High risk behavior

"The key ingredient to a successful and interesting life," I told my son last night, "is risk-takery."

There was some dispute over whether or not "takery" is a word, but hey, I consider it my right -- nay, my obligation! -- as a writer to facilitate the expansion of the language. What is most certainly not in question is the truth in that statement, and it applies to writing in a number of ways:

Character development depends entirely on the person's willingness (or unwillingness) to be dynamic, to change, to face unknowns. For you romance writers, that's one of the most delicious elements. If a relationship is easy, is passion possible? Without the danger of heartbreak, no enormous loss at stake, there's no credible incentive for change.

Doing anything new and different as a writer sets you up to get smacked around by readers and critics. Colleen and I both have our battle scars. I love that she stepped out on a long limb and pushed genre constraints off the high-dive with her recent release Head On, in which the unmarried hero is the father of a biracial child. And at the risk of giving up a plot twist -- he beats the crap out of the heroine. Risk-takery at its most out-on-the-limbiest!

The biz itself is such a capricious SOB. For writers who know in our hearts that there is no other life in which we can thrive and be joyful -- well, it can get intense at times. I am currently clawing my way out of a long dry spell, and it's been terrifying. The one perk is a renewed understanding of how important it is for me to be a writer. When put to the test, I am willing to risk...and I'm not particularly proud to say this...everything.

As my son succinctly put it: "Mom. You're like a crack monkey. Only with English."


LOL, Joni -- I love your way with words. Even with words that aren't really.

I've never made a conscious effort to go out on a limb with my writing. But when an idea comes that scares the heck out of me (such as having the hero of HEAD ON be a recently returned vet from Iraq), I try to look at it as an opportunity for growth as a writer. I tell myself to try, at least, and I can always retreat later (or revise if I'm called upon to do so by my editor.)

Usually, it's the dangerous stuff that turns out best, though, because the "risk" has focused me as a writer. Obviously, in the fictional situation we're discussing, I had to work extremely hard to make the hero as well-motivated and loving -- and lovable -- as I could and to make his grief over his behavior palpable. I know I was really rooting for him, and I hope that readers will as well.

As for your own writing risks, they're going to pay off. I have faith.

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