A few years ago we took a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where we stayed at a 100+year-old light house at Big Bay Point.
The views were spectacular, the weather wonderfully cool (which was a big bonus after our record breaking heat wave at home), the innkeepers very accommodating, and the lighthouse charming. However, as it is with all writers, everything is fodder for a story … or in this case for a blog.
While at the lighthouse, curiosity overtook the guests and we wanted to know how our hosts, Jeff and Linda, ended up owning the lighthouse and running it as a B&B. As it turned out, our B&B hosts were once guests in the lighthouse themselves. For several years they, and a group of friends, rented out all seven rooms and loved it so much they just kept coming back. Then the owner told them he was planning to sell the lighthouse and the adjoining land. A condo developer, and another business, were interested in the property. Both businesses would tear down the lighthouse and destroy the beauty of the rural setting that had been part of the lighthouse since 1896.
Our hosts were preservationists, who were active in Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the Chicago area, where they lived before buying the lighthouse. They hated the thought that the lighthouse could be torn down. They also didn’t want to run a Bed and Breakfast, but they felt they had to do something to try and stop the destruction from happening.
“We made a ridiculously low offer,” said Jeff, “which we didn’t expect them to take. It was mainly so I could feel better about trying to save it (the lighthouse). We asked for the lighthouse and acreage on either side on the building, taking a section right out of the middle of the property.”
A few weeks later Jeff’s wife called him at work and said, “Cancel the trip to Africa and put the house on the market. We’ll talk about it when I get home.” Their ridiculously low offer—the one Jeff was sure would be rejected—had been accepted and a new chapter in their lives had begun.
Interesting, you say, but what does Jeff’s and Linda’s story have to do with a writing-themed blog?
We can think of several things:
- Jeff and Linda took a risk by bidding on the lighthouse. Risks are what we need our characters to take. They can’t play it safe or there’s no story. If the heroine hears a noise in the dark basement, she MUST go down there. Even though we, as readers or movie viewers, are yelling, “Don’t! The ax murderer is waiting for you!”
- The risk our characters have to take MUST be big. Jeff and Linda risked everything on something they didn’t expect to happen. Buying the lighthouse cost them financially. They had to sink everything they had into the purchase and repair. It cost them emotionally in time spent apart. Linda lived there alone for several years while Jeff commuted on weekends, and it cost them physically. They, and their friends, did the restoration work themselves. Their story would have been much different, and a lot less interesting and entertaining, if they’d had the finances to send someone to do the work and invest the time needed to bring the lighthouse back to all its former glory.
- Taking a risk doesn’t always end the way you think it will. Jeff didn’t want to run a B&B, he just wanted to feel better about “trying” to save the lighthouse. Instead, he and Linda saved the lighthouse, which is a huge part of Lake Superior’s history, and have provided enjoyment to hundreds of guests who’ve crossed the threshold of the B&B lighthouse. The next time you have your character take a risk, consider turning the results into something unexpected that will set them on a new adventure.
- And lastly, we, as writers, have to take risks. Does something scare you? Are you afraid of approaching an editor, starting a blog or website, or sending your “baby” out to get rejected … or accepted? If you have writing goals you haven’t conquered yet, take a chance and just do them. Maybe you’ll end up with a great story to tell too.