Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Legacy – Guest blog post for Rose McCauley January 10, 2012 (please come back tomorrow for another post by Joy)
When Life and Fiction Intersect by Joy DeKok
“Nothing goes wrong for a writer – it’s all material" (Garrison Keilor).
When things go a different direction than I’d planned, I cling to memorized Bible verses and remember the above quote. I know that at some point, God will use what I’m living in the words I write.
For example, when my husband and I moved to the country, I had no idea that the experiences God gave me with the birds I fed would become a devotional titled, Under His Wings. Or, that as I poured my heart and soul onto the pages of my journal as we walked through infertility, that God would use that part of my life in Rain Dance, a novel.
We’re told that autobiographical fiction doesn’t work. We’re also told by famous authors how they’ve used people and stories from their own lives in their writing. So, what’s a fiction author to do?
Let your life and your fiction intersect, naturally. If a part of your history breathes life into your story, it belongs there. If you have to force it, your readers will know, and they will not only lose interest in your story, but they will not be able to trust you with their time or hard-earned money.
My new book, Your Life a Legacy, is a non-fiction book full of reasons and practical ideas for people who want to preserve their stories. Part of my personal legacy involves saving the stories from a few of my ancestors with a writer’s agenda.
I’ve discovered bootleggers, a madam at an upscale house of ill-repute, a great grandmother who chased Sioux braves with her broom, tended bar with a pearl-handled pistol at her waist, and tolerated a friendly ghost. There’s an uncle who drank with Hank Williams, Sr. and an aunt who read tea leaves and trusted the Ouija board with stunning accuracy. A grandmother who sang on radio, cattle rustlers, and a great-aunt who married a movie star, then became a Chicago gangster’s moll who ended up with a price on her head. Add to this list some war heroes, prayer warriors, preachers, Dutch immigrants, and a great-great-great grandfather who was the king of Iceland. I’ve met most of them and have been loved by a few.
Reviewing this roll call of relatives, I’ve started a potential cast list for my future fiction projects. I tape my favorite picture of the person on a large index card. Then I record some of their personality traits and a few intriguing details of their lives. I know enough about them that I can easily “upgrade” them into a contemporary character – that’s part of the beauty of fiction.
When I get stuck, I can turn to these cards for inspiration. I’ve lived an ordinary almost beige life, so it’s fun to record the stories of my family’s renegades. If they slip into the story I’m working on with an easy blend of energy and grace, I welcome them to the pages. Otherwise, I take what they can teach me, and wait – the time for them to be in a story hasn’t come yet.
Joy DeKok Bio
Joy started writing as a little girl. She carries a large purse so she can take her journal and an assortment of pens with her.
Joy lives on thirty-five acres of woods and field in Minnesota between Rochester and Pine Island. She’s been married to Jon for thirty-five years and they enjoy their many nieces and nephews. Their dogs, Sophie and Tucker, keep them company when they explore the land riding their John Deere Gator or while watching the many birds that visit their feeders.
She has seven books in print and is working on a novel series featuring main character, Olivia Morgan. Joy is also developing a writing group called, Write Yourself Strong, for hurting women.
Faith is a vital part of Joy’s life. When she was sixteen, Joy asked God to find her and He did.