Annette Dashofy is my online critique partner and a fabulous writer. To top it off, she's in excellent shape. So, what revenge does one take against someone with such talent and physique? I insist she write an article about her interests in both. Please welcome Annette Dashofy to the Five Scribes ~ Donnell
The world of yoga and the world of murder mystery writing would appear to be polar opposites. And for good reason. They are. About the only thing they have in common is me. I am a yoga teacher who writes mysteries.
I've been told time and again that I should write a yoga thriller. But isn't that an oxymoron? Like jumbo shrimp? Military intelligence.
When I teach yoga, I coax my students into a place of tranquility. No stress. No tension.
When I write, I strive to put tension and conflict on every page. And the tension should build and become unbearable.
Basically, my characters need yoga.
The common thread between relaxing my students and bringing my readers to a nail-biting frenzy is the power of the word. When I was studying to become a yoga instructor, I was taught to use calming, passive langauge. "Gently clasping the right wrist with the fingers of the left hand, ease into the stretch."
In writing murder mysteries, I use active verbs. "He grabbed her wrist and yanked her from her seat."
We never grab or yank in yoga class.
As part of my yoga practice, I took up meditation. This was during a time in my life when I suffered an extended period of writer's block. The clutter of everyday worries and responsibilities drowned out the characters who used to speak to me. At one point, I'd forgotten they even existed. In meditation, I learned to sit and chant mantra and calm the internal chatter that nagged at me constantly. Until one day a strange thing happened. Two characters took advantage of that lull in the action and began telling me their story.
Which is a bit of good news/bad news. Meditation freed my mind to allow my creativity to flow once again. But I haven't been able to sit quietly in meditation for more than a few minutes at a time since then! As soon as my inner chatter settles down, the solution to my latest plot problem becomes clear. My meditation teacher would tell me to let go of those thoughts and ideas and come back to my mantra.
But if I do that, I might forget that perfect solution to the plot problem du jour!
Meditation rekindled my writing, but writing murdered my meditation practice.
Which brings us back to the polar opposite thing. The stillness of yoga and meditation vs. the tension of crime writing. Or is it so opposite? Aren't we all a study in contrasts? Don't you have hobbies and interests that don't mesh? Hockey players spend their spare moments knitting. Football players practice ballet.
Both football and hockey players practice yoga. It's about a life in balance. Yin and yang. Encompassing our light and our dark sides.
Maybe a yoga thriller isn't so far-fetched after all.
Just don't tell my yoga students that as I guide them into the deep relaxation of shavasana, I am, in fact, plotting out the murder in my next novel. I may be complex, but let's face it, one person's "complex" is another person's "totally nuts!"
Annette's short stories have been published in Mysterical-e and Spinetingler Magazine. One was named a finalist for a 2007 Derringer Award. Her literary agent is currently shopping her two veterinary mysteries around New York. She posts every Wednesday at the Working Stiffs blog (http://workingstiffs.blogspot.com) and shares random thoughts at Writing, etc. (http://annettedashofy.blogspot.com) And she's been teaching yoga since 1999.