I have the fabulous Roxy Boroughs guest blogging today about creating emotions that you’ve never experienced yourself. I love Roxy – I love her spirit, her heart, her character and her writing. Once you discover her – you’ll love her too!
Single mom, Maggie Holmes, is a by-the-book cop, until her seven-year-old asthmatic son, Davie, is kidnapped.
That’s the premise for my romantic suspense novel, A STRANGER’S TOUCH. And, when it came to writing it, right off the bat, I knew I’d given myself a huge challenge.
Because I don’t have any children.
I can imagine those intense feelings of love and protectiveness for a child – I witnessed them in my parents’ love for me – but I’ve never experienced any of that firsthand. So I had no idea how it would feel to have my precious son ripped from me.
My writer friends suggested I read other novels depicting child abduction to help me with my own book. But I didn’t want to use fiction, no matter how well written, as an example. I wanted to get as close to the actual feelings as I could. THE EMOTION THESAURUS wasn’t published at the time, which would have been a great help. Instead, I picked up several autobiographical books to lead me on my journey.
I’d watched John Walsh on TV and knew something of his history. In TEARS OF RAGE, he describes the kidnapping and murder of his six-year-old son, Adam, in heartbreaking detail.
I also read, Mike Echols’ I KNOW MY FIRST NAME IS STEVEN, the story of Steven Stayner, who was abducted as a young boy and held captive for seven years before he escaped. It contains quotes from Stayner, recounting the ordeal in his own words. (As a side note, Steven’s brother Cary turned out to be a serial killer!)
I added other books to my list, but these two really made my heart ache. As I read, I took notes. Any time there was an emotional or a visceral response, I’d jot it down verbatim.
When it came time to do the writing, I’d read the quotes and use an acting technique to ‘internalize’ the emotions. In other words, I imagined how I would feel in the situation – as the parent and as the little boy – and came up with my own ways to describe it. As in this scene with the heroine, which takes place in the first few hours after the abduction.
Maggie sat alone in the Police Inspector’s office – the room that, up until three years ago, had belonged to her father.
She clutched the arm of the leather sofa with both hands, trying to keep from exploding. She felt hot, stifled, trapped inside her uniform, but her fingers were numb from cold. The smell of stale coffee wafted by and she almost retched. She was quietly losing her mind, yet, all around her, the downtown Calgary police station functioned normally.
She looked out of the narrow windows that framed Owens’ office on either side of the door. Officers were busy at their jobs, people were talking, some even laughing. Their lives were going on, while hers had…
She blocked out the word. She wouldn’t think about it. Couldn’t let herself. She had to hang on. Stay in control. Fight against the weight of fear pressing on her chest as it slowly squeezed the life from her.
It’s interesting to note that two other authors from my local writers’ chapter – Louise Behiel and, my host, Steena Holmes – both wrote stories involving child abduction around the same time as me, though completely independent of one another. It was only when we all published our novels this year that I saw the connection. All three stories are surprisingly diverse, each with its own emotional perspective of the crime and its aftermath.
I continue to read autobiographies and firsthand accounts. Not only do they give me exposure to a variety of people from various walks of life, those books help me understand the thoughts and feelings of others, which enriches my world and my writing.
And I now own a copy of THE EMOTION THESAURUS, which is always at hand, right by my desk.
Before turning her attentions to writing, Roxy tread the boards as a performer, appearing in theatres across North America, TV commercials, and movies. Her award-winning novel A STRANGER’S TOUCH, as well as its sequel, A STRANGER’S KISS, is now available through Amazon.com.
“Roxy Boroughs has it all – humor, suspense, and the kind of raw emotion that makes romantic suspense worth reading. This genre has a bright new star.” Lecia Cornwall author of Secrets of A Proper Countess, an RT Reviewers Choice nominee.
Ooh, awesome excerpt, Roxy! Now I have to buy it! And great advice too on how to put the reader in the character’s shoes. I just bought The Emotion Thesaurus too!
LOL, just went to buy it and realized I *already* owned it! Too many books on my Kindle. Moving it to my “Read Next” folder. 🙂
Thanks so much, Dana! I’m moving your book “Revenge” up on my TBR pile, too.
Roxy, I had never put the 3 stories together as you mentioned here – you’re absolutely amazing, lady. all very different perspectives of a similar event. The emotional thesaurus is amazing. I’ve used the one on their website for awhile now and have my own copy right beside me.
nice excerpt, too.
Thanks, Louise. Actually, it wasn’t until I finished your excellent novel “Family Ties” that I made the connection. If anyone would like to give it a read (and I highly suggest you do) you can find it here: http://amzn.com/B007LCPNSO
I also got a wonderful beta read from Roxy Boroughs and saw that “viceral reaction” comment many times. Thanks so much for the examples here, Roxy. I’m still learning but you’ve helped me along the way.
My pleasure Suzanne. I’m looking forward to your Aug. 1st release, “The Ghost and Christie McFee”.
Oh, Roxy, you just love those visceral reactions! Roxy beta read for my book and she kept popping in those two words, “visceral reaction”, to the point where I was tired of seeing them. But it made my book SO much better. It keeps the author from scratching the surface. The best way to make the reader connect with your characters is for them to FEEL with the characters. Roxy does that really well in this book. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
that wasn’t supposed to be anonymous! Sorry
Oh, I figured it was you right away! LOL.
For those of you who don’t know, the book Michelle is referring to is “Love by Accident”. It’s an award winning novel available as an ebook through Amazon.com. A fantastic read! Check it out here: http://amzn.com/B005U7A0UI
I totally admire your commitment to getting the emotion right for your story. It certainly paid off. That’s a great excerpt.
Best of luck with your sales!
What a lovely compliment. Thank you, Lynda.
Fabulous post, Roxy. I’ll be picking up a copy of the Emotional Thesaurus.
I too, wrote a child abduction story, Savage Cinderella, which came out in March. I took a different approach being that it was a YA romantic suspense. Although it involves the creepy villain, I was able to avoid the really gritty details and hopefully still captured the underlying emotion of Brinn’s experience and that of her parents. I wanted to show the hope and survival aspect of kidnapped victims and read about survivors such as Jaycee Duggard and Elizabeth Smart, who both have done an amazing job reintegrating into society, although I’m sure they will never be the same after their experiences. My story has an element of the fantastical in that Brinn survives in the hills of North Georgia alone for several years before coming back to the world. But after hearing about Jaycees experience of being kept in a back yard unnoticed for 18 years, I thought, “my story is not so far-fetched”.
You captured the mind numbing emotional horror of a parent perfectly in your excerpt above. Nice job.
Your book sounds FAB, PJ. Thanks for sharing.
I also read the book Elizabeth Smart’s parents wrote. As well as Jaycee Duggard’s story – though more recently, as it wasn’t published when I was writing my novel. Both told amazing journeys of heroism.
As far as fiction goes, I absolutely loved Emma Donoghue’s “Room”. Couldn’t put it down. And, of course, I already mentioned Steena Holmes’ “Finding Emma” and Louise Behiel’s “Family Ties”. Fascinating that all of us took the same, basic incident and spun such different tales.
Thanks for inviting me to visit on your blog today, Steena. What a pleasure!