Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Character Development and Pets

June 5th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Last weekend, the New York Times Book Review section had an article about what authors do Between Books by Ann Packer.  In it she said sometimes she has trouble moving on with new books because of characters. Not that she wants to hang out with them longer, but because she is “giving up the ease I developed with writing them.”

As I work to finish my first big novel, I understand. My characters are like my old cat was in the last years of her life. We ebb and flow around one another. I know why and when a particular voice is used. We’ve settled into our daily routine. We have an understanding. It’s easy.

New characters are like puppies and kittens. When they’re “on” it can be chaos. They don’t always go where it makes sense. They don’t speak or participate properly in the environment I’ve created for them. There’s a bit of cursing, and certainly training. On their part and mine.

Given this notion, my goal is to enjoy these last few moments with my old characters. My protagonist who was a young, eager pup–he’s now a great travel companion who comes with me to the office every day. My antagonist, who started out simpering like Snidely Whiplash, has grown into a lovable mutt (who has gotten mean as he got older, sadly).

And I’ll enjoy the ease of their company before I find myself laying down papers for my new pets ahead.

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And this week we say goodbye to a great character. Bandit. The little dog who lived (and worked) next door to me in Paris. He had a long, happy life with Dorothée, eating well at the crab shack and summering at the beach. He was featured in several entries, along with this picture, in my book Bonjour 40. Bandit, may there be unlimited bread wherever you are now. You certainly begged for enough of it in this life.

Giving up TV to Write

May 8th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments


A few weeks after moving into an old house, an electrical storm killed our television. We considered not replacing it. Ultimately our decision came to this: We could either watch others have a life, or we could have one of our own.

We’ve been six years without a TV. And no, I don’t regret it.

As Courtney Carver, of, said, “Without TV, I eat less, workout more, save more money, have more creative ideas, write better stuff and have a better sex life!”

I also have more time to write.

According to Neilson, people my age (44) watch TV more than 33 hours a week (4+/night). For a writer–especially those with jobs, kids or other obligations–even an hour a night is more valuable than gold.

True, TV can sometimes feel like an escape. I get that. And in full disclosure, I do still watch some things. When the Oscars come around, I seek out bars or friends because I like sappy speeches and pretty dresses. My neighbors happily (graciously) agreed to watch Downton Abbey together. Over breakfast, Ted and I watch Jon Stewart from the night before (until he leaves in August).

When I’m old and more sedentary, I’ll have reruns. But for now while I have books to write, I’ll keep my furniture pointed at bookshelves. As Ben Franklin once said. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

Without TV, I’ve given myself time to do both.

Could you do it? Could you give up TV?



Karen McCann on Armchair Adventures: Guest Post

April 24th, 2015 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

Today on Compositions, we hear from Karen McCann, an American expat living in Seville and exploring Europe. Following a 6000-mile, 13-country train journey, she has just published Adventures of a Railway Nomad: How Our Journeys Guide Us Home. But as she reminds us, sometimes the best travel experiences involve a good armchair and a great read.

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The Civilized Joys of Armchair Adventures

A great travel memoir gives us the exhilarating pleasure of exploring far-flung places in the company of a congenial and insightful companion — without having to put up with long plane rides, inclement weather, lost luggage, and worrisome food. Having visited places where it’s advisable to shake out your shoes to dislodge scorpions and stay on perpetual lookout for leopards and electric eels, I deeply appreciate the civilized thrills of armchair adventures.

Books involve us in journeys we would never undertake ourselves. In Free Country we join George Mahood as he sets off on a 1000-mile journey penniless, without luggage, and nearly naked. He proves — via many uproarious detours — that you really can rely on the kindness of strangers.

As a young girl educated by a French order of nuns, I dreamed of living in Paris someday. Two delightful memoirs — Karen A. Chase’s Bonjour 40 and Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French — provide realistic yet enticing views of today’s City of Lights.

Perhaps the best kind of travel memoir is one that enables us to see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes. Alain de Botton, who claims he actually enjoys airports, spent seven days at Heathrow writing about his impressions on a screen visible to passersby. A Week at the Airport is so fresh and insightful that I’ve actually had to rethink my aversion to air terminals.

“The real voyage of discovery,” wrote Marcel Proust, “consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” And that’s something every good travel memoir offers us.

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You can follow Karen McCann on her blog or on the Enjoy Living Abroad Facebook page, too. Her book, Adventures of a Railway Nomad: How Our Journeys Guide Us Home is out now.