Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are you UNDER THE INFLUENCE of your characters?

by Sandie Bricker

I never really noticed it before. I mean, I knew I was emotionally invested in my characters. The first hints came when I was typing away on a scene, and balling my eyes out at the same time. Thank GOD I started writing comedies ... except of course for those times when I laughed so hard I gave myself the hiccups. But I digress.

A while back, my best girlfriend came for a visit. With several states between us (she’s in Ohio and I’m in Florida), when we do get to visit we try to keep the time as close to “real life” as we can. Instead of the typical touristy stuff, we watch movies and cook meals together and chase the dog around the house while making funny noises at her. It’s not always pretty, but it IS always a good time. So we were getting ready to watch something I’d taped on the DVR recently when Marian noticed a couple of dozen listings for the same two shows: Amazing Wedding Cakes and Cake Boss.

You see, I’ve recently been contracted by Abingdon Press to write a second novel for them: a comedy called Always the Baker, Never the Bride. The premise: an award-winning baker of pastries and wedding cakes who is also diabetic … so she never gets to indulge in her own masterpieces. Part of my research has been watching these great reality shows I found about bakeries that make extravagant specialty cakes. I now know more about this very dangerous confection than is reasonably safe. Jillian Michaels (the really mean trainer from The Biggest Loser) would surely smack me down if she knew.

“Can I watch a few of them with you?” Marian asked me when I defended the evidence on my DVR.

"It's research!" I was quick to point out, and I was so excited that she was interested in that research that together we watched several hours of cake television. Talk about your Must-See TV!

Oh, and we saw lots of cakes, too. Cakes with butter cream icing and cakes with fondant. Cakes with raspberry filling, and decadent (what I like to call) chocolate coma cakes. Big cakes, little cakes, and everything-in-between cakes. Tiered cakes and sheet cakes and topsy turvy stacked cakes. If a person could gain weight from staring at caloric television, Marian and I would have easily gained 25 pounds each by the time we were through! In the second hour, we dug into the Weight Watchers lemon cake snacks in the kitchen. The next day, we talked about our dream desserts and ended up going to the grocery store and buying individual slices of birthday cake out of the bakery display. So much better than having a whole one in the house, right?

I work with a guy named Alan. Alan LOVES to eat, and of course he never gains an ounce which is just completely WRONG ... but again, I digress. On the days when someone is celebrating a birthday in our office, Alan lights up like a 5-year-old on Christmas the moment the e-mail comes around announcing "cake on the 2nd floor!" There really is something about CAKE, isn't there?

Two weeks after she went home, Marian called to tell me she couldn’t stop thinking about my story, and how horrible it would be to make your living as a baker and never get to enjoy your creations! (Translation: Like me, she was still thinking about CAKE!) In fact, to celebrate the fact that she was not diabetic and could indulge whenever she wanted, she made a cake of her own. And I had to admit to her that I had too. It was a Weight Watchers recipe … but it was a cake just the same!

This got me to thinking … as writers, we really are under the influence of our characters, aren’t we? I don’t know about you, but I’m a very emotional girl. When I read a book or watch a movie, I really get into it. I even cry at the sappiest of television commercials, which means it takes less than 30 seconds for me to relate with the people in them. 30 SECONDS!

The upside, of course, is that being an emotional WRITER has propelled me into a world where I draw emotional READERS toward my books. They tell me all the time that while reading my books they laughed, they cried, sometimes they did both at the same time! And without fail, when I read one of those letters or emails, I feel triumphant … I’m happy to “tap the sap” in them, as one of my friends loves to say.

The downside, however … I really can’t stop thinking about CAKE! This book is due in November. All prayers for my strength and willpower gratefully accepted.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think so - at least when I'm writing a book, the characters become real. So either I become one of them or they take on my identity. I feel that many of my characters have some of my frailities and strengths.

Trish Perry said...

I'm afraid of this cake book.

Suzie Johnson said...

Sandie, I can never stop thinking of cake either. I really, really love cake. I may need therapy after reading this book. Seriously. But I still can't wait to read it.

The Write Life said...

Sandie
I can relate to this topic in too many ways! I look forward to the book. I have a feeling I'll be pacing the counter at the bakery during and after. Scary.

The Write Life said...

Sandie,

I look forward to reading this book, even if it means I'll be stalking the nearby bakeries during and after. (Like I don't already! Ha!)

Paige

The Write Life said...

Hmmm, trying to think of any other way to blame your story and not my own lack of willpower when it comes to eating cake.

I also get too involved with my characters, and I cry at those tear-jerker commercials. Especially Hallmark commercials, though I haven't cried at any over the last year or so.

Paige

Barbara Scott said...

I love your style, girl! That's why I'm so glad I acquired ALWAYS THE BAKER, NEVER THE BRIDE for Abingdon Press fiction.

Okay, here's the deal. I've lost 20pounds and still have 25 to go. Before I read this manuscript, you have to send me a year's supply of Weight Watchers cake. ;)I'm bracing myself.

Barbara Scott said...

Sandie, I just wrote a post, then my screen went blank. So if I repeat myself just put it down to part-timers disease.

Can't wait to meet you at ACFW in Denver! You crack me up. (Do I sound like a child of the 60s or what?)

I couldn't be happier that I acquired ALWAYS THE BAKER, NEVER THE BRIDE for Abingdon Press. Just pray I don't gain 20 pound editing it.

Sandy Cody said...

Yes, I identify with my characters, even the bad guys (maybe not a good thing since I write murder mysteries). How else could I write them? As for the cake, I'm trying very hard to pretend that there is no such thing - part of my starting off the fall season on the right foot. (We'll see how long it lasts.)

Tamela Hancock Murray said...

I'm hungry now, and I just ate lunch!

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

Oh, Sandy, a book about cake. yum. Yum. I love cake, too. Although i canmake smashing brownies and cookies, my cakes are just wrong. This is good, or I'd bake them all the time, as I love cake most of all desserts. But none of that whip creamy, fluffy, sticky icing. I want mounds of the rich, thick fondant and ganache and butter cream.

Sandie Bricker said...

I didn't mean to scare everyone. LOL But the mere mention of cake really does make you want it, doesn't it??

Barbara: The best compliment EVER! Cracking you up is my goal now. :-) SO HAPPY to do it!

Paige, The Hallmark commercials get me too. And some of the cell phone ads. But I cry the hardest at the dog commercials. I especially sob at the one that Sara McLaughlin does about the abused animals.

Sandie Bricker said...

Oh Laurie Alice. Fondant. Ganache. BUTTER CREAM!!!!!

I picture Jesus sitting there watching us, reading our posts on the blog, chowing down on a big old slice of cake. He must be so proud for coming up with that idea! Kinda makes up for the whole season of reptile creation, doesn't it?

juliepollitt said...

I love ice cream cake. Mmmm....

I like to watch the cake shows on TV as well. Very diverse, unique characters. I know your book will be great!

Kristin said...

Okay, my characters become real and it costs me money (they have great cars/clothes) but yours are going to cost you an entire wardrobe if you don't get this one under control. LOL

I'm sure it will be hysterical as always and don't you love that we have the kind of job where Cake Boss is research? Being an author ROCKS!

Janet Kay Gallagher said...

I can see the ads for your book signings! "Free Wedding Cake Slice with purchase of the new book by...
who will personally sign your copy."
Oh, I don't have any cake in the house. You made me hungry. LOL.

Debby Mayne said...

Sandie, I'm more of a pie person, but you're threatening that with all your cake talk. No telling what will happen when I read your book. Of course I'll laugh like I always do when I read your books, but will Always the Baker make me a cake person?

What are you doing to me?!

Elisabeth Rose said...

You'll need to celebrate getting that book in with a cake of course. A yummy dark chocolate mud cake with thick chocolate icing and white and milk and dark chocolate fancy decoration ...

journeyof365days said...

Sounds like you're doing some delicious research! Not a bad job! Enjoy....Caren

Kathye Quick said...

Just catching up.

My characters always seems to do things I had not intended. That's why I always have to rewrite the synopsis.

I had to tell you, I cry at commercials too. Don't even mention the Kodak TRUE COLORS. Darn. There I go again,

Carol Hutchens said...

Ooooh, you're giving me shivers, Sandie!
Memories are filling my head. I did my senior project in advanced nutrition on...Cake!!! LOL [developing a new recipe] I am so looking forward to your book!

K L Heinly said...

LOL! Now all I can think about is cake!! :)

I think you're really onto something when you talked about how being an emotional writer draws emotional people into your writing. In a slant on the same concept, I think that's one of the main things that draws me to C S Lewis's work - because he was such a spiritual seeker, I think that really drew me to his work in the times I most deeply questioned my own faith. I never really thought about it until reading your blog. What a great analogy!!

Laurie Alice Eakes said...

When I learned to write stories driven by the characters and their emotions, was when I started to sell books. If the emotion isn't there, if I can't feel it as strongly as my characters, I've done something wrong and go back and rewrite the passage.

Only cupcakes at the grocery store Thursday, the kind with that icky, sticky icing with no flavor. I may have to make a batch of my mother's butter cream recipe. She sent me a can of meringue powder because I couldn't find it anywhere.

Diane S. said...

Hi Sandie!

I'm so happy to hear you are working on another new book! Can't wait to read it.

All the best,
Diane

Diane S. said...

BTW -

I'm also looking forward to 'Be Still ... and Let Your Nail Polish Dry'. I wish I had one of your books with me today when I was away from home and had 2 hours of down time! :)

Diane

Jane Myers Perrine said...

Sandie--First, congratulations on your great success! Your next book sounds wonderful but I'm diabetic so I'll just have to work it into my "exchances", little by little.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a blessing to be able to create by using your experiences..... but to be able to create without having had the actual experience..... now that's talent! You go girl! C~

Zelda Benjamin said...

The book sounds delicious. I know how you feel. When writing about chocolate I seem to be obsessed with anything made from chocolate.