Wednesday is upon us again. Brace yourselves for freak storms, hurricanes and sweets raining from the skies.
Last week we talked about the fact that I really really want to do NaNoWriMo and that I’ve been ill. I’m much better now. So this week we’re going to talk about the moments when you start to believe that your characters could be real.
My characters are real. Are yours?
Its that moment when you’re reading a good book (and I mean a good book, the ones that you are loathe to put down because if you do, our heroic hero might not make it back up the cliff he’s just plummeted over. And you’ll cry if he doesn’t) and you have that heart wrenching, stomach churning dread that something is coming to get you (or the hero). You put the book down (oh no, now he’s going to be stuck halfway between chapters seven and eight!) and take a deep breath. And you have the shakes. You’re physically shaking, as if you’ve just escaped a scary monster and dived over the edge of a cliff, scrabbling for handholds as you go. The sea doesn’t look appetizing. The rock crumbles. I’d have the shakes too.
But you’re the reader. How do you think it is for the writer?
Books have been likened to babies. You have the spark of an idea, a concept which you nurture and grow until you’ve got pages of the stuff and you’re up all night because you just can’t help yourself. It becomes part of you. It might even take over your life. And then, suddenly or after a long, intense labour, you have a p0lished manuscript. There is an ending. All plotholes have been plugged or ignored, the edges burnished to finest gold and you punt your hard work out of the door with a wave and a smile and the odd tear.
But, are your character’s alive?
This might be my crazy inside voice talking (or the muse, take your pick) but I believe they are. Sometimes, when I’m working quietly in our spare room, overlooking the garden and the tree over the wall (the tree that is becoming my gauge of the year – having watched it go from green fullness to shades of auburn richness to black starkness dotted with fat red jewels), I can hear conversations in my head. Its as if the story hasn’t finished because I’ve put it away for the week (month), sat unopened on my computer, but that I am the observer, watching all as it unfolds. Somewhere, my story is already on at about chapter nine and new faces are jostling for face time with me. Sometimes its a comfort. Sometimes its a frustration. Most of the time its a little of both.
I’ve finished for the evening and putting everything to bed and I get the feeling that someone is in the room with me, sitting quietly, half forgotten, in the corner of the spare bed, curled up in the shadows over my shoulder. And they’re just talking – Ifan with his rumbling gruffness, Lore with his soft lilting phrases, Alecto in his timid mumblings. Never Gretham, though he came once, never Elrik who sent his brother in his place. If it’s Alrissa, I ignore her. She’s not needed just yet. If it’s Nyssa I hear nothing at all, just the quiet, understanding stillness.
If I’m quick, sometimes I catch a glimpse of them as the light plays tricks on my eyes (this works best when the main light isn’t on and the evening is drawing on) – a glint of a sword or belt buckle, the soft rumpled folds of a cloak or jerkin. Boots, both clean and dirty. They don’t seem to fit with the room, and looking with the clear light of day I cannot tell where they sit or how they manage to curl up without disturbing everything. But I know, I hope, that they are sat there, watching me. Encouraging me on, waiting.
Waiting for the story to continue along.
These characters have been with me in some form since I was stuck in business studies in year 10 (aged 14/15) and waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. They’ve been through many names, many faces, many personas. They are a part of who I am. And one day I will be a part of them.