes that if felt like being clawed by a bear. I would do it over and over. It was like self-flagellation– and not always uplifting.
I suppose in those days, I was still trying to understand and to come to terms with my childhood. I am not saying that I had the worst childhood. There were good times. But there were things that happened that taught me not to trust. At the time I was writing a lot of poetry, I trusted that I would write the words that would touch someone else. I did touch a few people. But the audience was really small. It was a shock (I was getting my English Lit degree at the time) when I finally realized that most people liked to write poetry, but they didn’t like to read poetry. At that point I decided that I wanted to write fiction.
Fiction writing turned out to be my brown bear. I first studied the elements. I was good at one element or another, but I just didn’t know how to put it together. Then I started to understand character-driven. It turns out that I have to have a character before I can write a story. Since then I have written many short stories and I still am surprised when I finish one. I think I spent too much time writing flash fiction though. (Novels are much harder for me… they take a lot more energy and effort).
So now I am writing short novels, novellas, and short stories. After all this time almost fifteen years now, through school and then through a scary disease, I am finally seeing what I was missing– seeing the story through the eyes of my character. I become subsumed in the story and then the character is not mine anymore, but their own person who is trying to find their own way in a confusing world.
Sometimes I wonder if I am a character in someone else’s story.