Spring has allegedly sprung. I say allegedly because in Washington D.C. today it’s a very un-Spring-like 40 degrees; and with cloud cover, feels more like 36 degrees. Still, I’ve decided not to let that dampen my mood. I’m doing a little spring cleaning this weekend. Not just of my physical space, but of my mental space too. I don’t know how it is for other writers but I tend to live with my characters when I’m writing them. They move into my head and they get comfortable there, and just about every experience I have while they’re visiting I view through dual lens. The lens of the writer and that of the character.
What the heck does that mean, you ask?
Here’s an example: while writing ‘Maybe Never‘, I might eat a piece of chocolate cake and suddenly it would come to mind that Tracy, the main character would not have eaten the cake because she’s extremely concerned about her appearance, and meticulous about what she eats. That characteristic about Tracy might or might not make it onto the page but since she resides in my head, I cannot help but think it. When that happens, it makes the process of writing about a character and making them three-dimensional almost easy. Each scene develops not according to an outline (not for me, though I know many fine authors use outlines) but according to what that person (character) might do given the circumstances of the scene.
The downside of having characters move into your head is that when you find them compelling, it’s often difficult to get them out. Like a way-too-comfortable house-guest, they sometimes linger even when you would prefer that they move on. Or, like now, when you need them to move on so you can turn your attention to new guests. Like some of you who’ve written to me, I find myself wondering how Tracy and Brendan are, when I really need to be checking on Trey and Darren, my main guys from ‘The Art of Endings‘ and cleaning out those spare rooms in my head for them.
But this weekend, I’ve made up my mind, as difficult as the parting will be, Tracy and Brendan have got to go. And of course, there’s always the prospect of perhaps having them visit once again when I write Chris Scaife’s story this summer. . .