by Cathy Liggett
This morning when I received a reminder about my scheduled date to blog, I initially thought about asking to postpone. My 90-year-old dad passed away last week and my mind has been as unfocused as a garden hose gone haywire, spraying out in all directions.
But then I started thinking (and please forgive me ahead of time for being so self-indulgent), was there anything about Dad that could relate to writing? Before I knew it, all sorts of things came to mind, making me remember him and smile.
First, Dad always used to tell me that I gave away too much information when I tried to explain myself. Which in as few as words as possible, I’d just like to say that his observation is one more reminder that I need to sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle in backstory and not deluge the reader from the get-go.
Dad always said, too, that the way to make friends was to ask lots of questions. And he was great at it. People truly loved him wherever he went. I’m sure it was because they felt like they really knew him. So, yes, if I’m to get to know my characters and know them well, then I need to ask questions – lots of them.
And my characters need to be dimensional if they’re going to be memorable. My dad, as a longtime friend said, was one hundred percent Italian, movie-star handsome. Yet, she also recalls how kind and gentle he was, running all the neighborhood kids up the street for ice cream cones. He was a devoted husband, WWII paratrooper, floral designer, industrial engineer, father, grandfather, great-granddad, helpful neighbor and more. So honestly, how could I ever forget to make my fictional heroes as multi-faceted as my real life one?
I also don’t remember my dad raising his voice at us. He just gave you a look – mostly one of disappointment – making you wish he’d deafened you with yelling instead. Even here, I can see how effective his example was. How much stronger would my writing be with more carefully selected, visual verbs and dialogue that’s truly meaningful?
And when I need to write, rewrite and rewrite again, maybe it won’t be as painful now, thinking about how Dad always said there was never a mistake I could make that couldn’t be corrected.
From now on out, too, when I’m writing romance, I’d like to think I’ll stop to think about the 71-year marriage my parents shared. A story so uniquely theirs, unlike any other. It wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t cliché. It was simply love that was true to them and who they were, and where they came from – something I should strive to bring to readers in my storytelling.
Of course, I realize that none of the tips that may be gleaned here are anything that we haven’t heard before. But now that I’ve put a name to them – his name – maybe I’ll recall them more easily when I need to.
Thank you, friends, for allowing me to share these thoughts about writing and my sweet dad – an incredible, indelible character in the story of my life. May he rest in the arms of Jesus for all eternity!
Cathy Liggett is looking forward to the release of A Wedding Homerun in Loveland, Ohio, set in her very own hometown, coming in August from Barbour Books. Her women’s fiction book Beaded Hope was also a Carol Award Winner in 2011.