I am still writing!!! I have always been a slow writer, but my current work is just flying along. It helps that I know the characters. The main character is me so there is no reason to create artificial conflicts, weakness, or strengths. They are all there is living color. (To be exact, they are there in black and white since the page is white and the words are black.) I would have thought using a real person as a character would make the writing harder because I can’t create the character to fit the plot. In many ways, the character herself is creating the plot — what she thinks, what she does, what she fears, what she grieves.
The other characters, at least some of them, are based on the women in my dance class, which makes things easy. If I need to describe something or someone, I can describe what I know. Unfortunately, I am having a hard time making them come alive. I am hesitant to attribute bad qualities to them, real or imagined, and I don’t want to create havoc in their lives by giving them secrets, such as a secret lover. Can’t you just hear it?
Husband: Character B is you, right?
Character B: Yes. Isn’t this great?
Husband: And it’s based on your life.
Character B: Yes, but it’s fictionalized
Husband: So who is this guy you’re having an affair wth?
Character B: I’m not having an affair.
Husband: You said Character B is you.
Character B: A fictionalized me.
Husband: And Character B is having an affair.
Character B: Yes, in the book I am having an affair.
Husband: So who is he? Do you want a divorce? Is that what you’re saying?
Character B: No. I’m saying I’m character B.
Husband: Do you want to leave or do you want me to leave?
It’s a big enough responsibility shaping one’s character’s lives, to have the real person influence the character. Having the character influence the real person is more responsibility — and guilt — than I can handle.
So, these characters so far are just walla-wallas. (In old time court room dramas, when the trial watchers were supposed to murmur to show excitement at a revelation or verdict, they said, “Walla, walla. Walla walla.”)
To help the story along, I combined several women into a few fictional ones, which gives me the benefit of being able to have them do what I want without worrying about ruining their lives. And I can go back and change these characters as necessary to fit the story.
Other things that are making this story run smooth: 1) It’s rather stream-of-consciousness — not too much, I hope — and stream of consciousness is easy for me. Just tell what I know and show what I feel. 2) I’ve been mulling over this idea for two years, so much of the story is already in my head. 3) Since this is a mystery that takes place at a dance studio, and since I am taking lessons, every day offers inspiration. 4) I am typing the story instead of writing longhand. I wrote my other books longhand because I feel it gives me a better finger/mind connection — and I didn’t have a typewriter or computer — but I can’t hold a pen for long periods of time anymore, and I can’t read my writing afterward. 5) Mostly, I’m putting myself in a position to write. I joined a 250-word-a-day club, and when I am too tired to think, I tell myself “just do your 250 words and then you can stop”. But by then, I’m into the story, and I need to finish the current scene before I forget it.
It’s not much of an exciting life. Nothing to discuss, no adventures to talk about, no conflicts or great emotions to try to work out. Just me in my fake/real world. One thing that is notable: I forget sometimes and call the real people by their fake names. And sometimes I refer to an episode in the book as having really happened. Ah, the joys of a writing life!
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)