by Guest Chef, Linda Winfree (author of Sultry Southern Romantic Suspense)
“I love it when a plan comes together.” Back in the eighties, Hannibal Smith (George Peppard’s character from The A-Team) intoned these satisfied words every week as the intrepid band of on-the-run mercenaries wrapped up yet another successful escapade. It’s great when a plan does come together, but when it doesn’t? Oh, boy.
I actually had a plan for this summer. (My children would tell you I always have a plan – they throw this term “control freak” around all the time. Actually, I’m merely a structured, highly motivated individual, but that’s a different blog post . . .) The plan was simple: finish grad school in June, work on the new book during June and July, and have a rough draft by the time I went back to teaching in early August.
Then the letter arrived in the first week of April. The white envelope with its typewritten address seemed so innocuous when I pulled it from the mailbox. I tore it open, removed the grand jury summons contained within and shrugged it off. I’d been called for jury duty before – twice, to be exact – and both times, it had been cancelled because everyone pled out early. Silly me, I’d forgotten what “grand” jury meant: billing or no-billing cases, not regular jury duty.
But, hey, it was two days out of my spring break, right? My summer plan was safe, even though we’d be called back for duty once more in July. Except as we were preparing to leave on the second day, the assistant district attorney came in to talk with us about the duties and responsibilities of a grand jury. When he mentioned looking into county issues, well, the room exploded with questions about recent actions of the local school board and school system.
That’s where my plan didn’t come together. Actually, that’s where my plan began to come totally apart.
As I possess what a dear friend refers to as “natural leadership skills,” I somehow found myself involved with the core group leading the grand jury’s civil investigation into the school system. That meant meeting weekly, studying data, interviewing citizens, reading, reading and more reading. Somehow, turning on my investigative brain turned off my creative brain, and my ability to write went the way of my lovely summer plan.
Basically, that innocuous envelope in April changed everything, for at least a few months. I didn’t ask for it; instead, this call to action simply landed in my lap. I could choose to ignore it or I could accept it and all the changes it brought with it.
How often in really good reads do we see characters faced with such a call? I know in my own work, the rather ordinary people who are my characters often wrestle with unasked-for events that challenge their plans. Here are a few examples:
· A man forced to choose between two women – and his choice may mean death for one. (What Mattered Most)
· A man who may have to betray the only family he has left in the name of justice. (Truth and Consequences)
· A mother whose rebellious teenage son compels her to ask for help from the estranged husband she still loves, but doesn’t want to need. (His Ordinary Life)
· An FBI agent seeking a serial killer . . . and facing the reality of working closely with the former lover from whom she’s keeping a life-altering secret. (Hold On to Me)
· A public defender locked into defending a killer, although it puts her own life at risk. (Anything But Mine)
What are your favorite calls to action from books, movies and real life?
Linda is giving away a print copy of Hearts Awakened OR one of her ebook backlist. Winner's choice. She will draw one lucky winner from those who comment. To learn more about Linda and her books, visit her website at www.lindawinfree.com or her blog at http://lindawinfree.blogspot.com.