A Mind of Her Own

I often share with groups and aspiring writers that writing is hard work. There are constant challenges that threaten to pull you away from the task. Sometimes you sit and stare at the screen, fingers poised, and nothing happens. Where are the profound words, the inspiring thoughts, the exciting insights? Don’t have a clue. Let’s go see a movie, watch television, shopping. Sometimes even pulling weeds or mowing the lawn seem like pleasant things to do.

I set a goal for so many words per day. I’m at the keyboard, ready to go. And I glance out the window. The sun is shining; a gentle breeze is rippling the leaves. In Texas, a day with a gentle breeze is a treasure. And I remember the Rangers are playing a home game today. An afternoon game, during the week, less traffic, smaller crowd, hot dogs. Take Me Out to the Ballgame wafts through my brain, competing with Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on First sketch. Hmmm, where are my glove and ball cap?

And then Emily taps on the screen. Emily is the main character in my current novel. She’s a female lawyer in 1880s Kansas, facing her first major trial while her father (and mentor) is incapacitated. I think she’s annoyed with me. She’s defending a man accused of murder in front of an all-male jury, a less-than-savory marshal and a judge who thinks women have no place in a man’s world.

She wants to know what happens next, how am I going to get her out of this mess? I can’t really tell her I don’t have any idea. How would it look to be a clueless creator? So I start pecking at the keys. After a few paragraphs, Emily taps on the screen again. “That’s not how I would do things. Listen to me.”

Emily talks and my fingers move faster. And faster. At the end of the day, I’ve written over 3,000 words.

And Emily says, “That’s better. We’ll work on improving it tomorrow.”

Writers, don’t be afraid to let your characters take over. They’ll take you to some very interesting places, some you never thought of.


8 Responses to A Mind of Her Own

  1. Lori Freeland April 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    That happens to me all the time. I always know when I’m going the wrong direction because my characters don’t follow. They hold their ground until I turn around and follow them instead 🙂

  2. Mark Sylvester April 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    As a writer, I love it when characters do things I don’t expect or a new character shows up that I hadn’t planned. It’s the muse, they say. I wonder where it really comes from? Hmmmmm . . .

  3. Jackie Stem April 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more, Henry. I’ve found that sometimes I have to wait until my characters speak before I can begin. Does hearing voices in your head mean you’re crazy? If so, I think it’s a pretty nice way to be as long as what they are saying makes good sense.

    Glad to have you with us yesterday.


  4. Henry April 18, 2012 at 11:13 pm #

    I was glad I was there yesterday, too. And thanks for picking up on the coffee cup falling onto the carpet. I’ll have to fix that in the re-write.

    Hearing voices doesn’t mean we’re crazy. We’re writers. We just have many very interesting conversations nobody else knows about. My wife actually likes it when I come out of my writing cave and tell her what Emily or some other character just did.

  5. Henry April 18, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    I don’t know about the muse. I think my characters are, in many ways, smarter than me. At least in knowing where the story needs to go. In this morning’s blog, Emily wouldn’t let me not write and then told me to do it differently.

  6. Henry April 18, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    Oh yeah! Been there. I find them sitting on the side of the plot saying, “We’ve been waiting for you to come back.”

  7. Julie Marx April 19, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    Yes. Sometimes my main character startles me with her ideas that are quite out of the box. But she’s right and they always work out (at least in her opinion they do).

    Glad to know I’m not alone, Henry. 😉

  8. Henry April 19, 2012 at 3:19 am #

    Thank you, Julie.

    You know, if we write fiction, we’re never alone. Our characters are with us everywhere we go.

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