It started last night.
He turned up in my dream, Chalky, the protagonist of my current WIP. He’s nineteen years old, pushing twenty. He’s a kid who has had a helluva twisted childhood (of course he did, he’s one of my characters) and he’s never really been a ‘kid’, he’s cocky, and he’s vulnerable, and he’s a wretched little know-it-all, and there he was, sitting on the side of my bed, kicking his heels on the bed frame.
“You’re doing it wrong,” he said.
“Oh, what now?”
“That scene, The new material. You’re *rushing* it. I have to know certain things but you haven’t given me time to learn them.”
“Am not rushing it. I need to…”
He interrupts me. “It’s nothing but a synopsis,”
Dammit, he’s right. I’m unpacking the the scene in my head. There are four pages worth of material behind a single paragraph there. I growl.
“What if you…”
“Shut UP,” I snap. “Did I ask you for advice?”
He shrugs, “Just thought I’d point it out. And another thing.”
“You need to figure it out.”
“Figure WHAT out?”
“What I want. What my motivation is.”
“Now you go all Galaxy Quest on me?”
“But I”m not a rock,” he points out helpfully.
I growl again. I seem to be doing a lot of growling. But I”m still kind of asleep. At this point stuff happens (cat sticks nose in my ear) and I come wide awake, and he’s gone, of course, with just that smarmy voice left: ‘You’re doing it wrong.’
That voice stays in my head like a gnat. I barely choke down breakfast. Then I take a cup of coffee down to the computer thinking that maybe it might help me clarify things.
He’s RIGHT the little sod. It IS a synopsis. I had to have him visit me in my dream to tell me I’m screwing up the book??? That’s just *rude*.
Whatever. I go back to the beginning of the problem.
Then I discover that isn’t the beginning of the problem, and go further back. Then something else falls down in a heap and mocks me. I take a large swallow of coffee, crack my knuckles over the keyboard, and hit “delete”. This scene needs to die.
I start again from the beginning. A different beginning.
This time there’s… something. There’s a note of truth in it (yes this is a story about Were-creatures. Yes, every word of it is ‘true’. Why do you ask?) I keep typing, scowling at the scene. The dialogue comes down the riverbed of story like somebody just blew up a dam upstream. Yeah, Chalky, I saw the fuse string dangling from your pocket.
But this water is clean. it is clear. it is deep.
I keep scowling. If there’s something I always resent it’s when my characters refuse to cooperate with me until I finally agree to cooperating with them, and withhold their participation in my story until this is accomplished.
I mean, I can write scenes for them. I can write dialogue for them. They’ll say it because I said they must say it. But they will say it without inflection, without passion, without any kind of feeling, and they’ll sound like robots until such time as I grit my teeth and let them say what they want how they want. And then all of a sudden they’re frigging Shakespeare and everything they say sings. I hate it when my characters are better writers than I am.
I really hate it.
Particularly when they haunt my sleep to tell me so.
I lift my hands from the keyboard. The coffee’s long gone and the light is different outside. It’s a beautiful scene.
He’s sitting there on the edge of my desk, kicking his heels against the side and smirking.
“Didn’t I tell you so?” he says.
“I want to SLEEP tonight,” I snarl.
He grins. “You did well. I might let you.”
The Were Chronicles
by Alma Alexander
If you found this blog post interesting, amusing or helpful, then please use the icons below to share it with other writers, readers or the guy next to you on the subway.