I still can’t see my heroine. Well, I can’t see my hero, either, but for the moment I’m more concerned about her. Let me give you a little glimpse into some of the details of my work-in-progress. As I mentioned, this novel is set during the First World War. That took place in the early 1900’s – from August of 1914 to November of 1918. The setting is a little village in Northern France, just behind the front line. The German army occupies this town, providing nearly endless possibilities of angst (my favorite word when describing the feelings I love my characters to have, until typing “The End” of course).
My heroine’s name is Julitte, and while writing this journal entry just about all I know about her is that she’s devout in her Christian faith—but maybe devout is the wrong word, since that conjures up images of someone seriously praying at an altar, maybe even dour faced. Let’s just say faith is an easy fit for this heroine. It’s like she has an inside track with God that the rest of us might see in someone else but seldom see in ourselves. Julitte clearly prays unceasingly, imagines God beside her every moment of the day.
But she’s not perfect. She’s human. She has a little something extra, though, because of her unforced, secure relationship with the Creator.
Okay. That’s something unique to her. Easy relationship with God; constant. Consistent. There’s strength in consistency.
This is part of my writing pattern, too—waiting for the moment the characters start coming alive. Well, waiting is probably another word that I should rethink, since I’m working toward that moment by writing, researching, mulling possible reactions to the obstacles they’ll face during the course of the book. I have a pretty good idea of what will happen, although I’m not an extensive plotter. I’ve never considered myself either heavy on characterization or plot but rather somewhere between the two. I have to admit, though, it’s when I know my characters that the story can (and often does) start writing itself.
At least that’s the point I always hope to reach, where I’m basically trying to keep up with the performance in my head. I see a path, loosely defined, but it’s the characters who have to take me there.
A point that seems far off at the moment.
Then I remember a tool I often use. I need to find some music that reminds me of why I was passionate about this book in the first place. Music can be so powerful, can’t it? When I envision a character inside the lyrics of a song, or a character who is carried away on a melody, I can more easily put myself into his or her head.
I usually have a sound track, so to speak, with each of my books. Most of the time I listen to Christian music, because to me it has such deep, personal meaning and helps me to reconnect with God in a powerful way. Often one song or another succinctly taps into what one character or another might be feeling. Since my characters either have faith, are struggling with it or just discovering it, Christian music is a huge source of fodder.
But I listen to secular music, too. With The Oak Leaves I remember a song from a Disney movie, I think it was from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the heroine sang a prayer for the sake of the outcasts. That became a song I envisioned my heroine singing, there’s even a scene where she performs it in the book (although for the sake of the story it’s rather vague just what song she’s really singing!). For My Sister Dilly, my character Dilly had a voice like Carole King so I listened to one of my old favorites, the Tapestry album, throughout the process of writing that book.
I can so easily recapture my vision when I connect my characters or setting to music. So was there something that inspired my vision of this book? Of Julitte? I remember listening to an old Judy Collins album when I first envisioned this book. There was a song on one of her albums that seemed almost like a prayer, of coming to love the fallow time….perfect for a peasant girl like Julitte. But can I find the CD when I need it? Of course not. I-tunes, here I come.