When it’s time to write, I pack my mental suitcase and embark on a journey to another time, another place, another world—sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. Characters introduce me to their friends, family, lovers, and enemies. The place sometimes reminds me of somewhere else—perhaps somewhere I lived in the past. A place I dreamed about or passed along the way to somewhere else. Perhaps a spot on a map I studied or a figment of my imagination.
The way to discovery can be hard. Obstacles loom when and where you least expect them. I wonder if I will make it—if writing The End at the end of a story or novel is worth the struggle. A contrary protagonist often insists on going her own way—we argue a lot. The antagonist isn’t the mean character I intended; I find he’s managed to unearth my admiration for his cleverness, his charm. A lot needs to change and I have to change it.
“I’ll help you,” he whispers in my ear.
“Don’t listen,” she says.
“Quiet. Both of you. I’m the writer, I’m in charge and I have to do some serious thinking.” Do I really believe I’m in charge?
I begin again. Where are we? Where did the journey take me? Is the place rich or barren? The people complacent or miserable or reasonably content? What period of history are we in and how does it affect my characters, my people? Who are my characters? Rich, poor, somewhere in the middle? Are they in want or do they want more? What do they need? What do they seek? And why? Why? Why do they do the good, the bad, the unintended? What are they looking for and what am I looking for?
I take a long walk and try to clear my head—no cobwebs allowed. I decide to read but all that thinking had tired me; the book drops from my hand. The table-lamp is still on when I wake the next morning. I reach for the pen and pad next to the bed and begin writing.