During the release tour for Bear, Not Everyone’s Mama, one of the blogs, asked me to do a guest post for their entry. It was fun, and helped me put into words some answers to the most often asked questions about the Rebel Wayfarers MC book series. The post is built around a Mark Twain quote they provided.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
One of the more difficult things with building the world for this book series, and developing the characters to populate it, is that they come from an extremely diverse background. Much like the people in our everyday lives, each person brings their perspective into every character interplay, every scene, and every collaboration.
In Mica, the first book of the series, I balanced the backgrounds of a hardassed biker (Davis Mason, national president of the Rebel Wayfarers MC), a retired rodeo cowgirl turned tech guru (Mica Scott, owner of a web development business), and a professional athlete (Daniel Rupert, team owner and star forward of the Chicago Mallets, a professional ice hockey team).
Not just their backgrounds were different, but the vernacular with which they spoke set each apart.
- Mica, not always a good girl, didn’t make a big deal out of it but hated swearing so she instead says things like, “Jeez-oh-PETE,” and “frickin’.” She’s also the queen of self-denial, isolating herself from family and friends for years because it was in their best interest.
- Mason, comfortable within himself for the man he’s grown into, doesn’t hold anything back. I have to tell you, even just in my head Mason on a rant is a force to be reckoned with; he’s scary and fierce, dynamic and explosive. He’s the exact opposite of our Mica, who holds herself under such tight control.
- Daniel is a businessman and athlete, and has learned to balance the testosterone-driven world of professional ice hockey with the political diplomacy needed to successfully run a business, especially one where you employ many of your close relatives!
As parents and lovers we know about tough love and hard decisions, and making selfless sacrifices for the ones we love. This story works, I think in part because readers recognize that I’ve attempted to capture a slice of real life. Raw and real, nothing follows the expected outline because these characters are influencing their own futures. We get to know the characters under both the best of situations and when the worst happens, and their reactions are believable…real. One of the sections I love the most is when Mason is explaining to Mica what she means to him, because who wouldn’t want to be told that we made someone want to be better than the person we first met?
His jaw clenched. “Babe, you don’t have to do anything to be fucking worthy. You are good, and kind, and you were so goddamn broken when you first moved in next to me, but dammit if you weren’t willing to take on anyone and everything to get what you wanted. You were the embodiment of courage, because you were afraid—of course you were afraid—but you forged through your fear and came through on the other side with your spirit and will intact. I am in awe. Of you. And, babe, from the moment I met you, I have only ever wanted to take care of you, but with every day, you need me less and less.
“I cherish you and love you, and I know I will always love you, but I need to be your friend, not want, but need, because as my friend, you force me to see things differently. You make me look at things less cynically, with more trust, openness, and belief in people. You make me more than a biker, more than a neighbor, more than a landlord, more than a businessman—simply because you depend on me to be more. It’s because that’s the way you are, and you can’t imagine someone being less than that.”
Knowing from the outset that this was not a single book, but part of a series led me to several critical decisions. It was a series, not a serial, and each book could easily be read as standalone, but reading them sequentially would give the reader more depth and nuance with the characters and the world. Each book would be told from a different perspective, even as people and events overlapped. Each book would continue to offer the diversity of character population that we encounter in our everyday real life. Mason’s story would complete the series, pulling together the diverse story threads from every book.
Knowing all of that, continuity of word usage and turn of phrase is critical. Readers wouldn’t believe Mason’s character if he were soft in one book, and turning back to the hardass in another. So not just selection, but ensuring that I always used the correct go-to exclamation, the tone of anger or joy, the nuance of physicality and stance plays into the story development. My character development and plot-tracking document is nearly 130 pages long and grows with each new character introduction or geographic change.
For Slate, the second book of the series, I adopted a single point of view for the book, using the title’s central character, while still maintaining the personality of the previous main characters and secondary characters via dialog. Slate’s secret was his ability to make lasting connections with many people along the road of his life. Heavily influenced by a tough upbringing, he held himself to long-established values and measured everyone he met against the same. Those who measured up, he kept in his life, those who did not he discarded, taking life’s own lesson from that difference. Again much like real life, where we surround ourselves with people who validate our values and viewpoints, he found a family in the club, anchored by Mason. Slate’s motto in life can be summed up as:
“There were lessons everywhere he looked, each and every single fucking day.”
Now we’re at Bear, the third book of the series, and the one that resonates the most with me. I reveal more of Mason’s machinations, he’s constantly got the game pieces in motion, pushing and pulling people into positions only he can see. He does that with Bear, sometimes regretting the immediate result, but not the long-term goal he has in mind. Even Bear’s family isn’t proof against Mason’s tug as his mother finds out! Bear’s history is at times hard to read as he’s haunted by loss, but in life we all know that difficult things happen to the people we love all the time. It’s how we deal and heal that make the difference both in our lives and the lives of the ones around us. Mason’s evaluation of Bear hits the nail on the head, and serves as a reminder to us all to live, embracing life’s experiences and all they have to offer:
“Bear—brother,” Mason said with compassion, eyes fixed on his face. “You’ve not been living. You survived, yeah. I see that. Hard as fuck the way your life shook out, and you survived, yeah…but you stopped living. From that moment on, you’ve just existed. You turned something off like a switch…and existed. Nearly the whole time I’ve known you, you’ve only lived when pushed out of your zone.”
We started this post with a quote from Twain talking about selecting the right words. I embrace that idea, but take it a step further. Not only using the right words makes the difference in a story, but by developing the right characters, honing them into the proper tools for the job, we can take a story idea and turn it into entertainment, maybe with a little of life’s lessons as subtext, yeah?
Copyright © 2015 – MariaLisa deMora