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I recently interviewed a writer who told me in no uncertain terms that she was not a pantser. I asked, “What is that?”
She explained that a pantser was a writer who wrote by the seat of his/her pants. Personally I don’t like that definition. I tend to think of myself as an evolutionary writer. My characters and my scenes evolve. When I start a story, I have a protagonist in mind. That person becomes my main character. I have a vague notion of who some supporting characters might be, but many pop up as the story progresses.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Let me take you back in time in the early days of The Clock Strikes Midnight. I began the novel with Marlene in mind. It was supposed to be a story about a woman going through a mid-life crisis. Marlene, however, had other ideas. She took me down an entirely different path. Wow! It was amazing.
As I worked with Marlene, other characters emerged. The first being her husband, Peter. But, it wasn't long before Peter took a backseat and Marlene's sister, Janie, surfaced. I had no idea that Janie would turn out to be a bad little teen. She was the polar opposite to Marlene. Where Marlene was the good little girl growing up, Janie rebelled. The contrast was fun to write, but again not what I had planned. It didn't take me long to realize I couldn't plan. My characters had their own ideas.
This kind of evolutionary writing makes for an editing nightmare. It is, however, the only way I know how to write. I have heard other writers who have had similar experiences. Yet, there are also writers who know their characters and their story before they start. For me, the process of writing, of creating enables me to let loose and allow the characters to emerge.
Okay, I confess, I must be a pantser.
If you found out you had only 3 months to live, what would you do? That’s the question Janie Knox faces in this fast-paced mystery full of uncertainty and tension that will surprise you until the very last page.
Hiding behind the façade of a normal life, Janie keeps her family secrets tucked inside a broken heart. Everything changes on the day she learns she’s going to die. With the clock ticking and her time running out, she rushes to finish what she couldn’t do when she was 17—destroy her mother’s killer. But she can’t do it alone.
Janie returns to her childhood home to elicit help from her sister. She faces more than she bargained for when she discovers her sister’s life in shambles. Meanwhile her mother’s convicted killer, her stepfather, recently released from prison, blackmails the sisters and plots to extract millions from the state in retribution. New revelations challenge Janie’s resolve, but she refuses to allow either time or her enemies to her stop her from uncovering the truth she’s held captive for over 20 years.
Enjoy an excerpt:
“Daddy, when I get my kitty, can I name him Davy?” she had asked, yanking Marlene’s Davy Crockett mug full of M&M’s from her grasp.
The colorful candy spilled all over the backseat of the car.
“Mama, tell Janie to—”
“Janie, behave,” Daddy said, admonishing her for an instant with his eyes from the rearview mirror.
“Malcolm, look out—!” Mom screamed.
Janie slammed into Marlene. Pain. The world tumbled topsy-turvy. The mug flew across the interior of the car, colors of the rainbow falling all around her.
Then, everything went black.
When she opened her eyes, Mom’s blood-streaked face rose in front of her out of the darkness.
“Wrap your arms around my neck, honey.” Mom lifted her from the wreckage.
Janie clutched her doll by the dress while the rain beat her curly hair flat.
Marlene stood on the side of the road.
“Try to walk,” Mom said, toppling her from her arms.
Her head pounded and blood trickled down her leg. She leaned on her good leg and limped in the direction of her sister.
“Mama, where’s Daddy?” Marlene asked between sobs.
Mom took Marlene’s hand and yanked her forward with Janie in tow.
Marlene lurched back toward the smashed Oldsmobile with smoke billowing from its hood and a big tree lying across the roof. The Davy Crockett mug lay shattered by the back tire.
“Daddy! We can’t leave Daddy!” Marlene yelled, picking up pieces of the broken glass.
They had left Daddy that day and piled into an old Chevy pick-up truck with a bashed in headlamp, belonging to a man with carrot-red hair. Mom pushed them inside the truck and ordered the man to get help. But by then it was too late for Daddy.
It was too late for all of them.
About the Author:
• Butterflies in a Strawberry Jar, Sea Oats Review, Winter, 2004
• A Memoir Of A Friend, Chicken Soup for the Working Woman’s Soul, 2003 and Flint River Review, 1996
• Jacque’s Story in From Eulogy to Joy, 2002
• The Roommate, Whispering Willow Mystery Magazine, April 1997
• A Special Sort of Stubbornness, Reader’s Digest, March 1997
• My Father’s Final Gift, Reader Digest, November 1994
Her first place writing awards include : Best mystery manuscript in the Malice Domestic Grants competition, best proposal for a nonfiction piece in the Harriette Austin competition, and best story, Butterflies in a Strawberry Jar in the Cassell Network of Freelance Writer’s Association.
Hire Smart and Keep ‘Em: How to Interview Strategically Using POINT, Praeger Press, an imprint of ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, CA 2012.
The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media, Praeger Press, 2010, an imprint of ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, CA
Managing Sticky Situations at Work: Communication Secrets for Success in the Workplace, 2009, Praeger Press, an imprint of ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, CA.
Strategic Interviewing: Skills for Savvy Executives, 2000 published by Quorum Books, Greenwood Press.
“I write about characters who remind me of myself at times and my sister at times, but never fully so. My stories are told from a woman’s point of view. Characters drive my writing and my reading.”
Having grown up in the South with a mother from Westchester County New York, Joan has a unique take on blending the southern traditions with the eye of a northerner. She spent most of her childhood in North Carolina and now resides in Georgia.
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