Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When the Words Stop

I’ve been working on the same chapter for two weeks. It’s the last one in the novel I’m currently struggling to finish.

Am I trying to craft, then hone my sentences to perfect, burnished brilliance? No. I'm just trying to put the right words in my characters’ mouths. Even though I knew exactly where the plot was going, they’d gone on strike, refusing to speak their lines.

On Saturday morning, I’d had enough, grabbed all six of them in the scene and dragged them out for a very long walk. Fortunately, the weather north of the 49th, where November can be a very fickle month, cooperated enough that I didn't have to slog through six inches of wet snow for the several hours of hard thinking and conversation with my invisible friends.

Stepping out of the house, I asked them, “What’s wrong? Why have you guys clammed up on me?”


Fortunately, this has happened to me once before with the notoriously difficult Victoria Morgan in Cemetery of the Nameless, so I tried the same tack I used that time: “Okay. Tell me where I let you down.”

Seemed that, back two chapters, my main character in this story (also female – which should tell me something) was quite unhappy with the stance I’d made her take on a crucial turning point in the plot. At the time, I’d thought that this was certainly the way she’d behave in this particular situation based on everything that had happened earlier in the novel. Not so, in this case. She wanted to do the complete opposite. Women...

It took another few miles for her to open up completely, explaining her feelings and stating her case for how she thought I should end the book. In the end, I had to agree that she was right.

“Okay,” I said to the whole motley crew, “if I scrap those two intervening chapters, will you guys behave?”

“Yes!” they all promised, but I didn’t completely believe them.

So we trudged back home, however, with a hopeful smiles and more of a spring in our steps. Once again seated in front of my trusty computer, I pressed delete twice (my deal with them), the offending chapters were binarily vaporized and I set to work.

You know what? She was absolutely right.

God damn, I love writing.


Vicki Delany said...

Nice story!

Kerrie said...

I love the ideas of characters on strike!

Rick Blechta said...

You know, the main character is an opera singer, and I could have always blamed having to work with darned prima donnas (in every sense of the word), but she wasn't the only one not cooperating. The rest were all male: her husband, her boyfriend and THREE cops. All of them refused to speak.


Next book I'm getting all my characters to sign contracts before I'll work with them.