Sunday, January 02, 2011

HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD TODAY?



Happy New Year to all. And may wonderful books enrich your life in 2011. Our first guest blogger of the year is Lois Winston, author of the Anastasia Pollack series. Take it away, Lois.
***

With apologies to Rick Castle, there are two kinds of folk who sit around listening to the voices in their heads -- schizophrenics and mystery writers. I’m the kind that doesn’t talk back. Usually.

I say usually because every once in a while it becomes necessary for me to argue with one of those voices, otherwise known as my characters. They can be very demanding. For example, I recently completed the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series. Everything was going along quite smoothly, following the synopsis my editor had read and approved, until Anastasia, my amateur sleuth protagonist, absolutely, positively refused to take part in the next scene. As a matter of fact, she stamped her foot down so hard that she gave me both a whopping headache and a royal pain in my butt.

I had no choice but to listen to her. You see, the problem with those voices in my head is that they’re unionized. If one refuses to budge, they all line up in solidarity, effectively shutting down my muse. Not listening meant staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end. Since the blinking cursor is the bane of any writer’s existence, it behooves me to pay attention when the voices threaten to go on strike.

So there I was, forced to listen to Anastasia as she tossed one monkey wrench after another into my previously approved plot. “You’re taking the easy way out,” she screamed at me. “I demand more conflict! Another red herring! One more plot twist!”

“My editor had no problem with the story the way it is,” I whined.

“Get her on the phone. She’ll see things my way.”

I wondered how much editors really know about those voices in our heads. Would she think I’d gone nuts? I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. Anastasia was a fictional character and only a fictional character as far as my editor knew. Best to keep it that way. “Fine, you win,” I said. “I’ll write the story your way.”

“You’ll thank me in the end,” she said.

And you know what? Damned if she wasn’t right. She usually is. I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I won’t even bother arguing.

***
Not only does award-winning author Lois Winston juggle the voices in her head, she also juggles three careers, as a writer, a designer, and an associate with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series was just released. To celebrate, Lois is doing a month long blog tour where she’s giving away 5 copies of the book. Post a comment to enter. You can check out the tour schedule, at her website, http://www.loiswinston.com or at Anastasia’s blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.

15 comments:

Ellis Vidler said...

What's really worrisome is when your voices go on vacation or sulk in some dark corner, refusing to speak at all. When they come out to tell you where you went/are going wrong, it's a very good sign. I'm hoping mine are in full voice this year.

Lois Winston said...

Ellis, I've found bribery usually works. The voices are suckers for chocolate. Good luck with your voices and thanks for stopping by.

Lexi Flint said...

Thank you for letting me know I am not crazy when my characters refuse to do what I want them to do. I'm having that issue with my current wip. I am going ot release the reigns and let them do as they will. I might just end up with a best seller when they are done.

Lois Winston said...

Good for you, Lexi! Hope you do wind up with a bestseller!

Vicki Delany said...

A fun topic, Lois. Thanks very much!

Lois Winston said...

Thanks for inviting me, Vicki!

Hannah Dennison said...

Great post Lois! So ... I'm not mad after all ...

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Hannah! As for not being mad, I think we're probably all a bit mad to be authors in the first place! But it's a good mad.

Annikka Woods said...

I think my favorite (aka the most excruciatingly ANNOYING) part of all of this is when characters randomly wander in and demand me to tell their story RIGHT NOW!

And then clam up and sit and glower at me because they want their story written and I don't know who they are, what their motivations are, etc. I've got one right now who's like that. I know she'll eventually getting around to giving me enough details to figure out her life but for now she's just hanging around and distracting me from my current novel-in-progress.

jeff7salter said...

Lois,
What did your editor say about those changes?
In my own fiction (6 ms. with none yet published) it's not so much that my characters might disagree with something I've plotted. More than likely, I've sketched the story so loosely that they just do a little 'improv' and I go along for the ride.
Often, it's been a matter of my typing fingers 'connecting' directly to the characters' brains ... and sometimes I'm left to 'watch' and chuckle as I write what they say and do.

Donis Casey said...

Graham Green said "When your characters do something you'd never thought of, you know they've come to life, and you leave them to it."

Lois Winston said...

Annika, those characters are definitely the worst! They think the world revolves around them.

Jeff, I was very lucky. My editor loved the book.

Donis, I never heard that Graham Green quote before. I'll have to remember it. Thanks for mentioning it.

ElaineCharton said...

Hi Lois!
I should have realized they were unionized. I had one show up in my current wip. Took the whole damn book over and now I have to go back and redo the thing. He insisted on being the protagonist. Even though I hadn't plotted it that way. I couldn't stay mad at him though-he;s to cute.

John said...

Lois, the "Thursday Next" series of books by Jasper Fforde explore and explain the relationship of characters from books interacting with the "real" world and they are also a very enjoyable read.
By the way, I assume the victim in "Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun" comes to a sticky end...

Lois Winston said...

Elaine, cute characters are the worst. They know they can wheedle you into doing anything they want.

John, I've had Jasper Fforde's books on my "someday" list for ages. I really do need to bump them up to a higher spot on the TBR pile. And yes, the victim meets a very sticky end! How did you guess?