Violet Howe discusses the mistaken-identity dilemma when unleashing a character on the world.
After procrastinating for months on finishing my first novel, I signed up for the NaNoWriMo writing project figuring it would be a good kick in the rump. Having a deadline always gets me in gear, and the challenge of writing 50,000 words in 30 days appealed to my competitive nature.
Unfortunately, I didn’t read the fine print before I entered. It needed to be a brand-new manuscript. Since I already had a full outline with several chapters and scenes written, my novel did not qualify. I had less than 12 hours to come up with an entirely new idea for a novel, so I fell back on what I knew. I began to think about all the crazy experiences I had during 15 years in the wedding planning industry.
I decided to create a wedding planner character, Tyler, who would reflect on her experiences with clients, dates, friends and family through a series of entries in her diary. Tyler and I have a few things in common. We are both from the South, we both have wedding planning experience, and we both want to believe in fairy tales. But she ain’t me.
Shortly after the book’s release, I realized that many people couldn’t separate my life from Tyler’s. Everyone kept assuming the main character was me.
My sister-in-law texted to ask why Tyler the wedding planner would drink coffee when I abhor coffee and am instead a Diet Coke addict. I explained she wasn’t me. One of my closest friends called to say she was falling for my hero, Cabe, but she felt conflicted because she knew he wasn’t anything like my real-life hubby and was waiting for that character’s appearance. Well, my husband wouldn’t be making an appearance in the book, because the book wasn’t about us.
He even got in on it, though, asking me which real-life ex-boyfriend had inspired the ex in the book. I had to remind him, too, that Tyler wasn’t me.
I never expected my brother to read my chick lit novel, but being the supportive guy he is, he dove right in. Only to call and ask if some guy really asked to bathe me on the first date. And yeah, okay, that actually happened to me.
But the character in the book is nothing like the real-life date. The way Tyler reacts to him in the book, and the way she feels about him leading up to the bath offer, is nothing like what transpired in real life. Because the book isn’t real life.
It’s not my diary. It’s Tyler’s. And she ain’t me.
I’ve heard from other authors that I’m not alone in this mistaken-identity dilemma. A friend who pens gruesome crime novels says people often ask if there’s tragedy in her past, and a fellow author who writes about serial killers says he gets suspicious glances in the grocery store. I’m told it can be an especially thorny issue for those who write erotic romance and find their neighbors and friends looking at them with a curious eye.
I do believe we bring forth fragments of truth within us for every story we craft. Sights we have seen. Places we have visited. Heartaches and hopes. People who have made our lives memorable.
We take little clips of sound bites and visual images replaying in our minds, and we mish-mash slivers of truth together with fiction to weave a tapestry of imaginary characters steeped in authenticity.
It doesn’t make the story about us, though. It doesn’t mean it represents us.
So, yes, I did actually have to put on a bride’s pantyhose for her, and I really did accidentally pop myself between the eyes with a champagne cork. But the bride was much nicer in real life, and the cork didn’t knock me unconscious or leave a huge unicorn-like appendage on my forehead. That was drama and comedy. Fiction. Tyler’s story, not mine. And she ain’t me.
When I finish this series, I’ll move on to new characters and new stories. I’ll probably choose a profession I’ve never done before for my main character or have her journey through something in a realm far different from mine.
But I think the story will still be flavored by my own experiences. My own bits of reality coming through as I write. So no matter what she does for a living or what life throws her way, I’ll probably still have to say “she ain’t me.”
I suppose it’s a good thing. After all, if readers believe in our characters enough to blur the lines between fact and fiction, it means we did a good job, right?
Wedding planner Tyler Warren left heartbreak behind when she ran away from her small Southern hometown and started a new life in a big city. Years later, she wants to believe in the fairy-tale endings her job promotes, but the clients she meets day after day seem to be more “Crazily Ever After” than “Happily Ever After.
Meanwhile, her own attempts at romance play out as bizarre comedies rather than love stories, and she’s starting to think Prince Charming either fell off his horse or got eaten by a dragon. When unresolved issues from Tyler’s past complicate things even further, she discovers she may yet have some things to figure out before she can find her own happy ending.
This delightful first book in the Tales Behind the Veils series chronicles Tyler’s wacky misadventures, both personal and professional. Whether she’s getting insane requests from brides or outlandish requests on dates, you’re sure to be charmed and entertained by the Diary of a Single Wedding Planner.
Violet Howe enjoys writing romance with humor. She lives in Florida with her husband, who is her knight in shining armor, and their two handsome sons. They share their home with three adorable but spoiled dogs. When she’s not writing, Violet is usually watching movies, reading, or planning her next travel adventure. You can follow Violet’s ramblings on her blog, The Goddess Howe.