Featured, Uncategorized, Writing a Series, Writing Inspiration, Writing Life, Writing Style

How I Found Mad Max

March 14, 2016

Perhaps the title should be “How Mad Max Found Me.” I’m often asked by book clubs how I come up with my ideas. That’s both an easy and difficult question, because inspiration can come from a shopping list dropped at Kroger’s or a single child’s clean sock lost in a gutter in Blowing Rock, NC. But Mad Max has a distinct path to her literary birth.

Originally,  Unintended Consequences was about a husband and wife who undergo horrible changes when the wife is hit by a car and suffers an traumatic brain injury. It completely changes her personality. Written from both his and her points of view, I though I was so clever in depicting the wife’s descent into drug addiction and psychosis, and the man’s as he became more and more troubled by his wife’s behavior. Yawn.

I struggled through multiple (try at least 10) revisions, but I was never satisfied with the way the story shaped up. I fought to keep the twin perspectives, even though they weren’t working. And then one morning about 3am, I woke to a voice shouting in my head: “This is MY story, damnit. Tell it my way.” Well, yes ma’am.

Max had a way of grabbing my attention. At the beginning, she was a minor character. As soon as I took her “advice” and began writing from her point of view, the story sprang to life. She gave me latitude to let her be snarky when necessary, soft and tender when necessary, vulnerable at times. No spoiler alert necessary for the next sentence, because it’s revealed on the back cover. When her daughter is murdered, she comes into her own, buries her grief to be a strong grandparent and help solve the crime.

Max took hold of me. By the time I began Uncharted Territory, or as I call it, Max 2, I knew her inside and out. She still hasn’t revealed her complete personality. She reveals only what is necessary for the current narrative.

I live with her every day. Beginning a new Mad Max book is like inviting a good friend in for coffee. She blows my mind by what she is willing to do to protect her family. I wish I were like her, but only a little bit of Betsy is in Mad Max. I think a lot of Mad Max has made her way into me.

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  • Reply roughwighting March 14, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Yes, yes, as writers, we need to listen to those voices in our heads. That’s why, as a writer, I’m a ‘pantser,’ not a plotter. I write by the seat of my pants (my seat being on the chair at my desk with notebook or keyboard) as I listen to my characters come alive. They direct the story, not me. I know that sounds ‘fishy.’ Of course, you and I and other authors know WHAT we want to write about. But when we allow the voice/s of our characters come alive; well, then, our story comes alive too.

    • Reply betsyashton March 14, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      You’ve reached another panster. I try outlining, which works for the first few chapters, before I get out of my characters’ way and let them lead me. When I try to force to do something “unnatural” for them, I suffer from stiff fingers and writer’s stumbles. Glad you agree with me on this. BTW, I’m now following your blog. Write on, right now

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