Two years ago I wrote of a special friend, Jeany, a retired English teacher, who helped edit my fantasy novel, The Returning. She spent long hours with no payment, with nothing other than a willingness to help me improve my writing skills. We met every couple weeks, spending an hour or two dissecting and improving my story. I have heard from friends I was not an isolated case, which made her invaluable and kind help even more special.
At a recent birthday party for a mutual friend (see, I do socialize, you doubters), Linda and I hoped to see Jeany, knowing her health had declined over recent months. Instead, we found that she had died three days earlier.
The last time I saw Jeany was on Mother’s Day when her daughter took her to the park and enjoyed an outdoor lunch under clear skies. As always, her warm smile and encouragement brought gratitude, and for the hundredth time, I thanked her for the invaluable help she so graciously showed me.
No writer is an island, I’ve said before, and Jeany proved that to me once again.
We writers are a solitary sort, often a requirement given our passion for the lonely creative process. However, what we write encompasses life and the people populating this crazy world, and one cannot adequately and truthfully portray a character’s dilemmas and foibles if we do not have a briefcase of information to draw upon—people provide the necessary information.
Jeany reminded me of that.
Knowing people and how they respond to disappointment, grief, joy and hope is what makes our stories real, our characters stout and full-bodied. Within people pumps motivations and dreams, but each manages them differently and for different reasons—it’s what makes us unique, and so should our characters be as well.
For this reason, we must live, we must mingle with humanity as they are the paints applied to the canvas of our stories.
During this time, when gathering with family and friends amidst toasts to the dreams of an upcoming new year, be on the lookout for character traits, instances, dialogue, the hopes and fears of the people around you—you may find interesting tidbits for a future story.
I can imagine Jeany leaning over to me while passing a platter of food: “Did you hear what they just said? That’s story gold.”
Knowing Jeany made me a better writer, and I hope a better person as well. Her enthusiasm for helping others “gain the power” of the writing craft and improving skills was her mantra, and her love of teaching was one of the catalysts for the creation of Knights of Writ.
Jeany emphasized we should not be alone, cannot be alone in our creation, and I will always remember her for that.
See you on the next page,