Ah, the languid days of August. It brings to mind relaxation–vacations, beach days, reading. This month we’re going to be talking about relaxation for ourselves, and our characters. First up, OM.
Don’t panic. I’m not going to talk about our characters’ mantras. (Though that may be a fun topic for the future…). Here’s what I’m wondering–can your characters relax? Or are they wound tight, ready to fix the world?
Edith/Maddie: That’s a great question, Julie! Both Robbie Jordan and Mac Almeida are busy business owners, with personal lives AND a murder to solve. In 14 books between them, I haven’t written many scenes where either sits around and daydreams. In Murder at a Cape Cottage, next year’s Cozy Capers Book Group mystery, Mac buys an adult coloring book and pencils – but she never gets around to using them! Rose Carroll is a bit better. She hangs out at the lake with her friend Bertie or sits quietly knitting or mending.
Barb: When Julia Snowden moves back from New York in Clammed Up, she brings the go-go energy of the city and her job in venture capital with her. Her boyfriend Chris urges her to slow down, in part by requiring that the dinner restaurant they run in the off-season be closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays. “If we work seven days, when will I finish my house? When will I get my deer?” he asks in Musseled Out. Julia begins to adapt to life in a town with distinct seasonal rhythms. By the tenth book, coming in 2022, she has way too much time on her hands, but that’s another story for another day.
Sherry: Chloe likes to sit on her screened porch with a drink and a good book. She loves to listen to the waves of the Gulf of Mexico and smell the salt and pine scented air. Sarah on the other hand, turns to friends. She wants to spend time with her landlady, Stella, the DiNapolis, Carol, or Seth. I mean who wouldn’t want to spend time with Seth?!
Jessie: I love this question, Julie, and all the answers from the rest of you! My characters seem to be fairly good at refilling their wells after bouts of intense activity. I expect this is because that is generally how I operate too. Edwina tends her garden and knits. She walks her dog. Beryl enjoys sitting and thinking or playing cards or going for drives in the countryside albeit at high rates of speed!
Liz: Agree, such a fun question! Both Maddie and Violet tend to lean on the having-to-be-reminded-to-chill side of the spectrum. Maddie is always looking for the next entrepreneurial venture to tackle while constantly getting sidelined by murders, and Violet is trying to adapt to the witch world while still trying to manage her mortal life. Whew! That’s a lot. Maddie, however, has Cass Hendricks, her zen guru who is currently trying to teach her to meditate more. We’ll see how that plays out…
Julie: Liz, we all need a Cass in our lives! In the Garden Squad, there are varying degrees of relaxers. Tamara is always on the go, as is her husband Warwick. But Lilly is better at relaxing, as she defines it. For her, gardening is relaxing. Sleuthing is just something that needs to be done.
Writer friends, are your characters good at relaxing? Readers, do you like your characters tightly wound, or relaxed?
Oh, I want my characters to be able to relax. Too much constant energy is tiring to read about, and I read to relax!
What a great point! I think that’s why I read thrillers fast–they get me riled up.
I agree with ginnyjc! Everyone needs some downtime, especially when they can enjoy the lovely settings they are in!
I do love wonderful settings and visiting with favorite characters.
It’s fun to know what they like to do whether it’s a hobby or a place to go for fun because it shows up all that we need to take some me time. However, I really like the action whether physical or mental of everyday life and solving crimes. I think it kind of reflects us all as we act like ducks smooth on the surface but pedaling as fast as we can behind he scenes, and makes them more relatable to us. But oh the joys of retirement when the positions of chores and leisure time kind of switch places. That works for us, but please keep the excitement and crime solving going cause I love reading all of your books in that leisure time of miine.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I promise, we’ll keep the action coming!
Also, I love the duck analogy! So true.
I love to see the characters I’m reading about kick back and relax and think, or snuggle up with their significant other. Usually, that’s when the phone rings, there’s a knock at the door, there’s a scream down the beach…you get it. I’d really like to see more of my favorite characters sit down and read or read before bed. So few do.
In my current series, especially in the last two books, I’ve tried to make sure Lilly has time to nap, and rest her achy knees. At least show how she normally relaxes when things aren’t in flux.
Jim Duncan is very good at relaxing. He loves to be outdoors – out fishing in the summer, doing something like snowshoeing in the winter. Sally Castle doesn’t mind relaxing, but she’d rather do it indoors with a glass of wine and a book – especially in the winter!
Betty Ahern likes taking a walk down to the beach to unwind – or maybe head to the Broadway Market with her friend Dot to shop and people watch.
All excellent ways to relax!
Rook is pretty tightly wound, so his moments of relaxation don’t really look like letting go to the rest of us. He boxes and shoots hoops to wind down from a thorny case. Or to pound out the knots of the one he’s investigating. He reads books (rarely) and watches baseball on TV (when his cat permits). Rook loves to play poker, bid whist, or dirty hearts; the camaraderie outweighs the winnings.
Love the idea of physical activity to work out the stress.
I don’t mind characters who have downtime, as long as we don’t learn too much about it. Or if they are mulling over clues while doing so. However, if we get a chapter of someone gardening with no forward movement on the plot, then I’ll be board. (And I picked gardening at random. That is no reflection on Jessie, Julie, or any of the Wicked’s characters or books.)
On the other hand, I do love what those scenes can say about character, and they can give us a chance to catch our breath as well. So yes, they are beneficial as long as they don’t start to slow down the story.
It’s a balancing act for sure.
As a writer, I agree. Every scene has to have a purpose towards the story. Some character moments can be great, but you don’t want them to be the parts people skip.
There are times when I can’t go to sleep unless the characters are safe somewhere, enjoying a meal, going to sleep, relaxing with a bike ride or an evening of music, so I’m glad to see them included. I also know to stop right in the middle of a relaxing scene, because the quiet calm is often followed by storm.
It all depends on the story line. In any given book, the character could exhibit both wound up or relaxed. Thank you for sharing.
Julie, I do so enjoy it when Lilly goes into her greenhouse to mist her plants and ponder events. It is even better when Roddy comes in to join her and discuss situations. I find that it makes the book characters more human and relatable if they need to take a nap or a walk or do some other activity that is restful. When they are gardening for instance we get to read about what they are thinking concerning the current mystery. So, thank you each one for providing some restful experiences interspersed among the action sequences!
I like them to occasionally relax and NOT get hit by a disaster when they do relax.
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