22nd April 2011 - Friends Friday - 14 Comments

Friends Friday – Ryan Loveless!

Welcome Ryan loveless to Friends Friday today! Ryan is giving away a copy of Uniform Appeal anthology from Dreamspinner Press in paperback to anyone who comments on this post before Friday 29th April. So make sure you leave a comment (just one per guest will count towards the draw!) and enjoy this entertaining blog!

The Archivist-Writer

Photo: The “backroom”–the excitement isn’t immediately obvious.

Recently, someone asked why I enjoy being an archivist. I could have said that I enjoy order, that I savor finding stories in the collections I’m processing, uncovering them layer by layer and arranging them in a way that future researchers will find them, too. Those are all true. But I said that I enjoy it because of the backroom (not the official name). This is where the archival stacks are kept in a humidity and temperature controlled space, placed on shelves in acid free folders and acid free boxes. In this space, amidst these nondescript boxes, treasures are held that no one but the archivist is privy to. A researcher may come and request access to bits of the treasure relevant to her work, but she’ll never be allowed into the back. There is no feeling that compares to standing alone in that space, to having the knowledge that extending one’s hands will elicit a brush against a box that contains a document over one thousand years old or another that holds a scrap of paper with Abraham Lincoln’s handwriting on it. These are the secrets that lie in the archives.

The concept is similar for a writer. The reader is presented with bits of a character, enough to tell a story, but the writer stands in the backroom of the character’s space. The writer knows all the character’s treasures that don’t fit into the story. The favorite color, the name of the childhood pet, the first, awkward kiss, the second one, and the less considered thirty-fourth one, when the technique is down pat and no longer remarkable. It’s not a kiss that needs to go in the story, not one the character thinks about much, but for the writer it could be the kiss that starts the character along the search for wanting more, for challenging that complacency.

I wrote a historical short story recently which involved hours at the library researching World War One uniforms, guns, the organization of the U.S. Army, battles, life as an American soldier. Almost none of it made it into the story, which was about a single night spent in Paris by an off-duty officer, but I needed to have that knowledge in my head because it would be in my character’s head. The adage is “write what you know”, but I say, “write what you can learn.” If it wasn’t, I’d write a lot about organizing.

I wonder sometimes if readers stop to think about how much the writer knows about her characters. I admit, I don’t think about it too much when I’m reading. Several years ago, I spoke to a playwright and asked her what a character was thinking. She had no answer and acted as if she shouldn’t need one. That was a major disappointment to me. Even if the motivation isn’t on the page, it needs to exist in the writer’s mind.

In my indie novel “Building Arcadia: Blueprints Not Included”, I created a polyamory romance out of three best friends, two of whom were already married. Without knowing what each character was thinking and why they made the choices they made, I wouldn’t have been able to do that in a way that was believable. As a result of hashing out the motivation, I’ve been told by many people who said they don’t normally like or believe polyamory that they believed this relationship and, just as important, were cheering for the characters to get together.

Photo: Cover for Building Arcadia:

So, I stand in the archives both in real life and in my mind, which I share with my characters. I only open the door to the latter archive a crack to let the secrets out, just as I only carry out one box at a time to share with researchers. I can only hope that they are the right secrets, the ones that will hold attention and tell the story they are supposed to tell.

Thank you all for allowing me to share my thoughts with you on Victoria’s blog. This is my first time doing a guest blog, so I hope I did all right!

Links to stories mentioned in this post:

Jean-Paul (part of Uniform Appeal anthology) e-book $6.99/paperback $17.99

Building Arcadia:
E-book $2.85
Paperback Regular price $15.95

About Me:

Ryan Loveless is a farmer’s daughter. She has a B.A. in English from a private college in Illinois and is pursuing her master’s degree in library and information science with an archival certificate from a university in New York. She has been writing since she could read and has always drifted toward M/M because she enjoyed the relationship dynamics between men, even before she understood what sexuality was. She has several stories with Dreamspinner Press, an upcoming novel with Silver Publishing, and one independently released novel. Visit her blog for the full list.

Find Me:

Blog: http://ryanloveless.dreamwidth.org
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ryanloveless
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/ryanlovelessbooks
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/ryanloveless

Don’t forget to leave a comment to be in to win a paperback copy of Uniform Appeal anthology from Dreamspinner Press! The deadline for entery is the 29th April 2011

14 responses to “Friends Friday – Ryan Loveless!”

  1. Victoria Blisse says:

    Brilliant Blog, Ryan. I find myself finding out all kinds of things about my characters, even those who only feature in short stores. Those i write about for longer or in a series become like best firends to me. Thanks for visiting today, I feel so excited to have popped your guest blog cherry!

    • Ryan says:

      Right. There’s an image I’m going to scrub out of my head…

      Thanks again for having me. I’m glad I could provoke some thought and hopefully fond memories for you!

      Ryan :)

  2. Lindsay K says:

    Excellent blog! I love the comparison between the archives and characters.

  3. Pender Mackie says:

    Hi Ryan. It’s nice to know a little bit about you. I enjoyed your blog. You’re right about all the details that never make it into the story and I agree they are necessary. Those details help form the character’s personality and motivations and keep a character consistent. Hopefully, that makes the character more believable.
    Thanks for an interesting blog.

  4. RJ Scott says:

    I just want ten minutes alone in your archive to go rummaging… it sounds like my idea of heaven… good luck with the new releases….

    HUGS Rj x

  5. JL Merrow says:

    Fascinating parallel with the day job! Like you, I think it’s incredibly important for the writer to know far more about her characters than ever makes it onto the page – that’s one area where “write what you know” really is true!

    Your polyamory example struck a chord – in Camwolf I have a character who’s pretty complex and conflicted. The reader never gets to see the pivotal scenes written from his POV – but they’re in my files! :)

    • Ryan says:

      Maybe you can dig those files out one day for a special treat! :)

      I remember being so disappointed when that playwright brushed off my question about the character. Right there I decided to make sure I was never like that.

  6. Mary M. says:

    Love the archives picture, reminds me of the behind the scenes took I took once of the National archives in DC. I always feel the best stories have characters with a lot of unwritten but well researched backstory.

    • Ryan says:

      I completely agree. The backstory is key! I love visiting archives. One of the great things about being an archivist is getting to do that fairly frequently. :)

  7. Kellie says:

    This really is some thing I must do more research into.

  8. Anne says:

    Love the comparison between archiving and characters, and the “write what you can learn”. So true :)

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