Friday, February 20, 2009

I Am A Weaver...

I learned to weave when we lived in Nova Scotia. A wonderful neighbor lady showed me her loom, demonstrated the technique, and I was sold. Take simple yarn; get it onto the huge contraption; sit on the bench; use your feet to press the pedals creating an opening between the wool strands (called a shed); throw a wooden shuttle, containing more wool, through the shed; change pedals; throw again.* Repeat zillions of times (number depends on length of project) and wa-la – you’ve woven fabric! Whenever I explain it to anyone, I use the word magic. Every item that I make (table runners, scarves, tea towels, blankets) give me a thrill I can not describe. It amazes me every time – and I spend a great deal of time touching, stroking, and admiring the finished product. Magic!

So, can you guess how Lady Bells occupies her time (you know, when she’s not being seduced by Hugh or trying to solve a six year old murder mystery)? Yep, she weaves. Characters need to be well rounded. Suse’s blog this week talked about getting to know our characters, the more we know them the better chance we’ll have them signed up for the right story. Or when we get them into a situation, we’ll be able to get them out of it because we know them, intimately. And hobbies allow readers the opportunity to associate with those characters.

There are a lot of books out there where the author uses a hobby to help ground the characters. I just finished Victoria Dahl’s contemporary romance Talk Me Down (excellent book, BTW). The hero, chief of police Ben Lawson, indulges in photography. The heroine, Molly, wants him to take risqué pictures of her (it’s a hot book, people). But Ms. Dahl uses Ben’s hobby to show his love of Molly, well before he realizes it himself. The scene where Molly wakes to find the photos Ben has taken of her is truly sensual and romantic.

Some authors use the hobby to move the plot along. Heidi Betts’ series Chicks with Sticks is tied (oh, bad pun) together by yarn. Charlotte (an aunt of one of the heroines) raises Alpacas and spins her own wool. The spinning wheel has been handed down from generation to generation so there just may be a little magic in that instrument. The three books in the series center on knitting, more precisely knitting with Charlotte’s wool. The first book, Tangled Up In Love, was released this month.

Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street Series takes the concept a step further. She created a heroine, Lydia, who learned to knit while undergoing treatment for cancer. Now, Lydia is turning that hobby into a business. There’s not much to say about Ms. Macomber except if you haven’t read her, I suggest you run out this very instant and pick up a copy of one of her books. May I suggest the first in the series – A Shop on Blossom Street? Beautiful!

My other works-in-progress have characters with hobbies as well. One of them (East Coast smuggling) has a heroine who wants to take her hobby of painting to the next level. She wants to make a living at it. Do I know anything about painting? Nope. But I’m learning. In that story, the hero needs to find something to do (he’s got a lot of issues, not the least he’s a workaholic). My heroine’s father is going to introduce him to woodworking. Do I know anything about woodworking? Nope, but it was my father’s hobby and The Husband is pretty good at it too. Another of my heroine’s (a story of a woman trying to re-create herself) loves to cross-stitch. And guess what? So do I. Unfortunately, the hero in that one loves to cook – already a conflict with a heroine trying to lose weight. The Tudor romance I’ve started has a heroine addicted to chess and a hero that needs to win.

Hobbies are important to people. They keep you sane when your work life makes you crazy. They occupy your time in an enjoyable manner. They usually produce something that you take pride in. And there are a plethora of hobbies you can research to give your characters well-rounded personalities: flower arranging, model cars, pottery (can anyone forget Ghost and that pottery wheel scene?), golf, scrapbooking, antiquing, beading, quilting (one of my favorite Carol Shields’ books – Happenstance – had a main character who quilts), stamp collecting, etc.

So, People of Blogland, what hobbies do you indulge in? What about your characters, what hobbies occupy their time? Are there any hobbies I failed to mention? Do you know of any other romance novels where a hobby is important to the story?

* The process of weaving has been simplified due to word count constraints!


Karen said...

TGIF Janet,

My name is Karen and I'm a scrapbooker.

Well, right now I'm a buyer of scrapbooking supplies and not much else but I toy with the idea of designating Fridy Scrapbook Day. What is it with me and paper?

As for my wip, Lily loves to gardener and Chase is into working with wood. Their both very good with their hands. snicker

For Christmas my mother-in-law (technically my father-in-law too) gave me The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. It is now one of my top five books of all time. I highly recommend it. Its the story of a woman whose daughter dies suddenly and her mother suggests she learn to knit. Talk about characterization and hobbies, although in this book its really a lifeline.

Janet C. said...

Morning, Karen.

I have lots of friends who scrapbook - it can get pretty intense. I don't know what it is about scrapbooking, but I really have no desire to start. I think it's the whole idea of creating a page - and I'm afraid I would never get that page done because I would be constantly second guessing my arrangement. OK, and I'm afraid I would go all crazy over the supplies (my school supply addiction is bad enough).

I've put Ann Hood's book on my 'Books to Read' list. Thanks for the suggestion, it sounds great.

Ah, Lily and Chase. Looking forward to seeing exactly what they can do with their hands. *wink*


Jana Richards said...

Hey Janet,
I think I've only had one character who had a hobby. Meg in "A Long Way from Eden" had been a serious muscian in her youth, and played the piano. But after an abusive marriage had little time or money to continue her hobby. Lucky for her, hero Zane had a grand piano. It was love at first sight -- with the piano, anyway. Luckily a friend of mine is music teacher and extremely knowledgable, which is lucky because I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. But other than that I haven't used hobbies a whole lot for my characters. I'll have to explore that possiblity.

Personnally, I like to garden and wish I had more time. But it's either write or dig the weeds, so the garden is pretty weedy.


Janet C. said...

Hey Jana,

I detest gardening! My idea of a garden is crushed rock and a barrell of "easy grow/care" flowers :) I tried the whole vegetable thing, but while I loved the end result, didn't really dig (ha) the labour intensity.

And, I think Riley has a hobby? Renovating that big old house - wouldn't that be considered a hobby?

Have a great weekend.


Anita Mae Draper said...

My name is Anita Mae and I am a numismatist, wreader, rockhound, bibliophile (cookbooks, history, geography, you name it), gardener and needleworker. (Although I'm having probs with the last due to arthritis.)

What a fantastic post, Janet! I can't believe you didn't know what you'd blog about yesterday when we talked about it.

You know how to weave? I have a mini table top model about 18" long but don't know how to use it. :(

Yes, hobbies are very important to us and to the characters we write about. All my characters have hobbies but I think the most memorable one is my Montana cowboy who loves the old westerns so much, he not only dresses like them but his horse is named 'Trampas' and his ranch is the 'Shenandosa' which is a compilation of the old TV shows Shenandoah and Ponderosa. This guy was so fun to write because of his hobby. And, it gave him a depth to which the heroine totally responded to as she saw this side of him in action.

I've read several books where the heroine quilted, painted and gardened. (sp?) Most followed an exercise program either by themselves or with the hero. In several of the Dry Creek books, the sisters' weekly Monopoly game was an important part of their social life.

Have you missed any hobbies? Heck, yes! LOL

Janet C. said...

Yeah, pulled that out of a hat didn't I? Glad you liked it, Anita.

Wow - you have lots of hobbies! Of course, I had to look up the coin collecting one ;) I'm on board with the bibliophile hobby (my husband has banned me from buying any more cookbooks).

Your Montana cowboy sounds wonderful (I loved watching re-runs of Bonanza - Little Joe, sigh). And my good friend in Nova Scotia and I had a continuous game of Scrabble set up at her house. Thanks for sparking those memories for me, Anita.


Lu said...

Excellent blog post Janet! Everybody needs a hobby, if only as a way to relieve the stress of "real" life.

I've been cross stitching forever, and usually end up making several Christmas gifts every year. I also knit sporadically, but usually in the summer. Weird, eh? My favorite hobby is baking, because I get to eat my project! I'm relieved that Hubby has started model boat building - something for him to do while I write and I don't feel so guilty about neglecting him.

I don't think I've given any of my characters a hobby. Oh, except for baking. My first heroine loved chocolate almost as much as I do, and was forever baking brownies. Maybe I'll give my current heroine a hobby, something to take her mind off that sexy fire fighter!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Great topic Janet! Reading everyone's comments, I notice how many hobbies are creating endeavours. I like your mention of the chess-playing heroine. A gamer rather than a creator ;)

I would say in terms of creating things, I'm a dabbling artist, but it's been a long time. Ask me again in July, and we'll see what I do with myself during all that non-essaying spare time!

Interestingly, it was in fleshing out my hero that my husband realized some time ago that he has no hobbies :p He's my go-to for making sure my male characters seem realistic, so of course some interesting little traits and tics of his made their way into my hero. Then I realized one day my hero had no hobbies, everything revolved around 'work' (you know, that 9-5 grind that is "Sword for Hire"). When I asked Hubby what he thought, we realized why my hero had none :p Now I encourage him to find creative past-times with threats of making my sword-hefting hero a master of the pan flute.

What it turned into, though, was a very interesting dynamic to that character. It reinforced the fact that he's always on alert, always vigilant, and too focused on the task ahead.

Janet C. said...

Thanks, Lu - and thanks for the hobby brainstorming last night :)

I love to bake/cook as well (thus the need for tons of cookbooks). Unfortunately, the waist line decided that baking was not the best hobby to have. Eating chocolate anything while sitting on one's a** all day writing does not make for any svelte figures!

And you need to think of something for your heroine - that firefighter could cause spontaneous combustion if she has nothing to focus her attention on :)

Glad to see you on the Prairies, Lu - hope to *talk* to you later in chat.


Janet C. said...

Had to laugh at the pan flute playing reference, Hayley. Hmm - not the kind of hobby a man's man would think of taking up :)

And I've seen your dabbling - mighty fine work there, my girl. With all that extra time, you're work will be amazing (ps - might call on you for artist type assistance as I work with my painting heroine ~ there's not an artist bone in my body).

Looking forward to part 3 in the cover art series over at Eventide Unmasked.


Suse said...

Hi Janet, I loved your post. Until you mentioned it, I don't think I realized that my characters don't have hobbies or at least none that I emphasize. I don't know if it's because I write shorter stories and there isn't time to have my characters spending time on their hobbies, or if I just never thought to give them a hobby. I certainly think I should include this type of information in my characters' profiles. It would definitely flesh them out.

I realize that when I write, I rarely have the hero and heroine apart, so I guess they aren't spending as much time on their hobbies as they would have if they hadn't met. This could be a conflict between the characters though.

I love quilting, therefore, I have more fabric than I would or could use in a lifetime. I see so many possibilities with the fabric and block choices.

Because I love to write and quilt, I also have many (MANY!) books and magazines on writing and quilting. I also enjoy cooking so I have many cookbooks too (mostly Company's Coming).

Janet, I hope to see some of your weaving some day.

Janet C. said...

Hey Suse,

I know all about your obsession with fabric - it's a good thing (or maybe not) that the sewing group holds their retreat at St. Peters the same time we hold our writing retreat. Both you and Lesley spend a lot of time over in their camp and usually come back with, what do you call them, fats? Oops, to all those quilters out there, I apologize - I don't think that's what the bundles are called. Suse, help me out.

And as for Lady Bells and Hugh - 100,000 words did separate them a bit. Even though she weaves, I bet maybe a dozen pages mention it. But it gives her depth, I think.

Love Company's Coming :)


Suse said...

Hi Janet, good try. They're called fat quarters or fat eighths. They're 1/4 yard and 1/8 yards of fabric cut differently then in a regular fabric store. So the cuts are "fat" and short rather than the narrow long cuts you would usually get.

I definitely agree that your heroine who weaves would be more real because of her hobby. Thank you again for writing this blog and reminding us what more we can do to develop our characters.

Janet C. said...

Thank you for setting me straight - fat quarters, got it.

And you're welcome. Have a great weekend, Suse.


Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, happy to help any way I can when it comes to the art. If I can't answer it, I know some helpful artists who would be happy to!

Attempting to bang out a late-night blog for tomorrow, now that I have my laptop back. Hopefully it's coherent :D