A while ago I wrote a couple of pages of New Novel, and even before I printed them out to get a second opinion from my first editor (who is married to me, but who doesn’t let that fact interfere with the sometimes brutal honesty) I knew that they were not good enough. They were dense — four scenes of story stuffed into six paragraphs, a synopsis of what I needed to write.
My instinct was spot-on. My first editor told me the exact thing I had been thinking, without my having said a word about it.
But the opposite of knowing that something is inadequate is knowing that it is good. And every now and then something is good enough to be nothing less than a gift from the Gods.
Often it’s my characters who will come up with these things, stuff I SWEAR I have never thought, or said, or intended to put into a book, until I see myself typing it and it appears on the computer screen. Then I can only sit back and stare at it and wonder where it had come from… because not a syllable of it came from me.
I was given one such gift only the other day while writing my new novel.
I have a character who has taken a step away from being dead letters on a page into flesh-and-blood three-dimensionally with a personality larger than life, a sense of humor, an ability to articulate her own thoughts and responses above and beyond what I am capable of imparting to her.
She meets another character, in a scene of 3,000 words which I wrote at a sitting and which needs practically no editing at all.
When I sat back and looked at that particular dialogue exchange, it was the Gods speaking because I had certainly not planned to write anything of the sort. These were two real people, having a real conversation.
I SWEAR the conversation in that scene did not come from me. But it is perfect. I have a character to thank for that piece of dialogue – gift from the Gods, from their spirit into my hand and my keyboard, I was a channel, nothing else. And all I could do was sit back and stare at the screen and shake my head in astonishment.
I love it when things come together like this. When occasionally there’s a blaze of… something… when the muse walks into the room and smiles.
In the back of my mind there is a tiny grotto of a temple where I retire every night to say my literary prayers. On nights like these, when the little miracles are spilled like diamond dust across the rest of the prose, the bits I know I have crafted from my own knowledge and experience and ability and my own conscious thinking, I light an extra little candle of gratitude in that temple – because I know I do not do this writing thing alone, and when the Gods come to visit, I am always humbled and thankful that I am still sometimes their favored child.
This an abridgement of an essay written for StorytellersUnplugged. You can read the full essay