Freshman Year Again And Again

The release of All Things Murder has brought me back in contact with friends with whom I had lost touch. I recently heard from Maureen, a college friend. We caught up on each other’s lives and those of our mutual friends. Our emails, and the thirtieth anniversary this week of our arrival at the University of Notre Dame for our freshman year, has had me thinking of what happens when dreams meet reality.

Some of my ND classmates are exactly what they planned to be when we began our studies back in August 1984; they are doctors, lawyers, engineers, and teachers. Many classmates have the families they had hoped for when we were eighteen, and some have seen their children pursue their own dreams at Notre Dame.

Then there are those of us who discovered our choice of major would not lead us to our heart’s content, so we switched to academic departments that didn’t always cause our parents to jump for joy. I changed my major from Accounting to Sociology and English after Economics 101 didn’t inspire me to anything more than hair pulling. I don’t know how many times I had to answer the question “What are you going to do with a Sociology degree?” over the course of my college years.

I know I am not the only member of the class of 1988 who has switched professions, and I am not the only alum who found her bliss after years of searching for it. I also know the families some of my classmates have formed are not as they expected, but are just as rewarding.

With these nostalgic thoughts in my head, it struck me how the plot and characters in my stories don’t always end up on the page in the manner they had started in my brain. As with my classmates, some storylines and characters came into being just as I had planned, while others developed as I went along.

I don’t plan every detail before I start a book. Though I do know the identity of the victim and how he or she is killed, the reason for their murder sometimes changes as “something better comes along” during the writing process. With All Things Murder, the killer’s motive in the final version is much different from the motive I had first conceived. What worked well in my head didn’t make as much sense on paper (or my computer screen).

In the second Veronica Walsh mystery (currently under review by the publisher), one character had an entire personality change between the first draft and the last. The murder weapon changed hands; that is to say, the person I originally chose as the murderer now no longer commits the deed. That does not necessarily mean the character is innocent. And a few names, of both the guilty and the innocent, were changed.

This is how writing brings me joy and fulfillment. It’s like freshman year with every new story. Lots of possibilities, room to change paths, the opportunity to make a choice and then reverse course and go in an entirely different direction.

I wish all the students heading off to college for their freshman year (my niece Shannon is one of them!) good luck in their studies. Work hard and have fun! And appreciate the friendships you will form. I certainly cherish the friends I met thirty years ago.

Have a great week, everyone.


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