You think I’m making this all up, don’t you? Or perhaps at least embellished the stories a bit. After all, I am known for . . . giving the truth scope.
But these two stories remain unembellished.
There’s a nebulous, shifting line between novelist and created character. Sometimes I feel all too harshly the Novelist, driven to write, thanks to a deadline, whether I feel like it or not. I feel the weight of my own body in the chair, my fingers on the keys, my eye staring at the screen. Wishing I could block it all out and become the character. Push through that ethereal curtain into the dimension of my Novel World, feel the character as she fights her way through the impossible scenario in which she’s been placed.
I have experienced times of writing when I’m so into the character and scene that it’s hard to pull away. The clock says I must make dinner for the family, leave for an appointment. Without looking in the mirror, I know my eyes are glazed. I bang pots and pans in the kitchen or drive down the street, brain elsewhere, lingering in that Novel Dimension. In such frame of mind I almost expect to see my antagonist lurking on the street corner, or a Journey Mentor flagging me down to impart advice.
But this was not my state when the e-mails arrived from my characters.
Oh, I may have gone there sometime during writing those two books. But not on the auspicious days of which I speak. How I wanted to lose myself in the characters completely. But on those particular days, I was too firmly entrenched in the Novelist Groaning to Create. Trying to get things just right, but not really feeling it. Shoulders slumped under the despairing belief that my characters did not grip, the pages of type did not sing.
Then, whap. “Pat” e-mailed me from beyond the grave.
We haven’t talked for a while.
I stared at the subject line, my body suddenly ripped from Novelist to Novel Dimension. Only I got tangled in the separating curtain. Half of my mind believed the e-mail. I’d killed this character; no wonder Pat was ticked off and wanted to discuss a few things. The other half screamed it couldn’t possibly be true.
Novelist side won.
My brain started flipping through its address book. Who did I know named Pat? When had I talked to a Pat before?
Zilch answers to both questions.
Well. Thank goodness for Internet anonymity. No screen would show my face as I read the message. No telephone wire would transmit my voice, which no doubt would have trembled. All I had to do was click on the post. Absorb the words alone and unwatched.
Still I hesitated. Not because I was frightened to think a dead character had somehow managed to contact me. No. I was afraid to learn that he hadn’t. Because for that pendent moment I’d been flung closer to my storyworld than I’d been in a long time. And I didn’t want to leave it.
I opened the e-mail.
I tend to be a helping person. Glad to give, quick to encourage. Even then—a number of years ago—I’d been in contact with more people than I could remember about writing. Answering their questions, giving feedback on some scene.
Somewhere along the way, I’d evidently responded to this person Pat.
He wanted to tell me—the Novelist—the latest on his writing. How hard he’d been working. How he now had a lead on an agent. That he was so very thankful for the advice and direction I’d given him months ago, for it had placed him on the right course. How some day soon he’d be published, as I was. And we’d meet at some event, and he could finally tell me in person how grateful he was for my help.
I read the e-mail three times. Let the words sift through my soul.
After that, I gazed out the window for a while.
I’d so wanted to stay in my storyworld. But each time I looked back to the computer to re-read that post, I settled further back into the real world of mere Novelist.
Funny thing. At that moment it didn’t seem like such a bad place to be after all.
Read Part 3