For the last couple of weeks I’ve been doing the busy-work that goes with writing and self-publishing. Second and third drafts, editing, formatting; all the things that have to be done, but which aren’t all that exciting. I don’t mind the second drafts so much, but even they don’t come close to the terrific buzz you get when you’re sitting down making stuff up, really in the flow, with time passing along and you unaware of everything except the story going on behind your eyes and on the page.
I’m missing the actual writing, because that’s definitely the fun bit. I’m trying to be disciplined about it though, because really, what use is a story unless it’s going to be shared? And sharing it means tidying it all up so it doesn’t go out into the world with its skirt tucked up in its underpants. We all know how embarrassing that would be.
But while I’m doing all this busy work, part of my mind, the hungry part, is trying out new storylines for the next book. Quite a lot of people have told me they hope I will write another story with Michaela and Trisha from the book Shadows Fall, in it. While it was never my intention to write more about those two, I eventually started asking ‘well, why not?’ They’re fun to write about, I like them as characters, the way they interact and they way they’re building their relationship.
I had come up with another storyline featuring these two, but I’ve since discarded it because it meant taking them back to the US, and it’s awfully hard to write about somewhere that is real, but somewhere I’ve never been. Not impossible, but difficult, and an unnecessary stress when I’m pretty sure I can organise them a good adventure in my own beautiful country.
So I’ve been tossing around new ideas for them and listening to them talking about it inside my head. I find that I need to get the characters talking inside my head for a good while before I’m ready to write about them. It’s how I learn how they sound, what they think about, what their ideas and opinions are and how they interact with each other. The more they talk, and the more independent from me they sound, the better I know their story will be.
Because I know Michaela and Trisha so well from writing about them before, it’s amusing and interesting to discover that they’ve taken on a sort of reality of their own. Their voices are so distinctive now, and it’s like visiting old friends after not seeing them around for a while. What is most fun is that it’s almost like their life and story carries on even while I’m not thinking about them. I was doing the vacuuming this morning and just idly listening to them talk inside my head when I realised that time had passed in their imaginary little world since I’d last written about them, and they now have issues and concerns about which I know nothing, but which I’m going to enjoy exploring when it comes time to write about them again.
Do other writers think about their characters like this, I wonder?