It was date night. My husband and I were seated at an, ahem, romantic table for two, crowded against the staircase leading to a full banquet room and in front of the men’s bathroom.
Finally alone (but yet not at all alone), we did our best to avoid conversing about all things child-related.
“So I saw your Facebook post,” my husband said to me.
“Which one?” I post on Facebook a lot.
“The one where you said your hero told you he was a soldier in Afghanistan.”
“Oh. Right. And?”
He frowned at me. “I thought you said you had the book plotted out.”
“I do. Mostly.”
Now he looked confused. “Then how can your characters surprise you?”
I shrugged. “They just do. It happens when you write a really long story like that.”
He frowned again. “Don’t let them. Just stick to the plot.” (He knows how badly I want to get this book in the hands of my editor and under contract with Harlequin).
I sighed. “it doesn’t work like that.”
We changed the subject then. Probably back to something about The Kid, or the dog’s upcoming bout of mud butt, or (let’s be honest) The Kid.
But I’ve been mulling it over ever since.
Is an author’s brain really that different? I guess it must be. You see, my characters stopped being “characters” in my head a long time ago.
They’re real people, with complex backgrounds—and they haven’t told me everything about themselves yet.
We’re only 12,000 words in. We’re still getting comfortable with each other. They’ll tell me more as we go along, and when they do, I’ll have to change the way I’m thinking about their story.
And that’s a beautiful thing. It’s how I know this book will be a good one (or at least it will be if I don’t screw it up).
If I try to tell them they’re wrong, or that I can’t tell my story that way, then we’ll come to an impasse. They’ll shrug their shoulders and say, “fine, have it your way.” And I’ll write something that’s a total suckfest.
No one wants that. Least of all my husband (I get extraordinarily cranky when the writing isn’t going well).
It’s a crazy way to live, I guess. After all, don’t we usually lock people up when they say they have voices in their heads? I have an entire extended family squatting in mine right now. And when they eventually leave, some new bunch of weirdos will move in.
And if my brain stays vacant for more than a week or two? Then I will panic, and become convinced I will never write anything ever again.
Such is the life of a writer. And the life of the husband of a writer.
I can’t imagine living any other way.