We packed a picnic lunch and went out to Crystal Lake today. It was a perfect summer day. We watched the dragonflies dance on the rocks skirting the edge of the water while we sat beneath our favorite river birch and talked about our fall wedding plans. I can’t believe the date is getting so close. To think underneath that tree was the spot where we shared our first kiss eight years ago. Even at fifteen, through all the acne and those horrible metal braces, I knew he was my one. What I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty he would grow into. He hates it when I call him beautiful, but he is. Those shimmering blue eyes…when they look at me beneath that blonde hair, it just takes my breath away. We brought brie, chilled champagne and stopped by Haggerty’s Stand to get some fresh, juicy, peaches. As we ate, I became fixated on a small bead of peach juice that slid down his chin and then disappeared underneath the collar of his polo. I couldn’t help thinking of the muscles hidden under the tight white knit where that sweet juice would pool. He had to ask me twice for a napkin before I snapped out of my wicked thoughts. I was wonton, shameless. I took his hand and told him not to worry, I had a better idea for taking care of it, and I led him into the woods…
The foregoing could be an entry from my diary or, a rough draft of a scene out of my upcoming book. With a writer, it’s sometimes hard to differentiate where true life ends and the imagination begins when you hear them tell a story.
It used to be most teens, especially girls, kept a diary. It was the one place they could share their thoughts without ridicule or judgment, and when they were done, secure their secrets by a keyed lock. For their eyes only; hidden where no one, hopefully, would find it. Then later, as we got older, the diaries became journals.
Regardless of how many secrets were written down, though, there were always a few kept outside of a diary or journal. Too precious and heartfelt were they to entrust in the real world. So where then could they go?
For a writer, in our characters. They get to live out the diary of those thoughts, fantasies, and what-ifs within the pages we create.
What an author writes, it doesn’t matter what genre you’re speaking of, the heart of the lead characters are born from the heartbeat and soul of the writer. To mention just a few examples: James Lee Burke, both in his interviews and from a great friend who has personally met him, like his main character, he’s one of those good-to-the-core people; Harlan Coben, the same in interviews I’ve read of him – he possesses a great sense of humor and curiosity; Nora Roberts – a romantic in her prose and life. The writers I know personally, each of their lead characters’ core mirrors in most respects, their creators.
We infuse so much of ourselves into our characters, no wonder we fall in love with them. No matter what my characters feel that day, whether good or bad, it will bleed into me. They live out our dreams, defeat our fears, and ALWAYS get the last word in. One of the favorite sayings of a writer is: “Don’t do me wrong because I might put you in my next book and get even.” I wonder how many writers in developing the “bad guy” do follow through with that sentiment and develop a character where they receive closure from a true-life event. Writing a book, or even a blog, like writing in a diary, is cathartic to the writer’s soul.
I’m sure every artist, whether a painter, sculptor, designer, or even crafter; they share their heart through their creativity, whatever medium that may be. But for writers, we have the best outlet of all – our characters are our Dear Diary, our sounding board and vessel of our secrets.