Unlike yesterday, I had a very productive morning. I started by catching up on all my email, moved right into contacting my security software provider to fix a problem with my system’s firewall, which they repaired in under thirty minutes, and by 9 a.m. I was editing the novel I’ve been nurturing for the past several months. The novel effectively managed to pull me into the story while still paying close attention to editing the prose, which brings me to today’s topic of why I love writing novels.
In addition to spending time with my husband, there are two pastimes that I very much love – traveling to foreign countries and writing stories. I love those two activities for the same reason, they allow me to immerse myself in an alien culture and allow me to interact with diverse and sometimes strange people. The advantage writing has over traveling is that it’s way cheaper and it allows me to control every aspect of the journey. I control who lives and who dies, what they do, every word they speak and how the world reacts to them. And if I don’t like the tangent that my characters have gone off on or the new twist in the plot or a million other details, I can rewind and do it over. In fact, what normally happens is that I keep doing everything over and over until I think I can no longer improve it (which is a trick of the ego because stories can always be improved). In my stories I’m God, and it’s fun playing God.
But one of the interesting things about long fiction is, once I set all the parameters, define the main characters, the story’s direction and established the pacing, a funny thing happens: even though I’m God and have the final say, my characters begin to make decisions on their own, regardless of my original intentions, like Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit. Once the characters and storyline establish themselves, they take on a life of their own, and I’m there going along for the ride. That’s another joy of writing (like traveling), that feeling of discovery. I, of course, can overrule my characters and keep them on the straight and narrow, but I’ve learned to listen to my characters, to let them tell their stories, err … I mean my story … or is it their story?
The funny thing is, that’s when I know the story is good, when it comes to life. So I keep adding my two cents, but I also try to keep my ego in check, so that my characters can find their own way.
No matter what I’m doing, there is always a little back and forth tussle going on in my head between me and my characters. They whisper to me, I argue back. They insist, I stamp my foot. They plead, I give in. It’s that dance I was talking about in an earlier post, the dance with Creativity. It doesn’t only happen when I’m sitting in front of the computer composing prose. It goes on all the time, and I love it.