When an author writes a book there are tons of decisions they have to make: how their characters walk, talk, how they look, what they wear, not to mention the almost infinite decisions they have each character make. It’s not easy, but it’s fun. All right, it might not always be fun, and sometimes we write our characters into a corner and want to pull our hair out, but having the characters navigate muddy waters is at the center of what we do. We like to take them from the pleasant lives they lead and screw it up. Real life is like that, and people like to read how others get themselves out of sticky situations. And mistakes? Yes, they’ll likely make them.
When writing romantic suspense novels, there is usually at least one villain in the story and many sticky situations from which the characters will have to pull themselves. One major decision made in any such novel is if the author wants you to know who the villain is or not. Will they leave the reader in the dark, or walk them into the light?
When I wrote Straight Flushed I made the conscious decision to let the reader know through foreshadowing and descriptive language who the bad guy was likely to be. The phrase “he was a dark figure shrouded in rose colored light” comes to mind. It was written pretty close to the beginning of the novel and that description was intentional. You saw it, but Diana didn’t. She was on a beach and recovering from a breakup, trying to escape life for a while. She became involved with a man she barely knew and it was completely out of character. He may not have been who she thought he was, but she was blinded by the the pretty rose-colored light, and not the dark figure held within it. So why did I choose to tell you what I did through that particular description?
Well, I know people like a good mystery, present company included, and Straight Flushed does have mystery and a few twists, but what I had hoped to achieve was to have the reader know my main character was making a mistake. I want you to read it and say, “My God, no! Don’t go in there. Don’t trust that guy! Can’t you see it?”
The answer is, no, she couldn’t. She was not in the right frame of mind. We’ve all been there. When we enter stressful situations, or when life flips everything upside down, do we always choose wisely? Maybe we do a few things out of character. Can you honestly say you’ve never made a decision that probably wasn’t the best? You may have known the right thing to do but for some reason you didn’t do it. God knows I have. Countless mistakes. I spent most of my early twenties piling them up. Yep, confession time, I wasn’t always as perfect as I am now. For those who don’t know me, that’s sarcasm and I’m laying it on pretty thick.
When an author decides to tell you something and the main character doesn’t realize it yet, they want you to be uncomfortable. Yes, I want you to squirm and wince. Why was Diana so ignorant and dare I say, stupid? Because sometimes we all are. We are all human and we learn through making mistakes from the day we’re born.
When a baby begins to crawl they learn their world by touching, feeling and tasting. “Hey, there’s something gray on the sidewalk.” The baby crawls to the object and feels it. “Oh, it’s hard and cold.” The baby puts it in his mouth and makes a face. “It doesn’t taste good.” The baby spits in out. Okay, in a perfect world the baby spits it out, but bear with me for the sake of argument. Chances are the mother sees the baby rolling something around in it’s slobbery mouth and quickly pokes through those sweet lips and hooks the foreign object out probably uttering the word ‘yucky’ to teach the baby that it’s gross to put things you find on the sidewalk in your mouth. But still, the baby learned something.
Diana is a twenty-something and still has a lot to learn about life (she already knows not to put pebbles in her mouth, but life gets more complicated as we grow). She’s young and is going to make mistakes. Diana is a flawed human, but what she also is, is a strong, confident women. She’s a badass and sometimes stubborn too. I think that makes her character real and I love her for that.
So when you read Straight Flushed keep in mind the decisions I made on how to tell my story were long and thought out; I took almost a year to make them all and did not arrive at them hastily. It may not be the most popular choice, but it was mine and I stand behind it. You may agree or disagree and that’s cool; different strokes for different folks.
And you may think you’re smarter than me, or I’m ignorant, possibly even stupid, because you “guessed it” early on, so please forgive me. “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”—Alexander Pope. Or perhaps you guessed it early on and thought it brilliant (and thanks in advance if you did. I thought some of it was pretty clever too). But entertain the notion that I meant for that to happen. That, my friends, is what you’ll likely get from this story—my story.
Now I’ll leave you with a one of my favorite quotes from the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. In a society where we can hide behind screens and cut people with our words, remember to be kinder than necessary.
“If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary – the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”
― R.J. Palacio,