Happy Groundhog Day!

Groundhog_Day_(movie_poster)Couldn’t let the day pass without at least a mention of the movie. As I write this, I don’t know if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow. And I for sure don’t know if we have more or less winter on the way, but I do know that the underlying story of Groundhog Day (the movie) is passion. As luck would have it, passion is Mysteristas’ theme for the month. Bill Murray is blah, bland, and resentful that he’s stuck in PA covering a nothing story. Covering a nothing story. Covering a nothing story. Covering a…. Until he discovers what he is doing has importance, that it allows him to make a difference to the people around him, and once he becomes passionate about what he is doing, he sets himself free to follow his dreams and the spell is broken.

Dreams and passion, the stuff of mysteries and romances. The stuff of writers. Most writers discover their passion for the written word at a young age. Then, instead of respecting it, they bury it under the guise of reasonableness and the very real need to make a living. But here’s the thing about passion. You can’t hide from it. It’s always there, poking and prodding. Running over and over in some dark corner of your brain like…well like February 2nd in Groundhog Day. Finally, in desperation to free yourself from the tyranny of needing something more—and to shut that endless loop of a whisper up–you give in, and follow your passion. It’s still not an easy path, but it becomes something as necessary to you as breathing.passion or not at all (1)

Finding your passion is only half the battle. If you’re a writer…wait until your character finds his passion. When that happens, it’s look out howdy time. This person that you created and molded into exactly who and what you wanted suddenly turns on you. They’re in charge, and worse, they know it. The character dictates the story in your ear, and you had better listen. The shift in power takes some getting used to, and about fifty or so pages that you will eventually rip up and toss out in desperation. When, you wonder, did you lose control? How did this happen? Are you even sane? Then you read the words, and the scenes jump off the page. Your story is alive. There’s richness and depth. An honesty that only passion can bring to the page. When passion marries passion, the result is explosive.

What about you writers, are your characters collaborators? Readers, can you tell when a story’s characters come to life? Does it make a difference? Can you feel the passion on the page?

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Author: kaitcarson

I write mysteries set in South Florida. The Hayden Kent series is set in the Florida Keys. Hayden is a SCUBA diving paralegal who keeps finding bodies. Underwater, no one can hear you scream! Catherine Swope is a Miami Realtor with a penchant for finding bodies in the darndest places. I live in an airpark in Fort Denaud, FL with my husband, six cats and three birds. And oh yes, a Piper Cherokee 6 in the hangar!

15 thoughts on “Happy Groundhog Day!”

  1. I’ve talked before about how my characters take over. I always say I start a story thinking I know “whodunnit,” but I’ve yet to finish a story where the character hasn’t shown me I was wrong. And I find it’s usually a better story when I let the characters set their own path (within reason). I argued with a character about his eye color once – for almost a day. Yeah, he won that argument, too.

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  2. I’m an outliner so I always know the situation and the bad guy before I sit down to write. But I’m not so strict that my story doesn’t surprise me sometimes. When I’m in The Zone, that’s when I know my characters have taken over and the writing flows faster than I can keep up. I’ve never thought of it before as passion, but I think you’re absolutely right, Kait!

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  3. Happy Groundhog Day, Kait! With writing, the story usually doesn’t click for me until I’ve identified what the MC cares most about, what drives them and, in part, defines their unique voice. I.e., passion!

    As for reading…ever since I delved into novel writing, I’ve become a more analytic reader and can usually tell when passion is involved, for both the writer and the characters that they create. Characters must have some kind of passion–a character without passion is blasé. It can work, but it’s tough.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

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  4. Hi all, Phil says spring is on the way! For those in the path of Kayla, I’m sure it’s not soon enough. Stay safe and warm.

    It’s interesting that no matter if you are a plotter or a pantser, there are times when character takes over and runs with the story.

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  5. You’re so wise. The thing about not being able to hide from passion is right on the mark…

    Re: characters, absolutely. I think that’s a good sign when they have the kind of energy that can redirect our storytelling plan.

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  6. As a reader, characters are the whole story to me. I absolutely want characters who come alive, and they should come alive right from the start. I want characters with complexity and diversity. I want characters so real that I feel they live down the street from me — even the “bad guys.”

    (Side note, did you ever notice that when news reporters interview the neighbors of killers they always say what nice, quiet, considerate neighbors they were, except, of course, for the ten bodies they had stored in that freezer in the garage!!!!!)

    If I can’t “relate to” or accept that the characters in a story are “real,” then I probably will not continue reading. There are too many good books out there for me to waste my precious reading time on something trivial or shallow.

    A good character can “play” any role — good or bad– and solve (or commit) any crime.

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  7. “When you wonder, did you lose control?” Those are the moments I live for. The moments when I am not in control, when I’m in “The Zone” as Becky put it. I’m like an addict willing myself to find that place again and get lost.

    I love what you have to say here… I often wish I’d been less practical and more determined to follow my passion at a much earlier age.

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  8. 3 no 7 – love it when we hear from readers. Glad to see you post. So, for you it’s character over plot. Gotta agree. If I like a character, I’ll stick with a book because otherwise, it’s like abandoning a friend. Interesting perspective that a good character can play either role. Wouldn’t it be interesting to double plot a book. Have the heroine also be the badguy…

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    1. Yes, Kait, in general, it’s all about the people not the crime. An authentic character could really be dropped into most any “crime” or situation and make a good story. In fact I have read some short stories, usually in an anthology to raise money for a charity, where writers do just that with their well-known characters — drop them into someone else’s story.

      In some books I have read the “heroine” is the “bad guy” especially in stand-alone thrillers. Even in some “typical” mysteries, the “good guy” really has some questionable personality traits, but that makes the character believable. No one has perfect hair, teeth, wardrobe, and a clean house all the time.

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  9. Peg, I think we all wish we’d had the nerve to follow our passion over our practicality sooner. But then, I have to wonder, would we have had the voice we have now? It may be that seasoning is what that long apprenticeship is all about!

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  10. Wonderful points, 3 no 7. You have given me a great idea for an anthology that I wanted to submit to, but that I had zero idea for a story. The anthology is titled “Fish out of Water.” You see where I’m going. THANK YOU!

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  11. I definitely love it when characters take over the story! But then it becomes tricky to keep them in line so that the plot will work. I often have to shift the plot on account of the characters who direct things. I am looking forward to hearing more about your anthology!

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