In My Winter Solitude
These are days to be savored. The snow is piled up nearly obscuring the view of the neighborhood porches, and I am happily wrapped in my bathrobe, cozy and warm and in a sort of self-imposed sequester. Where, in the spring, summer and fall, I am outdoors at every opportunity, during these snowbound days, I prefer to remain inside, alone with my characters.
I could not be more content in my little home, in my stuffed leather chair, laptop on my lap, my feet up, and the muses conferring in my head. My fingers trip rapidly along the keyboard for hours—which pass like minutes—at a time. I stop as soon as I am about to open a new door leading to new revelations in my story, as if pausing a DVD movie for a bathroom break. I feast on left over Chinese take-out purchased yesterday—shrimp in garlic sauce—and I relish every morsel of it before returning to the laptop, to my new friends, the characters who tell their story to me, that I might relay it to my readers out there.
There is nothing so wonderful as reading a book; nothing so mystical as writing a book. Yes, there are the joys of relationships, the love of my parents, the bloom of romance that I’ve been fortunate enough to have known; the births of my children, the joy of friendships, but writing a book is an experience so compelling that it, too, has a place in the long list of pleasures in my life.
Not every moment is bliss. There are multitudes of struggles along the way. But when you’ve gone over the hurdles at the initial stages of crafting a story, the rest of the ride is exhilarating, let me tell you!
Last night, as happens frequently when I am closing in on the last quarter of a novel, I fell asleep for about half an hour, only to awaken to thoughts filled with ideas leading to the story’s conclusion. I suddenly had great insight into what had to be done. Or, should I say, my characters, having come alive in my head, were making demands. It was as if everything I had already written leading up to the story’s denouement had presented a perfect resolution. No snags, no loose ends, no complications. That’s when I decided to challenge myself. I was about to add a few complications to characters’ lives.
As in real life, characters in fiction might think they know where they’re going, but things don’t always work out as you plan. You know the expression: Man plans; God laughs. Authors are like mini-gods, moving their poor fictional plebeians around for their own amusement. Now, at three in the morning, after three hours of just thinking, moving these make-believe people around here and there, like chess pieces, having one show up here, changing my mind and telling him to go home–is the action happening on a streetcar—No! We’re at Chumley’s, the speakeasy! That’s better, because. . . . As I maneuvered my people around, I suddenly take a sharp turn, an unexpected turn, and new possibilities arise for the ending.
Writing is mostly thinking. An author of mysteries plots with deductive reasoning, but there is also a lot of intuitive thinking, too. Yes, characters must behave within constricts of their personality traits and moral convictions, but a writer must trust his intuitive abilities when setting a course for their characters to travel.
So, now that my new book is done in my head, and I am rapidly translating those brain morsels onto the page, I find myself grateful to have this wonderful and, yes, mystical experience, of storytelling. To make things even better, a lovely pomodoro sauce I cooked awaits me, that I will have it atop penne tonight!
Until next time,