When I asked Karen Harrington if she would be a guest on my blog, I had not yet read her book (it was still on my wish list). Reviews of her book kept popping up all over the blogosphere, and she appeared on a couple of blogs as a guest. I found her posts charming and witty. As a result, I worked up the courage to ask her if she would make a guest appearance on my blog. Not only did she say yes, but she did so enthusiastically. I used this as an excuse to bump her book from my wish list to my TBR pile, and I am so glad I did. My review of Janeology will be posted tomorrow.
Please welcome Karen Harrington!
Please welcome Karen Harrington!
Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel
“Do you have sticky-notes all over your desk?”
As a novelist, this is probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get. People assume that I am taking notes on people and dialogue that might go into a future story.
They are right to assume this.
Each one of us has a reference point on life, created largely by where we live. I grew up in a Quaker oatmeal fed, two pair of shoes per year, pink-sponge rollers in the hair at night middle-class household where my single, non-college educated father inexplicably raised three children on a 35k per year salary. After my husband and I graduated from college, we got great jobs in a city where most people are annoyed by higher gas prices, but have yet to stop ordering four dollar lattes that sound like five drinks in one and where we’ve found solidarity with the handful of neighbors who….gasp….mow their OWN lawns.
Gives a gal some perspective, huh?
This perspective is where I reach for character material that sounds authentic. I needed this to write my novel JANEOLOGY - a family saga, spanning four generations and two continents, linking more than 10 significant characters. Yikes! How to make each of the characters sound unique and genuine? This was a challenge, I can tell you.
But I have found that what people say, to whom they say it, and WHERE they say it reveals a lot about a person’s nature. And those quick slices of dialogue almost always give me a launch point into a character’s head.
In just the last two weeks, I’ve collected the following:
Someone let the dog out (literally) a child’s birthday party. Some moments later, the canine liberator was discovered – the mother-in-law. In a quiet corner the hostess/daughter-in-law made her displeasure known. The MIL replied in her best, sunny, newscaster voice,
“Well, still the same, dear, mother in laws don’t like to be yelled at.”
This exchange is a perfect set-up for a dysfunctional holiday story that smells of Everybody Loves Raymond.
At a café, I overheard two women talk men.
“The guy is perfect for me and we are alike in so many ways. No, he’s not a reader, but he ASKS ME what I’m reading, so, you know, it’s wonderful.”
Right away, you get a sense of her age, don’t you? Who knows – maybe Book-Inquiry-Man is Mr. Right. But his action and her response to it tell us so much about her current worldview…and what might be to come if she’s married to him for 20 years.
While checking into a Houston hotel last month, I heard another patron say to someone else,
“Well, if I don’t know where the house is, I always call a cab and follow him there in my car so I’m not late.”
She strikes me as someone’s favorite, eclectic aunt. The one who always brings the fruitcake.
Here are a few others. I wonder if you can guess their ages and sexes just from these slices.
“I need to brush my teeth. Feels like they’re wearing sweaters”
“Yes, I deflowered this woman at the age of sixteen.”
“You gotta peel that garlic like you’re mad at somebody!”
“We ate in a cafeteria. It’s sort of like a restaurant.”
You get the idea.
Heard any good comments lately? Please, PLEASE send them to me anytime. Because they might just end up in a novel.
Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY, a psychological thriller about the nature and nurture of one woman. Visit her at www.karenharringtonbooks.com Visit her blog at www.scobberlotch.blogspot.com Send her comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.