Do we write what we know or play favorites?

Sound of MusicRaindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things!


From “My Favorite Things,” The Sound of Music–

Everyone knows you’re supposed to write what you know. But I often wonder how much of what we know, involves what we like. How much of our favorite things go into our writing?

A great deal I would imagine.

Out of curiosity, I scanned through some of my story lines/themes and was amazed to find how many of my favorite things appear in my work or become my character’s favorite things.

For example, I love traveling to Puerto Rico. One of my short stories takes place, where? You guessed it. Puerto Rico. I vividly remember the rich, lush scenery of the island, and it helps when seeing through the eyes of my heroine.

In another one of my stories, the main character is a lawyer. Once upon a time long ago, I wanted to be a lawyer. I was always fascinated with the legal system and the idea of “arguing” for a living appealed to me! The lawyer’s love interest just happens to be a police officer/detective.  There’s only one explanation for that: men in uniform. Hot damn! 🙂

I collect pieces of art and sculpture. And to my surprise (or not) one of my heroines is an artist/sculptor. Her love interest is a journalist. (Go figure!) At one point, I majored in journalism, but then quickly changed to English Literature. I figured my imagination could run rampant with the latter.

Hmmm ….This self-analysis stuff can be scary.

Okay, so it seems quite a bit of my favorite things or “likes” wind up in my stories! And because they do, at times, I make a conscious effort to write the opposite.

For example, Octavia Middleton, my heroine in the “Heat Between Us,” is a shoe fiend. She  goes absolutely bonkers over them. She will spend her last dime on a pair of Louboutins. I’m the same way …but only about purses and handbags.

Writing the opposite “like” works well. After all, the book isn’t autobiographical and I don’t want the character to sound like me. One neurotic writer in the house in enough!

On the flip side, when we include some of our favorite things, as we are bound to do, the reader actually gets a glimpse into our personality through our work. Or they’ll at least wonder about certain aspects of the book.

Romance author Rochelle Alers is a favorite of mine and at the top of her game. I’ve read just about every book she’s written. In one of her books, her character is relaxing to the jazz sounds of my favorite saxophone player, David Sanborn.

OMG! Talk about being thrilled to read that! I was happy because 1) His name was in the book and 2) someone else was a big fan (or so I immediately wondered).

I’ve met Ms. Alers and on one occasion I told her how thrilled I was to see that she’d written about him in her book. We chatted about it for a bit and then went on to talk about writing.

Hmm …now that I think about it, I never did ask her if she liked David Sanborn. I guess if an author counsels you on pitching your story to her editor, you shut up, and do what she’s advising, right? David who?

What about you? Have some of your favorite things made their way into your characters’ thoughts, ideas and motivation?

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Sax appeal …Happy Birthday David Sanborn

Growing up, Sunday mornings at my house began with the sounds of my dad’s collection of jazz greats, which included Miles Davis, Taj Mahal and Quincy Jones.

My nose would wrinkle when he invited me to listen to the melodious sounds of the horns, bass, drums and saxophones. I literally wanted to gag. My idea of music back then was the Jackson Five.

As an adult, I remember driving in my car with my dad, listening to CD 101.9. Back then, it was our local jazz station. I remarked that I loved the artist that was currently playing and my dad, straight, yet with a hint of teasing said, “It’s about time you acquired some taste.”

All I could do was laugh. But he was right. Since then, I’ve become a big time jazz lover and I have my dad to thank for that.

My favorite instrument is the saxophone and my favorite artist, the one and only, David Sanborn.

IMHO, David Sanborn is one of the greatest jazz musicians around. Although, he’s played many genres, his music typically blends jazz with instrumental pop and R&B.

OMG! I love his style, and I often write to his music. It could be a love scene, or perhaps a character whose personality requires a little swag! David’s music helps me write for that character.

Most importantly, whenever I’m in a funk and nothing seems right, I pop in a David Sanborn CD, start humming to his sax appeal, and all is right in my world.

I’ve seen him in concert quite a few times, but my fondest recollection was seeing him play at the Blue Note in New York City. The Blue Note is a small, intimate venue where you can really see the musicians up close.

“Up Close” took on a whole different meaning for me, when my daughter and I saw David live. Just before he was about to go on stage, a man at our table (of six) called him over. Apparently, he, too, was a musician and he reminded David that they’d met before.

Good thing I was seated, because it would have been highly embarrassing to faint at that moment.

David Sanborn was literally two feet away from me and with my mouth gaping, eyes glazed over and stunned, all I could do was stare. My daughter still teases me about that night. She said that was the first time, she’d ever seen me speechless.

Anyway …it was truly a night to remember.

To get a taste of David Sanborn’s music I suggest starting off with two of his hits, “The Dream” or “Maputo.” These songs, are quite popular in jazz circles, and “The Dream” is played quite often at sweet sixteen parties, graduation parties, and the like, because of its moving, soulful sound. It’s a great song. Take a listen. 🙂

The second is Maputo, which he made famous with legendary jazz pianist Bob James (on piano). Marcus Miller, (a jazz and R&B legend in his own right) who isn’t playing here, composed this song and many, many, many others!. He’s a favorite of mine also.

This is David’s birthday, so he gets two videos! 🙂 He is touring this year, and since he goes worldwide, you may be able to experience his sound wherever you are. I plan to be front and center! (A hundred “thank yous” to my dad for influencing me to appreciate something new.)

And to Mr. Sanborn, Happy Birthday!