In this special guest post, author Kristina McMorris reminds us be willing to change our perspective. That things — and people — might be different than we expect. Kristina’s insight encourages us to pay close attention as we take swings at writing and at life — because we just never now where that next story, lesson, or blog post might be hiding.
Please welcome Kristina McMorris to Women’s Fiction Writers!
A Change In Perspective
By Kristina McMorris
Looking back, it’s fascinating to me how lessons learned from an unexpected golf encounter in 1996 somehow found their way into my latest novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. Which, by the way, has nothing to do with golf.
It was my usual routine while living in Burbank, California to visit the driving range several times a week. But my golf swing was off that day and I continued to hook the balls—for those unfamiliar with the term, this is not a good thing. I went through my mental checklist: feet shoulder-width apart, grip in place, arms relaxed. Still, the balls soared in a sharp curve.
It didn’t help that the stocky man seated a few yards behind me, slouched on a park bench, baseball cap pulled low, was barking criticisms periodically at his son in the next stall. “If you’re not gonna do it right, don’t do it all,” he snapped at the kid, who couldn’t have been older than twelve. Frustration clearly compounded on both sides and the boy’s practice session worsened.
Doing my best to shut out the man’s harsh remarks, I focused on my checklist, until…he addressed me personally.
“Want a suggestion?” His tone had turned notably gentler.
“Sure,” I answered, more afraid to refuse than eager for advice.
“You’re raising your elbow,” he pointed out simply.
And he was right. In my backswing, an old habit had managed to return. I set my stance, dropped my elbow, and took a swing. Whoosh! A perfect drive. I tried again, to the same result.
I voiced my appreciation and he nodded. Soon after, the kid’s bucket was empty and the two departed. That’s when the sweet, elderly manager of the range shuffled over to see me. “You don’t realize who that man was, do you?” he said excitedly.
My mind raced but came up empty, and I admitted I didn’t know.
“The guy giving you tips—that was Pete Rose!”
Although my baseball knowledge was relatively limited, I certainly recognized the name and couldn’t help but laugh. From this bit of information, a new perspective changed how I viewed the scene.
The same theory can be applied to fiction as the author unpeels layers of a character’s backstory, defenses, or outward traits in order to reveal the truth. In Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, for example, I presented many of my characters in this very manner. In fact, I built my entire novel upon the premise of a unique perspective: a Caucasian spouse who lives voluntarily in a Japanese American relocation camp. The day I stumbled across an actual account of this occurrence, I knew it was a story I had to tell. A story told from a viewpoint that could completely change—and hopefully enhance—the reader’s experience.
For writers, lessons in craft are indeed everywhere around us, even if we don’t realize it at the time.
Kristina McMorris is a graduate of Pepperdine University and the recipient of nearly twenty national literary awards. A host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, she penned her debut novel, Letters from Home (Kensington Books, Avon/HarperCollins UK), based on inspiration from her grandparents’ wartime courtship. This critically praised book was declared a must-read by Woman’s Day magazine and achieved additional acclaim as a Reader’s Digest Select Editions feature, a Doubleday/Literary Guild selection, and a 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves (March 2012), has already received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, among many others. Named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal, Kristina lives with her husband and two sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she refuses to own an umbrella.
For more, visit www.KristinaMcMorris.com