When Shy Writes A Book

 

In some ways, I really had to overcome my personality in order to write a book. I’m a hopeless introvert, so I’m still marveling at how an introvert who doesn’t really want to talk to anyone was ever able to write an entire book full of reasonably believable characters. Especially since I had to come up with a lot of things for them to say.

This is a tough topic for me. In order to understand how my personality informs my writing, I have to know what my personality is, and I don’t know if I see myself that clearly. I’m shy, but I work hard not to seem shy in social situations. I seem to be driven, tenacious. After all, I had to hang in there for a year and a half to find an agent—not as long as some, but I also know that many people don’t last that long. Giving up isn’t really my thing when something matters to me.

I’m a very interior person. I often don’t reveal what I’m thinking, particularly if it’s something unpleasant. Confrontation makes me uncomfortable, and I tend to avoid it in most situations, but I never realized that trait could affect my writing until my agent pointed out that my original draft of The Dream Peddler was lacking any real confrontation between my two protagonists. She could see that I’d brought in dramatic tension from a different angle, she said, but she could imagine editors being disappointed that things don’t come to a head. Evie Dawson needs to blow up, Bridget explained, and if she has it out with the dream peddler, she can accomplish this without blowing up her life. That was when I realized that I had put a little too much of myself into the book. I didn’t know how to make characters yell at each other and accuse each other or any of that great dramatic stuff because I had so little experience with that.

As it turned out, once I was guided to do it, creating a confrontation between those characters was easy. Over the course of the book they become close friends, but once Evie understands Robert’s past, there’s a great deal of potential for anger and resentment. I just don’t put characters together for confrontational scenes because it doesn’t occur to me. My characters often walk away and stew in private without ever facing up to the problems in their relationships, but I learned a lot from that bit of advice from Bridget and from working with Shannon, my editor at Penguin. And I think they’ll be pleased to see that, in my second novel, I have finally learned to get my characters to that point where they actually get to say what’s on their mind, even if it takes almost a whole book to get there.

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Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master's degree in art history after a year spent in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

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