Monday, January 5, 2009
Writing the Book of Your Heart
The advice given most to aspiring writers is, “Write the book of your heart.”
Logically we know editors and agents want us to write a story we believe in, something we torture ourselves over for countless hours to get just right. On the other hand, we also know there are many famous authors who write one bestseller after another, so what makes the book of your heart any better than the next one? Or the one before it? Why is the book of your heart any better than one you plotted meticulously?
This past year I began to get a feel for the difference.
My latest manuscript, Desperate Homeowners, is a mystery where I managed to finally pull together my plotting and humor. I was having fun with this book and contest judges responded with more excitement than I had ever seen in the past six years. It reminded me of another time in my life when my primary goal was to simply have fun. I was a senior in college and decided to give up the stress of debate and write speeches that would allow me to, “Go out with a bang.” In my After Dinner Speech, I made fun of my college dating life, which was rather comical. I also gave a Persuasive Speech on circumcisions for the shock value alone – the priest who judged me was definitely shocked. (Okay. Most of you know I could never give that speech today without turning twelve shades of red.) In a final round, the grad student I once went out to lunch with laughed through the entire speech. I ended up laughing, too, but all three judges still gave me first place. What I discovered that year, was by having a great time and not caring about the outcome, my joy became contagious. People responded favorably and I won numerous trophies. An unusual topic helped, too.
This lesson hit home again when I watched the movie, Mama Mia. I had entered the theater not feeling quite myself, but when I left a few hours later, I was blissfully happy. In fact, I dragged several friends to see it. Joy was contagious again. Each friend told me about a character they could relate to. That got me thinking. I had seen feel-good movies before, but none of them had affected me quite like this one. Then, I remembered seeing an interview with Meryl Streep where she said their goal in making this film was to have a good time and that is what they did.
These examples are mostly about comedy because that is my focus right now and to tell you the truth, I’m not in the mood to search my brain for gut-wrenching examples of life-changing drama. I’m sure you can come up with those without my help.
When you write the book of your heart, the topic is usually something to which many people can relate. Also, your passion leaps off the page. It’s as if the story encapsulates your energy, your feelings, and releases it to the reader (or observer if it’s a movie). Don’t ask me how it’s possible. My logical, grounded, left-brain is always in conflict with my creative right brain, which is open to all possibilities. I just know it’s true. Perhaps it’s the turn of the phrase you select when in that frame of mind, or the depth to which you give your characters life, or the music you choose if it’s a movie/play. Whatever the reason, the end result is magical. It moves people.
Posted by Tina Swayzee McCright at 9:24 PM