Author Leanne Baugh On Letting Characters Lead The Way

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.


Today's guest for the WHAT is Leanne Baugh, author of The Story of My Face, from Second Story Press.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

For my book, The Story of My Face, inspiration came from a few sources. I was a teenager who struggled with body image and I wanted to find a story thread to explore this theme. Although I didn’t want to write an “issue book”, I knew I wanted to write a story with a female protagonist on her journey of self-acceptance. The other inspiration was a book called, The Bear’s Embrace by Patricia Van Tighem. This memoir is a very moving account of a woman who was severely attacked by a grizzly bear. That book has always stayed with me and became a great source of research for me. So, I put these two things together?

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

I just asked myself the question: In a society that is obsessed with beauty, how would a teenage girl with a severe facial disfigurement navigate her way to self-acceptance? And what obstacles would she face along the way? (Many, as it turns out.)


Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

I try not to have the plot completely nailed down when I begin to write. I like to set the stage with a rough roadmap and then I just follow my characters around. They know where to take the story better than I do.

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

Sometimes I can’t write new story ideas down fast enough, and other times I’m tapping my pen on my notebook waiting for inspiration. Luckily, when the faucet is open, I usually have more than enough new material to explore. Then it’s a matter of figuring out what story really grabs me – what is the story I’m dying to tell.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

The story I end up writing is usually the one where there’s the most energy. Characters will start nudging their way to the front of the line, (“Pick me, Pick me”). Sometimes I have vivid dream of certain settings, or scenes or bits of dialogue will just pop into my mind (usually when I’m on a walk or in the shower).

I have a lot of cats and usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

No furry writing buddies to keep me company, I’m afraid. The closest buddy would be my espresso machine! Sad, isn’t it?