Thursday, February 24, 2011

Guest Blog: Finding an Emotional Touchstone

We welcome Hope Ramsay to the keyboard today as we continue to celebrate the release of Welcome to Last Chance, Hope's debut from Grand Central Publishing/Forever Romance. Without further ado:

I try to write emotional stories. It's something I work on diligently. Writing emotional stories doesn't come as easily as finding plot twists or complications for my characters. And I know that I can get pretty caught up in the plot of a story, and lose the emotional aspects of it that are so important when writing romance.

For this reason, I won't even start a story without an overarching emotional touchstone for the novel, as well as emotional touchstones for the hero and heroine.

What's a touchstone? It's something tangible that can put me right into the correct emotional frame of mind. It's a way of borrowing an emotion from something, because it's hard to write a sad scene when you're feeling happy, or to write about a character who needs to take chances, when you are naturally a risk taker.

I need short cuts, and that's what a touchstone is.

Because nothing moves me emotionally the way music does, my touchstones are always songs. And a group of them in a play list on my iPod are almost like a soundtrack for the novel I might be working on. I'll put that play list on while I'm writing and I'm never very far from where the story lives emotionally. When I get lost, or I need to rethink something, I dial up a particular song and listen to it repeatedly. It always works.

So, to celebrate the release day for WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE, I thought I would share a portion of the book's soundtrack.
  • God Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts is the song that moved me to write this story. I first heard this song on my way to an RWA chapter meeting, and I knew, right then I had found the theme for the next book. WELCOME TO LAST CHANCE is all about how the hero and heroine have to overcome their broken pasts. In fact, the troubles my lovers have suffered in the past are precisely what makes them ready for each other.
  • Ask for More by David Wilcox is a song whose title I shamelessly use in a scene that takes place in the local beauty shop, where Miz Miriam, my town matchmaker, tells my heroine, Jane, that she should "ask for more." The song is about listening to the signs from on high that whisper in your ear and tell you that you are selling yourself short. Jane needs to learn how to love herself, and asking for more is the first step on that journey.
  • When the Sand Runs Out also by Rascal Flatts is a song about living one's life to the fullest. This song is the emotional touchstone for my hero, Clay. He's in the middle of a life crisis where he's spending way too much time worrying about what happened in the past and trying to be safe. The song is all about taking a chance -- something that Clay really needs to do.
I have a dozen other songs in this sound track. Some of them apply to minor characters, and some apply to specific scenes and turning points. I can't share them here without spoiling the story for you.

But don't know how I would write anything worth reading without finding inspiration and emotion in music.

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