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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Me! Me! I Wanna Try!

I did something most writers aren't supposed to do. I jumped genres. Yeah, I know I've written a lot of different stuff, but mostly it boils down to contemporary and historical romantic suspense. But well, I got sucked in. I started read chick lit and fell in love the genre and deep inside the chick lit writer stood up, arms waving, and said, ME ME, I wanna try!

There's just something about the chick lit genre and voice that woos me. Maybe it's the humor. Maybe it's the characters. Maybe it's just that when I read it, I discover truths that go beyond a story. As I studied the craft of chick lit, I found three foundational elements that every story had – three elements that I tried to incorporate into my own chick writing. So, from the pages of my personal writing craft book…

Susie May Warren’s Hints on writing chick lit…

Be authentic. Chick lit is about diving deep and telling the truth about the world through the eyes of your character. It's about being willing to laugh at your character, and letting your inner humor bubble forth. My favorite moments in chick lit are birthed out of real emotions….

This excerpt comes from chapter one of Josey, where Josey is lamenting over the fact that her little sister is marrying Josey’s ex…

It's a beautiful day out, waves from the lake lapping the shore, the smell of summer in the breeze. The sun, of course, is totally on Jasmine's side. Okay, I admit it! Evil me did walk in the smallest of circles this morning saying, under my breath of course, "Tut tut, it looks like rain." But Jasmine must be much holier than I, because God heard, and answered her prayers.

Of course Jasmine isn't holier than Josey, but it sorta feels like that, and allowing her to admit this hurt hints at the spiritual conflict that weaves throughout the book.

Make it personal. All of us have quirks…and issues we struggle with. For some people, it's their unruly hair, for others, it's the tendency to speak before thinking. For Josey it's her addiction to comfort food. But instead of trying to fix it, or hiding it, a chick story admits to it, and even delves into the character's crash and burn moments.

This is Josey, giving into the pull to need comfort food while talking to her sister in America. She misses home and life ain't so great right now in Russia…

"Good. Now, how’s life?"
Hmm. Not sure how to answer that as I sit here in my wool socks, my needing-a-wash jammies, eating something called "Padushkie" which is sort of like Shredded Wheat cereal filled with chocolate. It's my latest culinary find, right after "Nutella," which is a chocolate, hazelnut spread. I eat it straight from the jar (because, well I can’t figure out how else to eat it…?).

Letting Josey wallow in her pain and illuminating where she goes for comfort not only lets us see her dark moments but also causes us commiserate with her. The reader can identify…and is invested in her struggle, and hopefully the story.

Be Relevant. Chick lit is about taking a slice of life and looking at it from all sides. It's revealing the messiness of the Christian life, as we are confronted constantly with choices and challenges. We don't always land the right side. But God does offer hope, and answers, even if that answer is simply…Trust Me. Let your character ask real questions and grapple with big issues. And resist the urge to tie up your story in neat, boxed answers…

Josey and her best friend H have snuck out after the wedding and are pondering life (and Josey is pondering H’s attire and the fact that she's smoking…something….)

I guess I shouldn't be too hard on H, especially since I'm sitting here in poppy flounce, pretty sure I have "pathetically lost" written all over me. I might have found the eternal answer, but I still have earthly questions.

Josey admits that being a Christian doesn't mean that she has all the answers…which is pretty on target, if we are to be honest. (Which brings me back to point #1). Yes, we have the eternal answer, and the big picture answer, but sometimes applying that to our daily lives can be a challenge. And that's when the humor, the authenticity, the relevance of chick lit is at its best.

Writing chick lit, for me, is a bit of a therapeutic experience. A time for me to take a hard look at the life of my character, and see what God is up to. And just maybe I might learn that He's at work in my life too.

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