How did you get the idea for The Road Show?
Last week, I posted some info about the story and theme of The Road Show. If you are interested, you can read that by clicking right here. Today, I thought I'd talk about some of the background for the story.
The idea for The Road Show occurred to me about seven years ago on the steps leading to the stage in the Franklin, TN stake center, about five minutes before it was our ward's turn to perform our road show. I had been called to be the director on short notice (and yes, I was not exactly thrilled at the calling. And, yes, Scott's response in the book might possibly have a basis in reality).
Growing up in the West, road shows were big productions for the youth, with maybe a quick cameo by the bishopric if they were really cool. Our ward in TN only had three youth, so most of the parts went to adults. This had allowed me to do a more serious road show, and I had tried to make it meaningful, both dramatically and spiritually (it was, however, very different than the one in the book).
While I was chatting with some of the cast members, a series of "what if" questions flashed through my mind, and these "what ifs" connected to some other "what ifs" I had thought about earlier: "What if...the leading man was reluctantly participating?" What if the leading lady had postpartum depression?" "What if the director had a secret problem of some kind?" "What if....."
I don't know about how other creative folks work, but I live for these "what ifs." They are incredibly exciting moments and they start my mind--and my spirit--on fire as I begin to play with them.
I started answering the questions, and asking more questions, and the rough outline appeared in my brain.
A few months later, the prologue for the book, which I am very fond of, materialized in my mind. I started typing furiously and wrote a rough draft. Then, the final chapter came very, very clearly. It appeared in my mind and heart, and I could barely type fast enough. It was really, really cool.
Once I had the beginning and end, I just had to come up with the middle. That was the hard part, and it took me five years to do it, but that's another story.
Are the characters based on real people?
I should emphasize that this book is definitely and entirely a work of fiction. While certain situations were suggested from my real-life experiences, the characters and their struggles are not attempts to recreate anyone specifically.
For example, the leading role in our road show was played by the elder's quorum president. However, unlike the character in the book, he was one of the kindest, warmest men, and the most dedicated elder's quorum president I have ever known.
Likewise, while the leading lady was married to a law student, she was a cheerful and happy woman, who certainly did not show any signs of post-partum depression. And while she had a lovely voice, she had not been a Young Ambassador at BYU.
Scott, the character who directs the road show and struggles with pornography is drawn from experiences I have had as a bishop counseling people who have battled with this terrible problem. But he is not a real person, nor is he based specifically on any one person. However, in writing about his experiences, I did draw on what people have described to me in order to create what I hope is an accurate portrait of someone working to overcome an addiction. I would never use something that someone confidentially told their bishop as fodder for a story.
For me, one of the greatest joys of writing is that I start with characters in my head. As I write, though, those characters start to take on a lives and personalities of their own--they evolve very quickly. I know that is a bit of a cliche and it may sound ridiculous to some people, but in my case, it's absolutely true. So, while I might start out basing a character on someone I know, that only lasts for a few pages. The more I write, the more independent the characters become. So, Ed, for example, was modelled in appearance on someone I knew on my mission. However, he very quickly evolved into his own unique person. The same thing happened with Sister Cartwright, Brother Flortentine, and Dr. McKay.
Ironically, Sister MacDougal is one of the characters I am most attached to and have always imagined the most vividly, and she is completely made-up. She is not modelled on anyone I have known. However, her experience being healed is based on a very real, very powerful experience.
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