You’re sitting at a family barbecue, and everybody is chatting companionably. People ask you how old your children are and how they are doing in school. You ask questions about Uncle Henry, and they ask about your in-laws. Throughout the entire conversation, in the back of your mind, you wonder why they haven’t asked about the latest troubles of your main character – and then you have to remind yourself, once again, that your main character is NOT a real person.
Anybody else out there have to chant that mantra in your head? “They’re not real; they’re not real; stop talking about them; they’re not real …”
I went to a bridal shower this spring, and I had to get up and leave a short story manuscript in the middle of the climactic scene. Poor Simone was face down in the water, struggling against a creature much stronger than she was … and then I had to walk away to attend a luncheon where I would sip iced tea and play Bridal Gift Bingo. Don’t get me wrong – I was happy to go – thrilled for the cousin who was getting married – and I enjoyed talking to relatives and friends. But in the back of my mind, while the bride-to-be was opening boxes of sheets and towels, I kept looking around the room and wondering why nobody else seemed worried about Simone. And the entire time I was there … I was composing her escape in my head.
I am lucky to have a husband, a sister, and a mother who will patiently talk with me about my characters – thank heavens for all three of them! Dread Daughter #1 will also talk with me about my characters, but since she’s 13 years old, conversations are monosyllabic and not very satisfying. The dog listens with adoring eyes, but doesn’t say a lot. (Much like the daughter – except for the adoring eyes part.)
Do any other writers out there find that they have to force themselves to socialize with real, living people when their characters are clamoring for attention?