By Martha Reed
This month’s theme seems to be about introspection and change. That’s not a bad thing, and I wonder if I would ditch all introspection if I moved somewhere warmer where I wasn’t trapped inside my house for three months of the year. Would I ponder the meaning of Life as much if I spent my mornings walking along a sandy beach under some restless palms? Probably. That’s what I do.
But I also think this viewpoint is a big part of being a writer. It’s more than merely observing details and drawing conclusions – there are those quiet moments when you sit in stillness and try to connect the dots. I’ve noticed that I naturally try to connect larger themes – life experience, the concept of God, world religions, common sense, economics and money matters, courage in the face of war whereas some of my friends, especially the married ones with children try to connect themes between the people they know. Who is engaged and how that engagement extends the dynamics of the family; who is doing well at school and who is struggling and how to help; how to support those precious children who want to become soldiers and ballerinas.
This insight made me rethink my latest novel because I think when I drafted it I was too focused on connecting great themes and I lost the bit that makes us human, and recognizable – the bit where the individual goes walking along the tideline on the beach looking for sand dollars while she/he ponders the universe. So, for this next revision, I’m going in low and pinning my characters to the page. What do they think and feel? I have the plot; it’s the skeleton on my story. What I’m going to do next is put some meat on the bones.
Louise Penny does this really well in her Inspector Gamache novels. I highly recommend that you start at the beginning of her series with STILL LIFE. But I’m also on the lookout for other recommendations. Is there anyone who writes a human mystery so well that you would recommend it to the world? Inquiring minds want to know.