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.