We were talking the other day – Charlie and I – about the strange things that happen when you are a writer.
(C: One of those being you end up having conversations with your friends in print.)
What I mean by this – and I’ve spoken about it in my blog in the past – is that at some point, when you’re a writer and you let yourself go, you find yourself writing from a place that is not your rational self.
Most of us, being scientifically trained humans of the twentieth century, like to believe that our writing, as well as all our other work, is a portion of our intellectual labors, something rational and clear and obvious.
Most of us, at least most of us who have been working at this for any amount of time, also know that this is wishful thinking.
Oh, we talk a good game. At conventions and writers’ gatherings, you’ll hear us discussing how we decided to do this, and we tried to do that with the story, and about how this effect was put in to give you this idea.
But get us in the bar, after hours, when there’s nobody here but us chickens, and you’ll find us singing a different tune.
I don’t know any single professional writer who’s been doing this for more than ten years who hasn’t had one of the following happen to him:
- A story was finished before you planned for it to be. That is, you’d made an outline, and you were writing along, and suddenly, unexpectedly, you realized the sentence you’d just written was the last one in the short story – or novel – and when you went back and read the story, it was complete up to that point. The rest of your beautiful outline would add nothing.
- A character appears out of nowhere and takes over the story, and later you realize he/she is absolutely indispensable.
- A character dies whom you’d intended to live.
- Something you put in as a place holder for research you haven’t had the time to look up yet – something you could not possibly have known and which in fact takes you a while to track down when you finally can – is absolutely accurate. This happens way too often to be mere lucky guess.
- You pull a subplot out of thin air to pad your historical narrative and later discover it really happened.