A Passion for the Details

Submitted by: Jessica Trippe
Photos by: Cleveland Brown

After weekends of rain, the sun was out for the Pensters’ November meeting. With refreshments and registration relocated to a neighboring room, attendees had more space to catch up on all that has happened in the last few weeks. It was also a great time to welcome several new members and meet first time guests.

Among new business was the announcement that after three years of faithful service Donna Orchard will be stepping down from her post as Hospitality Chair. One or two volunteers will be needed to fill this position beginning in January. Responsibilities include coordinating and setting up refreshments for each meeting. (If you are interested, please president Mavis Jarrell for more details.)

Searching for Treasure

It is always a pleasure to hear from people with a passion for a topic. Guest speaker Judith Richards clearly fits the bill. During her presentation “The Importance of Research,” Richards commented that research is like finding treasure. The authenticity gained will “give your character texture.”

Change of Plans

A trip to New Orleans with her late husband, author C. Terry Cline, Jr. was initially meant to gain background for a suspense novel he was planning to write. However, the couple determined “that wasn’t the book that needed to be written.” This led to the birth of her sixth novel, Thelonious Rising.

In addition to their repeated trips to the Big Easy, documentaries such as Spike Lee’s “When the Levies Broke,” meteorology books, even cookbooks all lent a hand in the creation of nine-year-old Thelonious Monk DeCay’s world. Judith credited Terry with the quote: “It takes a ton of research for an ounce of material.”

The Sagging Middle

Richards also urged listeners to flip to the middle page of a book and see if anything happens. If not, it is possible the novel struggles with a “sagging middle.” This is a great place to introduce an action or twist and keep the reader engaged to the end. Research makes it possible to extend characterization, filling in authentic moments and challenges characters might face as they traverse the greater plot.

The presentation concluded with a question and answer segment. Richards parting advice was twofold: “get out of your comfort zone” and “always keep in mind what your character wants.” They have to have a passion about something.