It’s happening again. A character is talking to me incessantly. She won’t be quiet. She wakes me up in the middle of the night, keeps me up until the wee hours of the morning, and she talks all the time. She has a story, a really powerful one, and she wants it written NOW! I’m good with that for the most part, except for one small thing: I am afraid of this story. I’m not sure I want to write it.
This is a new experience for me. I’ve written scary/sad/difficult stories, so it isn’t the challenge that worries me, it’s the emotional truth of this one. It isn’t about me, literally or metaphorically, but it feels incredibly personal as I try to work through the concept.
I have to back track a little here and say that, yes, I understand the character really isn’t speaking to me. She is a product of my imagination and not some spirit that is inhabiting me. None the less, this story is really difficult because this particular character is murdered within the first chapter. She isn’t even the main character, but there she is, telling me the details of this brutal crime. Actually, she is only telling me some of the details. She won’t show me who did it. That makes writing this story twice as hard because I don’t know the ending, and I always know the ending of my stories before I write them.
She laughs at me when I say that.
It has been really hard this past week because she won’t let me sleep, and since my computer has been down, I’ve had to do all my writing on my husband’s laptop. Strange as this sounds, I’m not comfortable writing on someone else’s computer. How weird is that? But I feel driven, compelled, to get the first draft of this one done, and it is exhausting me to do it. I’ll think that I’ve finished for the evening and head for bed, and then suddenly I’m sitting up in the darkness, constructing another scene and moving closer to figuring out who murdered this girl.
I make guesses, and she just laughs at me. “You’ll know when you need to know,” she tells me.
“When’s that?” I ask.
“When you get to the point where you need to know.”
She is exasperating – but a great character, and like I said, her story is really compelling.
I’ve written over 100 pages so far, and I think I may be getting close to figuring out the “who done it” part. The real pinnacle of the story, though, is proving it. The main character is 16, and no one believes her when she starts to figure out what happened. In fact, there are several key characters who resent that she is even trying to solve the mystery. But she is turning out to be a tough cookie, and I’m eager to see where this goes. I just wish that the first character would let me get a little more sleep. I’m trying to bargain with her, trading off some extra writing time over this holiday weekend for fewer interrupted nights. No response yet.
The nicest part of this story – if there is such a thing in plot that involves murder in the first ten pages – is that it revolves around empowerment. So in the end, the lack of sleep will have been well worth it if I can give these characters the voice they need. I’ll keep you posted.