I’ve always been more than just a bit of an odd duck. I was told—though I don’t really recall—that when the “Lassie” theme song would come on, [the theme known as “The Whistler”], I would cry. I couldn’t have been more than four or five at the time.
Then, fast forward pre-teen and teen years, and watching episodes of I Love Lucy. They weren’t first run episodes but reruns, and it wasn’t so much that I wanted to watch them as Mom watched them, and if I wanted to enjoy television, then so did I. I distinctly remember watching this show, everyone laughing at the antics of the zany redhead, and me left feeling...embarrassed.
Seriously, I was embarrassed on behalf of that ditzy woman. Sometimes I would even cover my face with my hands. Yes, that embarrassed, as if those moments were happening to me.
That was probably taking empathy to the extreme, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was just a kid, after all. And that’s just how I was.
And it wasn’t just these television shows, either, where I experienced this sort of a reaction. It happened more times than I could count—music would move me to tears, and comedy programs would make me feel uncomfortable. And horror movies? Or movies where the characters were threatened/tortured/killed? Not happening. As far as I was concerned, those genres didn’t even exist. As an adult I still refuse to watch horror, or movies where the lead characters are killed.
Strangely, that aversion to what I considered stupid comedy stayed with me a long time. I had to become an adult before I lost the tendency to think, “oh my goodness I am just going to slither down in my chair while that actor/actress makes an total ass of themselves.” We’re talking, probably, twenty years ago when I finally broke that habit.
And yet traces of that strange reaction live on, coming awake again in this second career of mine, as I contemplated plots and plot twists for my characters.
In the beginning, I had a real hard time putting my characters in peril—or having them involved in really bad arguments. The romance genre is rife with stories where the heroes and heroines have terrible fights, and then walk away from each other and the love that the reader knows is so right for them.
It doesn’t matter that they then, a chapter or two later, come together again. I could not let my characters have those kinds of fights.
You might be thinking, well, how silly, and yet, in a way, that I would feel this way makes sense.
I’d begun to explore my creative side as an author when I was still a kid—a kid who never quite really dealt with the loss of her father. My reality at the time was so sad, that I turned to writing to create my on world. Of course, that world had to be vastly different from the world I knew. Conflict, in those early stories, was a definite no-no, because in my world nothing bad was allowed to happen.
Sometimes the habits we form as children stay with us beyond our need for them. The first few times we consciously choose to break those old patterns, it’s uncomfortable. But that discomfort is not a sign that what we’re doing by changing our behavior is wrong.
It is merely a sign that we are doing something different and stepping into the unknown.
These days I do have my characters in peril, sometimes hurt, wounded, possibly near death. They can have rip roaring fights but never quite manage that moment of turning away—even to turn back a chapter later.
Oh, and there is one thing you will never find in my books: a stupid heroine. That’s right, I still haven’t broken that habit. And when I’m reading a book, and I encounter one?
Well, let’s just say I don’t quite want to slink down in my seat in total, empathic mortification for the silly woman’s extreme stupidity.
But it’s close.