Sunday, July 20, 2008

Welcome Guest Blogger - Jane Kirkpatrick

Jane Kirkpatrick is a writer, speaker, teacher and mental health professional. Her award-winning essays, articles, and humor have appeared in over fifty publications such as Decision, Country and Daily Guideposts. She has written 14 books (count 'em! 14!) and is a very nice woman.

I decided the best way for you to have a peek at Jane's books is to visit her website and browse around. If I listed all of her books it would take up the entire blog! What a joy it is to welcome her to Fiction Matters. She is going to speak to us about Passion in Writing. How to show your passion, and how planning and well thought out ideas are the key to expressing passionate stories.

Here is a sample of Jane's latest book release:

"From the Change and Cherish Historical Series ...
“Of all the things I left in Willapa, hope is what I missed the most.” So begins this story of one woman’s restoration from personal grief to the meaning of community. Based on the life of German-American Emma Wagner Giesy, the only woman sent to the Oregon Territory in the 1850s to help found a communal society, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick shows how landscape, relationships, spirituality and artistry poignantly reflect a woman’s desire to weave a unique and meaningful legacy from the threads of an ordinary life. While set in the historical past, it’s a story for our own time answering the question: Can threads of an isolated life weave a legacy of purpose in community?"

Passion in writing – Jane Kirkpatrick author of A Tendering in the Storm a Christy Finalist.

Some time ago, I had a character living in 1852 who had been a photographer. I wanted the book to be about clarity, about doing what one thought was right even when others around us might be challenging our passion. I wanted to use the word focus as we use it today meaning clarity. But I wasn’t sure it was used in photography in the 1850s. Turns out, focus is a very old word from the first century. But it doesn’t mean clarity. Rather it means hearth as in the center of the home.

For me, passion flames out of that word “hearth.” In first century homes, people exchanged information at the hearth, they were fed there, they made their connections at that gathering place. Because there was no central heating, it was also where the fire was. The farther one moved away from the hearth, the colder one became. As a writer, that word became a metaphor for passion, where the fire is, and how we go about keeping it in our stories, never straying too far from those flames or we become cold and so will our readers.

To focus that passion, I’ve begun each of my 14 novels with “work before the work” as I call it. In a book called Structuring the Novel, writers Meredith and Fitzgerald invite a would-be author to answer three questions before they begin. First, what is your intention in writing this novel (the elevator question). Second, what is your attitude, what do you feel deeply about in this story? Finally, what is your purpose for writing this book, how do you hope a reader will be changed by reading this work and use words like “I’m going to prove that….” So you can convince a reader of your purpose.

Before I begin, I may spend many pages answering each question; then I synthesize each to a single sentence that I paste at the top of my computer. It doesn’t mean that once I start writing that those answers might change; I expect them to.

Then, before I revise a manuscript, I ask myself those same questions again to see how the story has changed since I began to write it and how it has changed me. National Book Award winning writer Ivan Doig says he likes revisions best because that’s when he finds out what the story is all about. Me too.

Most of all, I use those three sentences and the work before the work to help me when I’m writing and I get into the muddle in the middle and I’m lost, wishing I’d never begun this novel it seems so foolish or inept. But then I remember where the fire came from, that passion that made me want to spend hours in a room alone living in the heads and hearts of characters hoping to bring them to life. I re-read what I care deeply about and what I hope a reader will take away and that helps me regain that passion.

A friend of mine, Dori McGraw, a writer, screenwriter, actress, says she gains her passion from the characters themselves. “ My idea of passion is when the characters, both protagonist and antagonist are so focused on what they want that it drives the story. To me that desire, or passion, is what keeps me interested regardless of whether they achieve their goals or not. If the antagonist is nature there is still its relentless movement toward what it always is and has done. The protagonist still has their desire to achieve their goal.”

I also think that passion is portrayed through the specificity of word choice. My thesaurus and synonym-finder are the two most used books in my craft closet. Language that is rich, that touches our five senses, at least one on every single page, gives movement to our stories. Strong verbs are what provide description and movement and fiction is all about movement. I may not worry about this in the first draft but in revision, strong, specific words will bring the passion front and center.

Ron Benery in his book Idiot’s Guide to Writing Christian Fiction calls certain paragraphs “magical” by creating a fictional dream using “Signal – which head to enter;’ Twang – a sense or start a thought process; Show – what the character experienced; and Start the character thinking.” I think that writing such paragraphs brings passion to our work.

So passion is a blend of craft (the work before the work, language choice, magical paragraphs, character desires) and being clear about what matters as we write and having the courage to write the words that warm the hearth of our hearts.

Okay, faithful blog readers, its time to share your passion! Do you have a warm up routine that works for you? What subjects, ideas, or concepts are you passionate about? How do you take the raw passion and make it wieldy, readable, and interesting?
Does passionate writing mean better writing?
Lets hear your stories!

I bid you good writing.

1 comment:

Serendipity said...

Well, I think it's a passion....everytime I get ready to write, I always do my quiet time first ... but I try to push it to about an hour and a half or two hours before I begin. And of course I listen to worship music. Then I put on funky jazz to do my writing...