I have never seen a ghost or heard anyone who has had a ghostly experience. But there’s a part of me that gets a deliciously creepy feeling when I think about ghost stories. Spirits stuck between worlds haunting lives and trying to find someone to hear their story, talking in their ghostly, spooky voices.
Like I said, I don’t believe in them but at the same time my brain is inhabited with voices. Sometimes it’s just a gentle murmur, sometimes it’s a full blown conversation.
These are the voices of my characters. I’ll be out for a walk pondering various events in my life, political thoughts etc and then, slowly other voices rise up. Ella, talking to her mother about her painting, Cord, trying to get his kids settled. Morgan complaining about his lack of connection to his son, Nathan. Tabitha explaining why she can’t stay in Cedar Creek.
Or they’ll talk to me directly. Asking me if I couldn’t please change their personality. Asking me when they are going to deal with the stuff I’ve burdened them with and how? I can’t answer them of course, but they become pretty real.
And when they come I know that the story is finally cooking.
I always said my book comes truly alive when my characters start taking on a voice of their own. When I’m not just a writer pushing them around on paper. They become real people and when I sit down at my computer, I’m immersed in their world completely.
And when I’m away from the computer they are still there, having conversations with each other that may or may not make it into the book. Vital conversations that often reveal things about them that I didn’t know before. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in church listening to the sermon and think, Yes! This is something that Ella needs to deal with or Tabitha needs to learn or Morgan could be comforted by etc. etc. Sorry, Pastor Ron! It’s a classic case of hearing sermons for other people rather than myself. Except my people are mostly in my head!
If researchers did a brain scan of my head during book-writing frenzy, I’m sure they would think I was certifiable. All these conversations going on from people that aren’t real. But people who have a profound impact on my life because their happiness is my happiness.
Have you ever been struggling with your emotions because what the character you are writing about or reading about is dealing with starts to affect you? I know I have. And I’m always glad when I can move them to a happier place.
But I’ve learned to embrace the voices and give them their place. I keep a note book handy to write down ‘their’ thoughts and conversations.
Sometimes I have to shut them off but mostly they’re like old friends. Just hanging out. Chilling. Shooting the breeze.
Thats fine. I don’t mind having them around. They’ve been a part of my life for however long the book has taken to write.
But then comes a time when I start brainstorming new stories and new books. Then I have to politely point out that their story is done. Time to move on. They pack up, head out to make room for a new set of characters. .
New voices. And I slowly get to know new people.
My life is rich!