Obviously, I can’t write about other authors’ intents as they pen their books, but, for me, the writing experience is always about finding more pieces of me, discovering in the characters I develop just how they help me to grasp the essence of me and my life. My very first book, AN ARIZONA TRAGEDY, began that particular odyssey. Seventeen books later, I’m still finding out more about that ‘character’ within mysef (I’m in the middle of book number 18 at the present time).
Whether or not my characters reveal to me a pre-set notion of what I have of myself, I cannot say. What I believe to be the truth is that I’ve grown so very much since that first book was penned on an old Star-Writer word-processor. Several books were written on that ‘Starwriter’ on a dusty 80-acre patch of land called “The Lazy Rabbit Ranch.” There seemed to be a lazy old scrub rabbit wedged in the thick of every tangled sagebush on the 80 acres – from whence the name. The plot and characters came to me as I sat behind my beautiful maple desk atop a dynamite-flattened hill upon which our home was built. I can still paint my mind’s image out that large window to the right of my desk and see far enough South to catch the hazy image of Sierra Madre Mountains in old Mexico. We were only some forty miles from the border and only twenty-five miles from ‘the town too tough to die’ – Tombstone, AZ.
Ah, my mind could wander off to our trips with the kids up and into the Chiricahua Mountains to our east, to Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains to our west, or to the timeless Boot Hill Cemetary in Tombstone, just over the low southern hills of the Dragoons. Pardon the mind drift, an occasional occurence here in Twilight. Actually, the thoughts play into my theme in this post about character developments and plots. So many of those were built down at the Lazy Rabbit Ranch. You might say, I started building myself at that ranch – with the help of some actual events taking place around me and throughout the country.
From each of those ‘true stories’ fictionalized, I grabbed a piece of me, a piece of my personal bio puzzle. Through the years with my characters and my plots, I’ve gotten a fairly good picture of me. I’ve discovered that I’m a damned good author who can tell a rousing story. It’s in those stories where my flesh and bones are put together. Now, of course, it should be abudantly clear that I must stay within the talent-grid afforded me. In other words, I would be hard pressed to pen a techno-thriller a la Ludlum and/or Clancy. I’m by no stretch perfect in my writing, but as close as many of those who are published by traditional purblishers.
A mother and her teenage daughter disappeared not five miles from ‘The Lazy Rabbit Ranch’ – a couple of years before our arrival. That book was titled, STRANGER ABDUCTION. That haunting mystery is still a ‘cold case’ in Cochise County, Arizona. It was during my writing of these two books that I could find myself lost in the words and phrases being typed out onto that word processor, that I could find myself crying in those sad and terrifying moments of tragedy, that I could find myself laughing at some foolish words or phrases.
So it was with each book I wrote that I found parts of me that spoke of the human condition, sadness, joy, tragedy, loss, hope, on and on. In essence I found a better me than I might have expected to find. I found that, perhaps, to be a good, maybe, great writer, one had to experience the pathos and pain in living in others’ bodies and minds, experiencing their joys and pain in reliving parts of their lives in my mind and my emotional attic.
So, when I write, the plot is important of course and so are the emotions with which the characters grapple. I believe it is truly evident to me now as I write that ‘showing’ and ‘not telling’ is where the richness lies in the story. At least, that’s my take away from writing.
Depending where we all came from, the environment which fate or our God placed us, writing can be a ‘Discovery Channel’, can awaken parts of us perhaps never considered. Writing can tell us the story of our lives as the words and phrases flow onto the screen of the laptop, revealing a face, a body, and a spirit that sometimes surprises, even, shocks our foundations. It is truly a remarkable ‘invention’, this writing business.
So, the simple message: writing is for the story and the characters, but, very likely, also, an up close and personal look at oneself. For me, most of all. I find that THE BRUTUS GATE , a book from the ‘Bailey Crane Mystery Series’, exemplifies what I’ve conveyed here, as do the previously mentioned books. Unlike many of my other books, THE BRUTUS GATE is not inspired by any particular criminal event, but speaks to multiple areas of corruption and evil behavior. I’ve just updated TBG with a new cover and some fresh content. I believe the book to be 360 degrees of fun and excitement. THE BRUTUS GATE is on Amazon in p/b and kindle, PLUS soon to be on B/N, KOBO, APPLE, and other retail sites.
Billy Ray Chitwood – December 5, 2018
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