My daughter recently became engaged, and everything at our house now is a whirlwind of activity. We studied venues online, and she chose 5 she liked (with 1 as a back-up because she’s my kid!). My commission was to scout out the places and report back. She hoped my legwork would narrow it down to 1 or 2 places to choose from to celebrate this magical day.
Being my organized self, I visited each place, using my trusty iPhone to take tons of pictures. I gathered brochures. I got price lists. I asked questions. I wrote up a page on each venue, listing its pros & cons. In the end, that 1 special place stood apart from the pack. They paid attention to so many small details that other venues never considered. It became a no-brainer. We visited the site, and it was perfect.
So the happy couple picked a date, booked the venue, and my husband and I put down the 1st payment (ouch!) of several over the next few months.
Wedding dress shopping went much the same way. She had Columbus Day off from teaching, so she booked a few places, grabbed a bridesmaid who also had the day off, and we hustled from one end of town to the next. She limited her shopping to 3 places and tried on about 10 wedding gowns in each shop. I shot pictures from the front, back, and sides and we studied how she looked in person and how well each dress photgraphed. We considered all kinds of silhouettes, and in the end, one dress didn’t just speak to all of us—it sang loudly from the heights Meredith Grey’s famous words to McDreamy: Pick me. Choose me. Love me.
Needless to say, that dress became The Dress (just like Der chose Mer).
Those are the biggest checks off the massive To-Do List—date, place, and dress. Everything after this will take time, from looking for a photographer to finding a DJ and designing that just-right bridal bouquet. We’ll tackle each project, do our research, and book things accordingly.
All this wedding business got me to thinking about when I first start writing a new book. I put a lot of time and effort into each novel before I ever type “Chapter 1” on my computer screen.
Yes, I’m organized in this aspect of my life, too, and do a lot of up-front planning. I will spend hours (seriously!) on finding the oh-so-perfect names for my hero & heroine. I’ll look at lists of popular names during that era. Play with first and last name combinations. Put the hero and heroine’s names together, side-by-side, just seeing how they rest next to one another.
Once I land upon their character names, I start seeing a mental picture of their physical appearance. I create a person, top-to-bottom. I know skin tone, hair color and texture, body frame, and height. I choose eye color and size of feet and see their posture and hair style so clearly.
Then I develop their backgrounds. Family. Where they grew up. If they had pets. Education. Religion. If they hum along while they do a task or bite their fingernails. All of that helps lead me to their personalities and characteristics. Are they timid? Intelligent? Stubborn? Happy-go-lucky? Do they make snap judgments or see the glass as half-empty or half-full? Can they be patient, or do they get irritable when bogged down with menial tasks?
All that hard work helps cement my characters in my mind. And like the importance of wedding planning, my characters are everything. Once I see them and hear them and know how they’ll react, then I know eventually that the plot and conflicts will come, just like getting that date/place/dress has gotten the whole ball rolling for my daughter’s wedding.
I’m on the cusp of starting a new book now. I’m beginning to see my people and form their personalities. I’d say 90% of this background stuff never makes the book—but I know it about them, and it will influence the course of the story and their relationship.
So here’s to my daughter and her fiancé . . . and I also raise a glass to the new couple who will come to dominate my life over the next months. May they all find everlasting happiness together!