This morning, I’m going through and editing what I have so far in The Outlaw’s Bride to get ready for when I start writing later this month. I have half of this book already rewritten. (This was originally The Stagecoach Bride, and I had written it with Stephannie Beman.)
Anyway, in the new version, Mic and Lillian marry right away, and as they are heading for his remote cabin, they’re having this conversation about how some things in life are unfair, and this makes Lillian think that there are some things outside of a person’s control (such as when they are born and when they die), but then she starts thinking that the one thing a person does control is the choice he/she makes. For example, she made the choice to go to Wyoming when she could have stayed in Virginia and married the man her brother wanted her to be with, but she made the choice to escape because the man wasn’t going to be good to her.
While reading over this scene, I had an “ah-ha” moment because it suddenly occurred to me what the theme of this series is going to be. The overall theme of this series is the power of choice. Every choice we make in our lives, even ones that seem insignificant, stack on top of the choices we made in the past. We’re unable to go back in time and change anything. All we can do is move forward and hope the choices we’re making are going to improve our lives. Also, our choices aren’t independent of those around us. Our choices impact someone in some way. Other people, in turn, make their choices, and those choices end up impacting us. Hence, the chess game analogy.
The characters built within the world Stephannie and I created years ago are in a chess game. The choices all of these characters have made, are making, and will make will change the course of their lives. The only character who is aware of this (at least at the moment) is Lillian. I had written this scene two years ago, and it only dawned on me this morning what was really going on in the scene.
The writing process is done at a subconscious level. The heart of the creative spirit is outside of a writer’s immediate awareness. It’s why a lot of the time, it’s hard to know what a character will say or do until the scene is being written. Sometimes a writer will have an idea of what will happen, but the details don’t come into focus until the writer is immersed in the story. Sometimes a writer can’t see the full ramifications of a character’s choice until they are writing the consequences of that choice. In this way, writing mirrors real life. Just as real life isn’t predictable, a story isn’t predictable either. Look, I write romance. Yes, I know there’s a happy ending. In that way, you could argue my stories are predictable. But the thing is this: how do the characters get to that happy ending. That’s where the appeal in romance comes in. That’s what makes writing fun. The roadmap to the end is unclear when the journey starts. There are often surprises that emerge along the way.
I don’t always find a main theme that emerges in every story or series I write, even though I’m sure they do exist. When those themes occur to me, I remember why writing for the pure joy of writing is the life blood of a writer. These are stories that, I feel, can be read more than once. There will be something new to pick out with each new read-through. I’ve watched movies like this. It seems that no matter how often I’ve watched them, I pick out something new I didn’t notice before.
The best stories are those that are layered. These layers are little nuggets that enrich the story, and I love it when I find stuff like this in my own work because that’s what I aim for when I set out to write something. I like to layer both my individual stories and my series. I view all of my books as a quilt. Each story builds on another in some way. This is why I like crossing over series and inserting small details from series into another.
To me, all of my books are connected. They all take place within the same world. They’re just set in different locations and different time periods. I did put one nugget in with Nelly’s Mail Order Husband which spans time periods, but I don’t know how many people will pick up on it when that book comes out in September. If you have only read my Regencies or if you’ve only read my historical westerns, you’re not going to pick out this particular nugget. (I don’t want to give away the surprise because I think some of you will be delighted when you find it.)
Anyway, that’s what was on my mind this morning while editing The Outlaw’s Bride I had done so far, and I was so excited I came over here to ramble on about it. 🙂 Thanks for bearing with me.