Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ode to My Kitty

Maven Darcy BurkeMavenLand is a funny place. See, I had a deeply affecting weekend also, but not at all in the same way as Maven Carrie. But like Maven Carrie, I'm going to try my best to tie my life experience into writing. Actually, it won't be too hard. I'm nearing the end of Her Wicked Ways and can hardly stand to be not writing right now and pretty much every aspect of my non-writing life and writing life are blurring together. (Hmmm, how is being Girl Scout Cookie Mom feeding into my WIP? Must ponder...)

Friday evening we got some bad news about our beloved cat, Belle Kitty. Belle was a beautiful Maine Coon we adopted from the Humane Society (I picked her because she was cute, hey I knew nothing about cats!) as a kitten. Isn't she pretty? (She knew it too.) At 14 1/2 and after having diabetes for several years, Belle's kidneys were failing. She was fairly miserable and had stopped eating and drinking. Nevertheless, she still had plenty of love and bouts of purring to share, which made our decision to euthanize her on Saturday incredibly painful. Belle was my first cat and, truly, my first "baby." Mr. Burke and I can hardly remember a time when we didn't have Belle and of course she's always been in the Burkettes' lives. Our daughter, Quinn, is 7 and is doing pretty well with the loss. She's a smart, brave, and empathetic little girl. Every now and again she mentions Belle (today in the car she told me that Belle lived in our hearts, awwwww) and shows me just how resilient our spirits can be.

So what does this sad story have to do with writing? Especially since I'm not writing a sad story? Hopefully I am writing an emotional story and if nothing else, this weekend was an emotional roller coaster. And feeling emotional is a great way to write an emotional scene, right? Definitely! I was an actor in high school and college. Method actors (which I wasn't) live what they're playing. They completely plunge themselves into the character, the emotion, the circumstances. As a writer, I like to draw on personal experiences to really color my characters. As I write a scene, I (try to) put myself completely in the POV of that character, much as an actor inhabits the role they are playing. Since I am entering the last act of Her Wicked Ways, there are lots of juicy scenes with big emotion and huge stakes (I hope!).

I'm not saying anything new here, I realize. I've read plenty of blogs where people talk about things that get them into the mood of a character: a song, a scent, a picture. At the onset of a scene I try to think of myself as that character. What do they see, smell, hear, and most importantly feel? As I write my turning points and then storyboard, I think about the emotional arc of the character. Sometimes I even write the character's driving emotions on the scene notes.

Something else Belle's passing reminds me of is that like the books we write, we need dark days along with the ones when our heads are in the clouds (I've had a few of those lately, but more on that maybe next week!). Even terribly sad moments can be turned upside down as you celebrate a shared memory or find humor in something that can't possibly be funny to anyone not in your position (hopefully that makes some amount of sense). And every day is an adventure filled with high highs and low lows, all of it excellent fodder for the words we churn out every day.

Your turn: What helps you get in character? Are you a method writer? (Did I coin a new phrase? Doubtful.) Are there moods in which you write better/worse or more/less or just plain different?

Important Maven Note: Next Wednesday, be sure to stop by when Tanya Michaels/Tanya Michna will be here guest-blogging. I met Tanya at the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference in Atlanta last fall and we had a great time at our table! She's a multi-published author in several genres and reminds me that she was once a second place Maggie finalist, just like me!

Finally, sleep the good sleep our belle Belle Kitty.


Tez Miller said...

Cat from Maine = Cat with Mane = Cat with Lion Heritage ;-)

Thanks for sharing, and have a lovely day! :-)

Bill Clark said...

So sad about Belle Kitty. But you did the right thing. And Quinn is absolutely spot on!

every day is an adventure filled with high highs and low lows, all of it excellent fodder for the words we churn out every day

Boy, you sure got that right! That's exactly how I feel, too ('cept I couldn't have said it as well!).

Girl Scout Cookie Mom

Umm...four boxes of Thin Mints, please! :-)

Carrie Ryan said...

Oh Darcy! *hugs* My cat is 7 years old and goes in tomorrow for some heart tests (they have to shave his chest which we will all have great fun laughing at, poor thing). He's my first cat and I adore him and I got all teary reading your post because I couldn't imagine being in the same situation!

B.E. Sanderson said...

:hugs: I'm so sorry for your loss. I couldn't imagine losing my Kira, but I hope when the time comes I'm brave enough to do the right thing by her, too.

I don't think I'm a method writer, but I do know that when I need to write a tense scene, I feel like I can do it better with harsh music playing in the background. (i.e. Bush or Nine Inch Nails... something along those lines) It's hard to write evil when I'm happy, and that music definitely makes me un-happy.

Angie Fox said...

Now you're making me tear up. So sorry to hear about Belle Kitty. It reminds me of a similar decision we had to make about a dog we'd had in our family for 15 years. You know you did the right thing, but it doesn't make it any easier. *hugs*

Darcy Burke said...

Thanks everyone. Bill, we're out of Thin Mints! (I know, blasphemy.) But, I can order more if you really, really want them. :-)

B.E. We still have two cats (sisters) and one of them is named Kira! Kira is the sweetest, most kittenish cat (she's 8). And she's teeny, partly because she lost a leg to cancer four years ago. But she's a trooper! She has some kidney problems too, but we're able to keep them in line with diet. The thought of having to face this with her is just heart-wrenching, but I know her life is already more miraculous than most cats after going through successful radiation therapy and then amputation. We're just happy she's still with us - she's some amazing cat! (And cute as all get-out too.)

lacey kaye said...

I think I'm a method writer, too. Though I wish you hadn't had to do this, I'm excited to read the scenes that come out of it!

Vicki said...

So sorry to hear about Belle, but Quinn is so right, she will live on within you.

I also did acting in school and it has helped me in writing. One of the scenes I was working on this past weekend, I needed for the Hero to move around the room, running his hand through his hair.

Sounds pretty easy, but I wanted it right. SG, thought I was a bit looney, when he walked by my office and I'm moving around the room, running my hand through my hair, trying different things to get the feel of the mood.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Darcy, I posted a picture of my Kira on my blog this morning. You gave me the idea. I'll celebrate her as much as I can while I have her. =oD

Keira Soleore said...

Darcy, so sorry to hear the news of Belle the Cat. Your daughter has the bestest attitude with dealing with the loss.

Writer & Cat said...

So sorry about Belle! Right now Meankitty and Big D are pretty healthy, thank goodness, but my Mom lost 2 cats in the past 6 months.

And being sad rarely puts me in the mood to write. What puts me in the mood to write is a babysitter or sleeping toddler :)

Tessa Dare said...

Aw, Darcy! I'm so sorry about your kitty. We lost ours a few months back - he was a Maine coon mix, too - looked a lot like yours. It was not my first time losing a cat, but it was my first time having to explain death to my daughter. Man, that was awful. And Mr. Dare cried and cried - don't say I told you. Big hugs.

Jackie Barbosa said...

Once again a day late (still fighting the creeping crud), but hopefully not a dollar short.

So sorry to hear about Belle Kitty, Darc. As you know, we lost two cats (one elderly and one quite young) in the space of a couple of months last year, so I know just how painful and sad it can be.

And I love the term "method writer." Now, I just have to strive even more to live it.

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