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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Know thy characters

Okay, I was in a store, shopping with a friend and started obsessing (not like that ever happens...) about a scene in the second book in my series.  Problem was, it was a sex scene.  Nothing to do but get my notebook and pen out of my purse and jot those ideas down to get them out of my head. 

It happens all the time.  I'm writing all the time.  I know who has Will's Naval Academy class ring (and why he joined the Marines after graduating).  I know that Lizzy/Elizabeth, who is an Indiana State trooper at the beginning of the first book and fearlessly chases down a criminal barefoot, is scared of spiders.  I know what Mary Margaret buried in her "hopeless" box in the back yard on her thirtieth birthday.  I know how Rob felt, as he comforted a small girl who'd been raped in Africa, where he was serving in The Peace Corps.  I know when Ethan comes out of the closet.  I know Reney's favorite Christmas present ever.  I know why I don't like Grace, but I'll still give her voice.  I know how several of my characters die. 

These scenes all came to me while I was doing other things.  A character demands I write down their words, their story and it needs to be right now.  It might be at 5 am, where I knew I had to get out of bed, go into the bathroom (where I keep one of my journals) and write down a critical scene.  When I was working as an instructor, I'd be in the middle of teaching and a scene would come to me full blown.  I'd call a break, try to frantically write down the main thoughts, answer class questions and still make a trip to the bathroom.  Many times, I'll hear a song or see a video and start crying, because that's how a character would react. 

So, if you're talking to me and suddenly, I get a faraway look in my eyes and start digging in my purse, please don't take it personally.  Let me get my thought down, then I'll be able to reclaim my life.

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