I’ve been enamored with it all my life. When I was a kid, I loved television so much that my parents felt compelled to limit me to one hour a day. So what did I do? I started a diary, figuring out in advance what show I would watch. I asked for and received my first magazine subscription at age twelve– TV Guide.
But television wasn’t my only escape into the imagination—I also loved books.
Every Friday, my mother would take my brother and me to the library. I would select a large stack of books and she would check them out on her library card. Being the independent sort, I was incensed that I didn’t have my own card and I said as much to the librarian. She kindly informed me that in order to get my own library card, I had to be able to write my own name.
The next week, I returned and scrawled my name for her.
I was four.
Six years later, I’d worked my way through every kid’s book in our local library. That’s when our librarian took me by the hand and led me to the adult section. She pointed me toward the mysteries and I never looked back again. I started with Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Ellery Queen and branched out from there as my age and tastes grew.
But I also kept watching television. And loving it. So essentially, I spent most of my formative years lost in stories—stories in print and stories on the small screen. Is it any wonder that I’m a writer now?
My process has been colored by my reading and watching preferences. When I write, I plot in beats and with the sort of arcs found on the small and large screen. I “cast” every character and keep 5×7 photos on the wall next to me for the current project, complete with character names. The beauty of “fantasy casting” is the ability to select any actor at any point in his or her career. I can cast my bad guy with Nehemiah Persoff (in his 50s) and my protagonist with Carolyn McCormick, circa 1987. Who are these people? Internet Movie Database to the rescue. Being a lover of television helps in this process because as a child, my goal was to be able put a face to every name for any actor. (Back in the day, TV Guides include the guest actors for most programs. I’m showing my age, eh?) BTW, Persoff was the go-to-guy for amorphous European bad guys in the 70s and McCormick played the character of “Minuet” In two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Once I’ve cast my characters, I block their movements as well as the action scenes in my head. A chapter ending is like the scene leading into a commercial. I want to make sure I keep the reader interested to the next page. The big payoff or resolution at the end should leave the reader with a sense of triumph, validation, justification or satisfaction, depending of the type of plot.
The beauty of this publishing business is that we all tend to work, to create, using our own methods. We all have different processes. Some writers are plotters—with every scene worked out in advance, and some are pantsers—those who just let the plot and characters grow “organically” as they write. There are those writers whose first drafts are all narrative and they add dialogue later. There are those whose first drafts are mostly dialogue and they go back and add the narrative. I know one writer who doesn’t see the action or hear her characters talking. She takes her inspiration from music lyrics, something from which I get no inspiration at all. I can’t fathom the process, but I know that the end result is some of the most moving, provocative (and image-inspiring) prose I’ve ever read.
So my message is—we all get inspiration from different sources. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. When people sniff in indigence, saying “I don’t watch television,” I wonder why they feel compelled to confess this. Then there are the people who brush aside books and say “I don’t have time to read.”
I can’t imagine a world without books, without television/videos, without movies. I can’t imagine living in a world without a temporary escape valve like that. And I’m pleased to be one of the people who endeavors to create escape valves for others.
Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Laura Hayden began her reading career at the age of four. By the time she was ten, she’d exhausted the library’s children’s section and switched to adult mysteries. Laura always wrote as a youth, but became sidetracked in college where differential equations were more important than dangling participles. But one ‘Bama engineering degree, a wedding, two kids and three military assignments later, she ended up in Colorado Springs, Colorado where she wrote her first manuscript and sold it. She has since published twelve novels, four short stories and one non-fiction book, writing for St. Martins, Berkley, Zebra, Harlequin, Tyndale and other publishers. Her most recent book is ANGEL (Tor/Forge), a paranormal mystery written with Hollywood celebrity, Nicole “Coco” Marrow.
In addition, Laura is a seven-time conference director of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and a nine-time writer/director/producer of the RITA/GH Awards (Romance Writers of America.) As the wife of a now retired career military officer, Laura survived ten cross country moves,and now lives in Montgomery, Alabama where, besides writing, she owns Author, Author! Bookstore. Member: MWA, RWA, SinC, Pikes Peak Writers
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at email@example.com.)