Tuesday, July 17, 2012

When You Write, if you get it wrong, Your Characters Will Politely Haunt You

Sometimes you've got a story all mapped out. Outlined. Characters. It's good. You're excited. The characters' are excited. There's joy. Hell, there's a plot! Woot. You sit down to type, and write, and suddenly, the page is blank because something is all wrong. Something is very, very wrong, and your frozen in front of the screen. The characters just aren't there.

So you stare at that stupid page and realize it's not even July anymore. You can't even get the season right. It's not hot out at all. Fall has been in the air for a while. There's a noise, too. Someone young is talking in a quiet whisper, just whispering in your ear, your head, the air, you can't place the whisper but you hear it, patiently trying to get your attention without shouting at you or startling you. It's a quiet insistent  whisper. Maybe it's the voice that woke you up at 3 a.m. when you were staring at the dark sky wondering what it was that was so urgent, what had startled you to awaken. It's been bothering you for at least two days now so you know the voice is getting a bit hoarse.

You're thinking this, and then you realize since it must have been trying to get your attention for a while now, you could at least start listening to it.

Ah, you hear the voice, you think you understand. This voice that's been whispering in your ear for a while now, is telling you its story, and it makes sense, there's this one character in another half-written story that didn't belong there, but belonged with this voice, and I had it only partly right. Suddenly, the old outline is gone, the characters skidaddle, the perfectly-set up story is a house of cards. The plot empty.

That voice is more real, and then words fall on the page easily. You already HAVE the characters, you just had them in the wrong place, and you recognize the voice, so you know whose voice it is...and the words flow, but there's just something else, something... shocking, an actual surprise. The voice you thought you knew, when it first started talking to you, maybe some years ago, maybe a month ago, who knows, you realize then, you didn't really KNOW the voice, because, you see, you thought the voice was a girl.  Now, you know, really really know,  it's not a little girl with brothers and sisters. It's this little 11 year old boy. It was always this 11 year old boy....

And that's a lucky day, when you have a character whose voice is so strong it pulls itself out of you, introduces itself and starts telling you the story you need to write because you haven't been writing it, and is kind enough to take the other character to you, well, that's a lucky day. A creepy day, because really, it means my characters are haunting me, but a good, lucky day!

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