Friday, January 20, 2006
E-mails From My Characters
To D. Gudger: Yesterday in the comments you asked a question about passive verbs. I suggest you google "passive verbs" and take a look at the six or seven first sites that come up. If you're still confused, please let me know.
And now, today--the story I haven’t yet told. How I received an e-mail from one of my characters. Twice.
Note: These strange events occurred before the days of spamming. At the time, if you received an e-mail, it was for you.
So as not to release any story spoilers, I won’t reveal the book titles or name of the characters.
Occasion one. I ended up killing off a pretty major character. (Whom I shall call Pat.) Had no idea I was going to do this when I started the book. But I realized, the way events were coming together, that I had to do it. The story written at its best required it.
Well, drat it all. Didn’t want to do it. I really liked Pat. I knew it would be a tearful time for me, forcing this character to kick the bucket. But I figured if it’s gut-twist time for me, it oughtta make for a gut-twist time for my readers, too. And I’m all into intestine-kinking, so there you go.
I did the deed.
Man. Then I had to deal with the fallout in the story. Some pretty hard stuff. I slogged my way through writing the scenes, milking ’em for all the emotion I could.
I reached near the end of the book. I was pretty emotionally spent by that time. The story had been one of the tough ones to write. I missed Pat. At the same time, I wasn’t sorry I’d made my decision to do Pat in. The story was, indeed, better for it, and went places it couldn’t have gone otherwise.
In the book, this character’s name is kind of an unusual one, and there’s more than one way to spell the name. I didn’t know anyone by that name in real life. Especially with that spelling. Leastways I couldn’t remember ever talking to anyone by that name.
One day after writing a particularly grueling scene, I finished my word count with must relief. Closed my eyes and rested a minute, thinking, “Sheesh, this writing thing is tough. Characters can really get under your skin.”
Thinking I’d better snap myself out of it, I clicked on my usual distraction—e-mail. Up came this message in my inbox. From line: the character’s first name. Spelled the same way.
Subject line: We haven’t talked for a while.
I blinked. Hard.
That was one surreal moment. My character was calling me from the grave. No doubt wanting to discuss a certain story decision I’d made . . .
Second occasion. I was slogging my way through another book, also very hard to write. The story had over a dozen POV characters and numerous subplots, all coalescing in the end. Each subplot and the main plot had all this . . . stuff going on.
Two thirds of the way through the book, one of the major characters stumbles on something big. I’ll call him Dan. He makes a terrific gamble, deciding to send someone an email. I’ll call her Alice. If this e-mail to Alice works, it could mean a huge break in the case for Dan. For his career. For his entire life.
He only knows Alice’s first name.
Keep in mind—in real life, I did not know an Alice.
So here I am, writing the scene. Really into it, but also longing to be done for the day. I’m sweating it out through character Dan, who’s about to send the e-mail. He’s figuring just what to say, how to say it. He has to get it exactly right. He has to convince Alice to write back . . .
I type the words to his e-mail.
End the chapter with this line: He clicked the send button and breathed a prayer to any god in the universe that Alice would respond.
I lean back with a huge sigh. Oh, thank goodness. Writing’s over for the day. I save the file, close out Word. My head still swimming with the story, needing some serious decompression, I click into email. Within 15 seconds of finishing that scene, I’m staring wide-eyed at the top e-mail in my inbox.
Subject: Saw your e-mail.
Read Part 2