When the Writer’s Away…

I made the mistake of ignoring my novel, Phoenix Rock, this last week. It’s highly unlikely I’ll meet the word count goal of 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month. I’m going to give it a good go, though, and last night I reviewed my work thus far, so that I could get back to work on it today. Big mistake to leave my characters mid storyline. They’re pissed at me and not cooperating at all.

I left my main character, Meg, to an awkward, but happy reunion with her brother, Jamie. They were standing out on Main Street, engrossed in conversation. I peeked in last night, only to find them leading some sort of riot. They were throwing rocks through storefront windows, randomly knocking down old ladies, setting cars on fire. Apparently these people have given into violent hooliganism when left to their own devices.

“Meg, what the hell are you doing? You were supposed to be talking with Jamie about the estate property and foreshadowing the complicated relationship I intended to develop for you.”

She sneered at me. “You were making me into some sort of passive weeny. I’m not all that, mate and frankly, there was some sort of ‘Flowers in the Attic’ vibe you had going. Ew – how gross is that, you perv?”

She wrenches a purse out of a passerby’s hands. “You got food in here, lady? This wanker left me wandering on Main Street for days. I’m hungry. Aha….Altoids. Excellent.” She shoves one Altoid after another into her mouth as her eyes widen. She runs over to the fire hydrant and with superhuman strength that she has apparently endowed herself with, rips open the cover and dives, face in, to the stream of water while shrieking “It burns! It burns!”

I better track down Jamie. I spot him on the corner, relentlessly punching, oh no – the town’s esteemed lawyer, Mark Allen, who is on the ground and whimpering. Shit. How did that happen?

“Remember when you gave me that wedgie in 3rd grade and made me cry in front of everybody? Who’s crying now, you worthless prick?” Jamie shouts, stands up and lands one more kick, while Mark cowers on the ground, shielding his face.

Wow, apparently my characters’ language in my absence has, uh….developed. And there are some unforeseen issues that they needed to work out.

I’m scared to see what Sonya, the matriarch of this brood,  is up to, but I wander over to the house on Hamilton and Oak. Her front door is open. This can’t be good. I walk in – the house is still immaculate, but I can’t locate her. Then I hear scrub, scrub, sniffle…I go down the hallway and there she is, on hands and knees in the bathroom, scrubbing the tiles with a toothbrush.

I lean over and quietly ask “What’s going on, Sonya? Are you okay?”

She looks up at me, eyes crazed, mascara running haphazardly down her face. “Why, oh, why?” She wails. “You left me after that horrible confrontation with my angry daughter. You had Meg tell my live-in boyfriend that I was actually lying about still being married. You left me waiting to see my son after twenty years.” She bends to her task of tile-scrubbing again, scrubbing so hard that the bristles on the brush spread out flat and useless.

“I’m sorry. I’ve been really sick this week and couldn’t get more writing done. I promise I’ll get to it.”

“You’d better!” She shrieks. “Can’t you see what all this anxiety is doing to me? My OCD is running unchecked. My boyfriend walked out. He might have left me for good. Or he might be at the grocery store.” She stands up and grabs me by the shoulders, shaking me roughly, spittle flying out of her mouth. “For the love of god, where is he?”

I shake her off and run out of the house. I’d better locate Hal and fast. The grocery store is as good a start as any. The windows have been broken. The store has been looted. I call out. “Hal – are you in here?” I hear grunting and groaning from the back storeroom. I wonder if I should be adding some paramedics to my cast of characters.

I swing open the door. Hal is, ewwww, pants around his ankles with…who the hell is that? I haven’t introduced her into the story! I storm out and hear Hal shouting to me. I turn and he is scrambling to pull his pants up. “What?! I didn’t know how long we’d be here. I thought, hell, if we’re locked in time, I’d better have some fun.”

“Who is that woman? I didn’t write her into the story.”

Hal grins sheepishly. “Well, you’re not very far into the story. There’s a lot of characters waiting backstage. I just struck up a conversation. I was SO bored.”

I scowl at him. It still doesn’t explain the turtle tattoo on his butt, but I’m not asking. I’d better get to work, before I’m voted off the island.

19 thoughts on “When the Writer’s Away…

  1. Characters are tricky buggers. If you don’t keep an eye on them they’ll totally run away with your story. But sometimes that’s actually the best thing that can happen. NaNo has a rule for when a writer gets stuck: when in doubt, NINJAS! That’s how Erin Morgenstern wrote The Night Circus. Her characters got bored/boring, so she sent them to a circus and boom! Novel, publishing deal, success! Let your characters lead you a little…a little. Full-on rioting and rebellion might be a tad dangerous. But within reason? It might be kind of fun!


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