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If It Makes You Happy …

October 10, 2012

He paces outside my morning words, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, a scowl on his face. I dread confronting him, but now that morning words have been procrastinated into evening words, I venture inside and type my first question.

“Are you mad at me?”

He looks up, and the darkness doesn’t leave his face.

I knew it. I should never have let him out of my fingers. I should never have posted any of my chapters for anyone to see. He should have stayed exclusively mine.

“I’m sorry,” I sputter. “I shouldn’t have done that. I fluffed your lines and had you saying things no rock ‘n’ roller should ever say. I’ll fix it, I promise—pronto. I was wrong and you were right.”

“You thought I was mad about that?” His scowl splits into a grin. “Nah, I’m just wondering why it took you so long to get to these words today. What’s with watering the grass, and the blog posts, and that other writer who keeps asking for help?” He shrugs one of his all too frequent shrugs, and pulls his hands from his pockets to spread them wide in a gesture of dismay.

If he was the hugging type …

But I remember in time— he’s not. He’s a rocker.

“You bet I am, sister,” he agrees. “So don’t forget it next time.”

I breathe a huge sigh of relief, and settle into some normal typing. “I have questions for you.” Still the tentative writer, I add, “Would you mind?”

He shakes his head. “It’s about time, so fire away.”

“I liked your words last night,” I type. “Thanks for getting me going again. I was having a lot of doubts about that scene.”

He looks surprised and stares at me from behind the lock of hair that falls into his eyes. “Why? It’s just me, except before. Same guy, remember?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s the idea. But you look different, so I thought I might have to write you differently.”

He grins so that his eyes narrow with mirth. “Now you know what Libby feels like.”

“Are you going to call her Libby too?”

“Thought I’d try it out for size,” he says and shrugs again as I try to think of a new gesture besides shrugging for my dialogue beats.

“Sure, call her Libby then, if it makes you happy,” I type.

“My happiness isn’t what’s at stake here, you know.” He lets his gaze fall from mine as I turn back to my computer screen. “It’s the story that matters.”

“If you’re not happy there is no story, Nick. Happiness is what you want, and why you do what you do.”

“Isn’t that everyone’s need?”

“Depends,” I reply. “Some people are only happy when other people around them are miserable.”

“Lucky for you, that’s not what I’m about.”

He stops pacing to gaze out my window. I don’t know what he’s looking for since it’s twilight and too early for lightning bugs. “But you said you had questions for me?” he asks.

“I might not be able to continue your scene today. I’m going to put chapter four and maybe chapter five up for critique.”

“So?” he asks with a nonchalant smirk.

“I want to know what you think about that.”

He draws a heavy sigh. “Did you do your best with them?”

I’m biting my lips as I type. “I think I did. But I’m just not very good at this.”

“You’re getting better. I can tell.” By the sound of his voice, determined as waves crashing on the shore, strong as the tide in the moonlight, I’m forced to agree that at least I’m getting better at pleasing myself.

“You might be right,” I type.

“I know I’m right. When you read me back, sometimes you laugh out loud. I hear that you know.”

“And sometimes I want to cry …”

“But those are happy tears. I see them. I’m not here to make you sad.” He pauses. “Have I ever made you sad?”

Because I detect worry in his tone, I hasten to assure him, “Of all the people I’ve ever known, Nick, you must be the only one who has never made me sad.”

“See–” His stride lengthens to a strut, as if he’s preparing for a show. He stops look at the dark sky outside. “And writer?”

“What?”

“You kick ass.”

How about you? Do your characters pace outside your words? Do they approve of what you’re writing about them?

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27 Comments
  1. October 10, 2012 8:42 pm

    This is an awesome post. I need to have a good chat with my current MC. I’ve kind of been neglecting her.

    • October 11, 2012 6:57 pm

      Thanks, Shell. 🙂
      I have so much fun doing these chats, that I sometimes worry I’m neglecting my story!

  2. October 10, 2012 11:11 pm

    Haha, I wonder sometimes if my characters are really just characters. I love the dialogue, but that is something you have already demonstrated many times. Plus the little descriptions that go with it really make the “scene”. As you know there is a fine line between my Muse, who I have trouble remembering is not real, and some of my characters. That’s part of what makes it so much fun.

    • October 11, 2012 7:01 pm

      Nick was the first of my characters to ever come to life like this on the page, sort of my initiation into the thrills of writing, so it is probably no accident that he and my Muse share many traits.
      For a while I worried that my Muse would sneak into the guise of my other characters. So far, he hasn’t. 🙂

  3. October 11, 2012 1:29 am

    My characters definitely pace around in my head, having secret adventures and occasionally popping up to tell me about them. I handed my manuscript over for my niece to read, and in glancing at it I realized that it’s been long enough for me to forget a lot of it. Long enough for me to work on it, now. It’s better than I remembered, but there is the potential to really make it sing.

    • October 11, 2012 7:03 pm

      See! I told you it was good!
      I really wish I had more time to look some more of your chapters, but I will soon, since this revision is starting to wind down.
      But wait, it’s almost NaNo time … I’ll figure something out. 🙂

      • October 12, 2012 12:09 am

        Don’t worry about it until after NaNo, I think I’ll be writing the sequel (and then I will REALLY have to edit).

  4. October 11, 2012 1:53 am

    Hey,

    Not blowing smoke up your behind, but that was brilliant 🙂

    I loved it… and want to read more, lol 🙂

    PS… I doubly laughed (is that a lolx2 ?) reading your shrugging and struggle for dialogue beats… as a former journalist, my editors *always* kicked the bejaysus out of me if any of my quotes was anything but “she said.”

    Now I’m hooked and let the readers figure out the emotion 🙂

    • October 11, 2012 7:07 pm

      2(lol) 🙂
      I’ll have you know that your comment made my day. There is always this moment, just before I hit the ‘publish’ button, when I think (with a shrug, of course) “This is just too darn weird. People will think I’m psychotic if I post this.”
      But I loved writing it, and it made me laugh too. So I took a chance.

      I’m glad I did. 🙂

  5. October 11, 2012 3:40 am

    Great post honey, I love the way you’ve done this 🙂

    Xx

    • October 11, 2012 7:08 pm

      Thanks, Vikki! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  6. October 11, 2012 8:01 am

    Great post. Very entertaining. It’s funny how characters have opinions and they let you know what they are.

    • October 11, 2012 7:11 pm

      Writers would tell me how that happened, and I’d think, “Yeah, sure.” Then I started writing. 🙂 I had no idea all about the stuff that goes on in my head!

  7. October 11, 2012 8:55 am

    I love this post. Brilliant!

    (And, yes. My characters glare at me sometimes when I write them wrong. They also argue with me when I try and make them do something they would never do. LOL :p)

    • October 11, 2012 7:14 pm

      Yeah, that’s the best part. If I plan a plot point for convenience but one they have issues with, it’s as if they come knocking on the door of my director’s trailer and tell me they’ll walk off the set if I don’t change it.
      Of course, I know that’s my writing instinct kicking in, but it’s so much more fun to pretend it’s ‘them.’

  8. October 11, 2012 9:24 am

    Awesome post. Love the way your let him out!

    Do you ever wish could bring your characters into the corporeal world? Just close your eyes and when you open them, there’s your cast of good guys and bad guys. Writing is as close as we can get.

    And, yes, I’ve gotten the glare, the hoot and, once, when I had a favorite character die, the boot. But, it worked for the story, and he became my muse instead!

    • October 11, 2012 7:18 pm

      Hah! I like that you found a way to keep your favorite character around.

      There are those times when the world seems to almost disappear and my senses are filled with only my story world, when my characters talk, and come alive. I call it my writing nirvana, and it’s frightening sometimes how addictive that’s become.

  9. T.F.Walsh permalink
    October 11, 2012 5:55 pm

    Such a great post… getting so close to characters sometimes takes time… at least for me:)

    • October 11, 2012 7:23 pm

      Yes, it takes time for me too. Words and time, usually at least 20k, sometimes more. What’s really cool though is that, once I’ve written them, they never seem to really go away, (unlike real people … hmm….)
      Sometimes I think it would be fun to write a party for my imaginary people, like a cast party, so they can all get to know each other.
      Gosh, I’m weird. 😉

  10. October 14, 2012 9:43 am

    So cool! I’ve done something similar to this…not quite as profound though! But I’ll apologize to them, and say things like, “I haven’t forgotten you.” I feel like my characters actually exist in another dimension, so talking to them doesn’t feel that crazy! But these conversations help, because inadvertently, you get to know them better. Jodi Picoult once described writing as “successful schizophrenia.” I think this applies here 🙂

    • October 15, 2012 6:29 pm

      Schizophrenia?! I knew it. I’m a little nuts.:)
      I’ve rationalized this as being similar to a director consulting her actors before the crucial scene. It’s a chance for my characters give me feedback on what I’m about to write, and for me to express my doubts and fears without worrying about someone telling me to just get on with it.
      Well, that, and we like to party afterwards sometimes. 😉

  11. October 15, 2012 8:38 pm

    Sometimes they creep up in my journal writing! Great post:-)

    • October 15, 2012 9:05 pm

      Thanks!
      My journal and my story have a way of intersecting sometimes. In fact, the story is probably just another way to journal, with my characters saying things I am afraid to say.

      Hmm, that got unintentionally deep, but thanks for you thought provoking comment. 🙂

  12. October 17, 2012 5:04 am

    Aloha Kirsten,

    I just tagged you for a Sweet award.

    Stop by my blog whenever you have a chance to check it out 🙂

    • October 17, 2012 8:28 pm

      Aww, that’s … sweet! Sounds yummy. I’ll be right over. 🙂

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