Thursday, September 11, 2014

Guest Post: Middle-grade author Shannon L. Brown on Creating Fiction from Life

       “I like chocolate.” Jessica licked her lips.
     Sophie grimaced. “I’ll work on the outdoors with you, and you can work on chocolate with me.” 
     Jessica shook her head. “I think it will be easier for you to love chocolate than it will be for me to love the outdoors.” 
                                                                                                             - from The Feather Chase

     As I created the two main characters for my Crime-Solving Cousins series, I realized that I was giving them some of my own interests. I then decided that having some of myself in these two twelve-year-olds might make spending many, many hours with them a little more fun, so I continued on that path. From the example, I love chocolate (dark, please) and spending time outdoors. Now, Sophie and Jessica are enjoying some of my favorite things in exciting adventures.
     This is a spin on the old adage, “write what you know.” With fiction that only works to a point anyway because the story takes place in a made-up world with made-up characters. Even if I set a contemporary book in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, I would be creating a fictional world inside the city I know. By necessity, writers have to go beyond what they know and venture into the world of make believe. 
     Taking “write what you know” up to another level though, a fiction writer can, and may even do so without realizing it, include parts of her personality or interests in the characters. Writers are always tasked with creating believable characters, characters who step off the page for the reader. Sophie and Jessica are all the more real to me because I know what it’s like to hike on a trail in pine trees or enjoy a piece of chocolate. While I can and often do write about things I don’t personally know about, beginning with things I already enjoy makes life more fun from the beginning. And I think writing should be fun for the writer and enjoyable for the reader.
     Could a villain incorporate parts of a writer’s interests or personality? Absolutely. A writer who loves donuts could have a villain who always stops for a donut after he committed a crime. Or a writer who loves healthy snacks could have a villain who always keeps carrot and celery sticks in his shirt pocket. (A fun idea I may have to add to my next book.) If an author was observant or impulsive, those would be easy personality traits to add. 
     Now, Sophie and Jessica may have some of my character traits, but only those that suit that character. Jessica loves shopping; Sophie hates it. It wouldn’t work the other way around and I have to be careful about that. Are the interests I gave them exactly as I would do them? No. Sophie loves camping, really loves camping. I spent a lot of time camping growing up, but never enjoyed it. Jessica wouldn’t leave the house without perfect nail polish. My nails are au natural. What they do have is the twelve-year-old life I wanted, a life of fun and adventure. 

Shannon L. Brown in the author of THE FEATHER CHASE, an adventurous middle-grade mystery for ages 8-12. Visit her at:
     Twelve-year-old cousins Sophie and Jessica don’t have much in common. Sophie loves hiking and her small town. Jessica would rather be shopping in a city. The only mystery is how they’ll be able to spend the summer together.
     Then they find a briefcase in the forest with a surprise inside. When they hear footsteps behind them and bad guys run after them, they have no choice but to work together to solve the mystery of The Feather Chase.
THE FEATHER CHASE is available in print and ebook from booksellers including:

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