The month of May has seen our “Writer’s Notes” topic “It Takes a Village.” All authors have different villages who help them on their publishing journey. Last Friday, Marilyn Meredith shared her version and today, Amy Bennett, author of the Black Horse Campground Mysteries published by Oak Tree Press has some equally interesting thoughts.
By Amy Bennett
The myth of the solitary writer is a romantic ideal cultivated by introverts who want to be heard, but don’t want to get out of their pajamas and talk to people. However, solitude—while great for actually putting words on paper—does little to help a writer create stories and characters.
Fiction generally revolves around one or two main characters and the secondary characters who populate their world. In order for a writer to make those interactions come alive on the page, they have to be realistic. And the best way to achieve this realism is to draw from interactions with actual people.
Despite the attraction of the mythical life of a “solitary writer”, most writers have to live in the “real” world in order to make ends meet. Therefore, the opportunities to interact with other people in real life settings is part of the everyday life of a writer. It’s necessary for a writer to inject an element of truth into their fiction in order to engage the readers. Writers use actual people they know, places in which they live and work, and events that really happened to create their stories, although it’s essential to tweak the details in order to avoid problems and maintain friendships. Trust me; the fact that I have worked full-time at Walmart as a cake decorator for nineteen years has little to do with the fact that I write murder mysteries!
A writer has to create characters that affect readers in ways that are both good and bad. We’ve all met people that evoke strong feelings, even if the meeting was merely a customer service interaction (believe me, that’s a great way to find murder victims… and villains! On both sides of the counter!) Those feelings are used to create compelling characters. Conversations we have with various people—those we like, those we loathe, those with whom we enjoy interacting, and those we avoid like discounted sushi—teach us how to write dialogue that rings true.
I set my series in a small, New Mexico town because that’s what I knew best and it was a setting I felt was sadly underused in fiction. But I had to introduce readers who knew little about it and make them feel at home. What do the characters see, hear, smell, and taste as they move through the book’s landscape? That’s what helps a reader to disengage from their everyday life and live in the story. It’s no surprise that a pleasant experience at a KOA Kampground several years ago is what sparked the creation of my Black Horse Campground mystery series. Would I have been able to create it, the characters, and the story by simply staying at home and never actually seeing what it was like to be in the campground, to talk to the owners and find out why they loved what they did for a living? Maybe. But to miss out on all the fun of discovery?
Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, End of the Road, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009. It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by No Lifeguard on Duty, No Vacancy, and At the Cross Road. A Summer to Remember is the fifth book in the series.
When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!) She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso. Visit her website at http://www.amymbennettbooks.com
and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com
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