Contemporary romance author Christy McKee writes about life and love for today's women.
Monday, August 5, 2013
A Life Less Ordinary by Victoria Bernadine
Bernadine (a pseudonym) is, as the saying goes, a “woman of a certain age”.
After twenty-something years of writer’s block, she began writing again in
2008. She began with fanfiction about a (now-cancelled) TV show called Jericho
and particularly about the characters of Heather Lisinski and Edward Beck. From
there, she expanded into writing original fic and she hasn’t stopped since.
reading all genres and particularly loves writing romantic comedy and
post-apocalyptic science fiction. What those two have in common is anybody’s
Are you a plot driven writer or a character driven writer?Please explain how your “method” pertains to the book you’re discussing today.
First of all, thank you for hosting me today.
This is a very interesting question; in my case, it’s not
necessarily a one-or-the-other kind of answer.If I have to choose, though, I’d say I’m a character-driven writer.I seldom have a detailed plot in mind at all
when I begin to write, although I do usually have a very broad “what if”
For example, in the case of A Life Less Ordinary, I
had a general plot:a 45-year-old woman
throws her life in the air and leaves on a six-month road trip.The story itself, however, didn’t actually
begin to take shape until I could define the characters (which were derived
from a “cast list”, suggested by a friend on LiveJournal as a creativity
In terms of my writing style, I don’t plan a story, and I
don’t write sequentially.Instead, I
think about the characters, who they are, what they want and why they are the
way they are, and these elements fit within the starting “what-if”
scenario.These thoughts tend to create
scenes between characters, and those scenes inspire other scenes and so on, and
so on.As the story progresses, I make
“plot notes”, which are usually conversations (sometimes arguments) with myself
about plot points and how/why they would happen, as well as character
motivations, thoughts or relationships.These notes are a jumble and, I have to confess, I seldom look at them
again after I write them down because the simple act of writing them helps me
remember them...or helps me decide the idea is too awful to ever see the light
I’m making the process sound far more conscious than what it
really is.I don’t really think about
whether I’m being driven by plot or character as I work.I just write.I write snippets of conversations, scenes
that come into my head, descriptions or a sentence or two – whatever comes into
my head at any moment.If I write enough
of these things, couched in the context of a broad “what if” idea (“what
if...this woman had a mid-life crisis and went on a road trip?”; “what
if...aliens invaded earth and the only weapon we have against them are our
ghosts?”), I sometimes end up with a story that’s good enough to share with
It’s chaotic and confusing and energizing, and I love the
entire process to bits...
...of course, when it comes time to actually create something
understandable out of everything, it can be a bit of a pain, especially
when some of the scenes/dialogue I love the most have to end up on the cutting
room floor because they don’t serve the final story.A Life Less Ordinary was particularly
difficult because it was such a long (for me) story with several different
storylines, each with their own timeline, and characters who sometimes wanted
to do things I didn’t want them to do (*frowns furiously at the characters*).
Anyway, I just have to say I love the whole process, and I
hope people enjoy and are entertained by the results!
the last fifteen years, Rose “Manny” Mankowski has been a very good girl.Now, at the age of 45, she’s questioning her
choices and feeling more and more disconnected from her own life.When she’s passed over for promotion and her
much younger new boss implies Manny’s life will never change, something
snaps.In the blink of an eye, she’s
quit her job, sold her house, cashed in her pension, and she’s leaving town on
a six month road trip.
placing an ad for a travelling companion, she’s joined in her mid-life crisis
by Zeke Powell, the cynical, satirical, most read – and most controversial –
blogger for the e-zine, What Women Want.Zeke’s true goal is to expose Manny’s journey as a pitiful and desperate
attempt to reclaim her lost youth – and increase his readership at the same
armed with a bagful of destinations, a fistful of maps, and an out-spoken
imaginary friend named Harvey, Manny’s on a quest to rediscover herself – and taking
Zeke along for the ride.
Now for a Taste...
Manny walked in her door,
looking tired and feeling worn out. She wondered ruefully why the only thing
not on a schedule was the time she could leave the office. She dropped her
purse on the table and hung up her coat and keys. With a tired sigh, she walked
into the living room and plopped into the armchair. She closed her eyes as
Harvey walked out of the kitchen with a glass of white wine and began to rub
her shoulders. He again looked impossibly handsome, this time wearing a sweater
and jeans. She sighed in imagined bliss, and looked at him with sad eyes.
You have no idea how
much I wish you were real.
In a blink, he was
gone–and the phone was ringing. For a split second, Manny considered not
There’s your chance to
talk to a real person, Harvey
Probably Rebecca. Or
Daisy. They’ll worry if you don’t answer.
All right, all
Manny heaved herself to
her feet and walked to the phone.
Maybe I’m glad
you’re imaginary after all.
She caught a glimpse of
his grin as she answered the phone.
It was Rebecca, asking her
to go out the next night.
“I don’t know...” Manny
“Oh, come on–you’ll have
fun! And seriously–you haven’t gone out with us in months!”
“I’ve been tired...”
“You’ve been tired your
whole life I think. You need to break out of this rut you’re in! Come out for a
few drinks and dancing with me and Daisy. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet a
good-looking guy and be swept off your feet into a red-hot love affair.”
Sounds like a plan to
Yeah, ’cause that’ll
“I’d love to go dancing,”
Manny said to Rebecca, “but the guy is just a figment of your imagination.”
“Only because you don’t
put any effort into it. Seriously, it’s not healthy to do nothing but work and
go home. That’s how people go crazy you know.”
“Huh. You mean next thing
you know I’ll be talking to my imaginary friend?”
Harvey grinned wickedly and
Manny abruptly turned her back to him.