Monday, October 18, 2010

Romances don't have commercials.

I had an epiphany last week but hadn't had time to write down my thoughts until now, though it's been at the forefront of them ever since.

Watching Castle last Monday night, there was a very small dedication at the end to Stephen J. Cannell. He died. That alone cause me great sadness.

You may not understand if you don't know who he is or ever saw any of his shows. But, I grew up on all his T.V. shows....The Rockford Files, A-Team, Riptide, Stingray, Hardcastle & McCormack, Hunter...the list goes on and on. I enjoy Castle because it had the same elements as those--handsome hero, funny, serious, romantic, adventurous etc. And he had even done a guest appearance as himself with other mystery writers on the show--a poker game of course LOL.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Stephen J. Cannell was a HUGE influence on my writing career. Perhaps even the catalyst to my being a writer....and I never knew until last Monday.

You see, I didn't actually start reading much until my twenties when I worked at a place that had a lot of down time between customers. I grabbed a few books off the retail rack and then followed with Harlequins etc. I guess just because by then I enjoyed reading and then the more I found other romance writers, like osmosis, I just figured I wrote romance because I read it like the other authors did....

But turns out, that wasn't true, because I was writing action romance LONG before I ever picked up my first romance book. I remember in my early teens, the first story I ever wrote was on a big black, old fashioned typewriter about a pair of detectives and the woman who came to them for help, about kidnapping and intrigue and amnesia LOL...okay, I never said it was good writing...but all were enhancements of the T.V. shows that I enjoyed. Even the ending of those shows had this little clip of Stephen J. Cannell typing on an old typewriter, and I thought that was cool--hence when I found one in the basement, I dug it out. I was just trying to learn from a mentor I didn't even realize was a mentor.

Now I understand why my stories run like movies in my head, why I am so focused on getting the details of physical placement, facial expression, punch lines etc, just right. Why one of my most favorite reviews was for my Wayback story, One Starlit Night, when the reviewer said, "I felt like I was watching a movie, the details, descriptions and facts were so vivid and real." That one sentence made me so proud, like I hit the bullseye of what I wanted to accomplish for my readers.

I also now understand a lot more about my writing and writing process. Why my first drafts read more like screen plays and why I have to then fight with the second draft to transition them to a more comprehensive, readable story format. And why I never let even my critique partners read the first or second draft, because they were such an odd jumble that only seemed to make sense to me.

Most important though, I discovered WHY it bothers me so much that I can't get what I see in my head on paper the same way--paper isn't film LOL. And of why I have issues transitioning from action to action, those times when other details need to be explained or those down times that stories need to get from one place to another.....because Romances don't have commercials. Nope, LOL, not a one. No commercials, no montages etc....that would make the transitions so much easier LOL. I'm just glad the final results always work!

So, in short, my recent, historic epiphany is that I never started writing because I enjoyed romance, I started writing because I enjoyed clever screen writing and bigger than life heroes--handsome men who whisked me away once a week on episodic adventures.

And to be honest, I'm still not sure how I feel about this epiphany. In one light, it explains so much, I sort of feel....together now. Does that make sense? Like I finally understand who I am as a writer, which I never really did before, always thinking myself a bit on the outside and loose cannon.

On the other hand, though, it still saddens me, because just when I discovered this new and exciting distant mentor is gone.

Just another example of how strangers can affect your life in funny little ways, and how you don't know how important or influential a person is to you until they are gone.

So, my epiphany is also my small tribute to an amazing writer: Stephen J. Cannell...

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