Making Up Reality

I remember grumbling to my husband Pat one night about a secondary character in a book I was writing who wouldn't do what I wanted. "He keeps taking over the whole story."

In that type of gentle voice usually reserved for talking someone off the ledge of an open window on the 28th floor of a skyscraper, Pat said, "Mary, it's an imaginary person."

"Tell him that!" I retorted.

It's fairly easy for anyone to understand what a person does who's a nurse, a custodian, a doctor, a taxi driver, a politician--well, maybe not that last one. Understanding writers takes a little more doing. It's hard to figure out what's going on with people who can stare at a blank computer screen for hours at a time and claim they're working. Or when you're having a great conversation with some guy (male or female--I think it's been degenderized by restaurant servers) and suddenly he/she appears to have gone off into space somewhere. One of Andrew Lloyd Webber's wives told how this would happen to the famous composer at a dinner party. No offense, but the guy probably just had a marvelous idea for the next Phantom of the Opera and everything else paled by comparison. I know. It happens to me, too, except I don't make so much money from mine.

When writers begin talking about recalcitrant characters, it's just part of the process. You care about them, so your readers will, as well. And it's also part of the process that sometimes you're so successful at this that characters develop their own voices, their own way of behaving (or not), their own way of solving their problems. How real is Winnie-the-Pooh? Scarlett O'Hara? Charlotte, the spider? Anne of Green Gables? This is the magic of writing and writers this happens to will know that they been gifted and feel appropriately thankful.

No comments: