The people living in my head are getting uppity. Since it’s my head (and my manuscript), I’ve tried to assert myself. But the delusion that I’m still in control is rapidly losing ground.
Writing certain characters is grueling. I’m still just getting to know some of them, and many are far deeper than I’d ever realized. Or planned. Some just write themselves — no, wait, that isn’t quite true. It’d be more accurate to say I channel them. When done, I’m often surprised by what I’ve typed.
They argue with me. And win. It’s humiliating.
There’s one character upon whose head I’ve dumped a long string of phenomenally bad luck. This guy has the iconic dark cloud over his head. I’ve placed him in dire straits: wounded in the line of duty and dishonorably discharged, ostracized, poverty-struck, dealing with a new addiction, and facing impending starvation.
However was he to survive? Hah! Rough trade. Yep, I was going to fling him headlong into the grimy, de-humanizing world of prostitution.
I was all set to first-draft the scene after having pondered it for days. Laptop in position, fingers poised over the keyboard, I was all ready to type his name. And that’s when it happened —
I heard his voice clearly, defiantly declaring: “I’d – rather – starve.”
He’d said it elegantly. He’d said it with a dignified sneer.
I’d rather starve.
After that, no matter how hard I tried, I was physically unable to write the damned scene. He told me in no uncertain terms he preferred a hard decade of indentured service to a couple of weeks of rough trade.
So that was the way I had to go.
His steadfastness over his battered pride, honor and dignity forced me to re-write dozens of pages, completely re-directing his portion of the story arc so that he’d have no choice but to indenture himself. Which then meant the creation of new characters. Great. More people in my head.
I tried telling him he was only making things harder on himself — again, that ‘arguing with figments, and losing’ thing. But he wouldn’t listen to me.
I’m just the writer, after all.