Monday, October 29, 2012


Really, if this advice came from somebody in Ojai, CA, somebody with a crystal glued to her forehead and a wind chime on the patio, I wouldn't be surprised.  Instead, it comes from  Hilary Mantel, the woman who wrote WOLF HALL, a terrific book.
It's  trouble-shooting advice.  Trouble w/ a character.  A main character is likely but any character, of course, is eligible.
Bring him/her into a room w/ a single chair.  Ask the character to sit down.  Be cordial.  Get comfortable.  Ask what's on his/her mind.  See if he or she will talk to you.  
Sounds simple, and it is.  I can see why it might work even though it doesn't work for me.  Well, it sort of works.  What happens to me is that the character-of-the-moment is pushed off the chair by a character from the past.  The fictional past.  I might have predicted that Colleen from STONER & SPAZ would show up because she's a motormouth; instead it's Margaux from MARGAUX WITH AN X.  And she wants to chat.  Isn't jealous of characters who came after her.  Doesn't want to be in another book.  Just wants to know what's been going on.  So we have some imaginary coffee and pretty soon she says good-bye.
The whole thing was unsettling.  It gave me  a sense of characters forever detained.  In a word -- incarcerated.  Locked in the stories I made up for them.   Ben from "S&S," Margaux, the kid from TIGER, TIGER, BURNING BRIGHT, and all the rest.
Made me wonder if that's why I wrote/re-wrote all those fairy tales in LIES.  To give those familiar characters new lives.  New things to do.
What I decided was this -- I'd ask everybody from my fictional past to drop by.  My studio isn't a dentist's office, so no waiting.   Everybody's welcome.
It certainly made for an odd thirty minutes.  I couldn't remember some of their names, but there they were milling around, chatting each other up.  Every now and then one would come over and look at me affectionately.  I wasn't a daddy but more like a god.  And they weren't worshipping but they were glad to have some essence and heat.
Pretty soon they'd had enough and they left; then it was just me and an empty chair.

 P.S. If you're following the adventures of the Albino Alligator on Twitter (redhen45), I think I'm about to introduce a new character.

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to hear what other people say about this one, Ron. This sort of happened to me once when I tried to combine all my usual and personal bed-time story characters into one story-- for my kids. To me, it felt like the slow-mo scenes in movies where your favorite characters show up ready for action. (See there I slipped into second person again).

    I'm going to do Nanowrimo. I decided to organize my notes in a large sketch book first. When I open the sketch book I end up with a seven foot spread. I have 3 of them finished. Not many words yet. I have some characters and some setting, and enough themes to kill a novel, but still looking for some plot. Supposedly there is no problem with no plot of Nanowrimo. But I'd like to find at least a tiny bit of one to start with. The Nanowrimo I did in 2007 was what brought me to Hamline in the first place. I had no other writing to submit except that. So I think Nano must be good for something, even if it throws off Thanksgiving, the season, and the year rather well.

    No, I don't like the idea of characters stuck in stasis forever. Which is why I haven't read the second book in "The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde. It was incredibly hard to read and understand in the first place. Now time has gone by, I can appreciate the idea much better. I think I'll order it from the library.