So, as I was discussing my ideas for future novels with a friend of mine today, she asked how it is that I come up with my characters. And I told her how some of them have come together. For my first book, I just sat down at the computer and the story just kind of… told itself. For another, someone had suggested that I try writing for Harlequin, but I had no idea what to write. At the time, I was deeply involved in my present manuscript, which is somewhat… dark. I wanted something light and fun, and as the husband prattled on about the World Series of Poker, I thought: “Wouldn’t it be fun to see what happened if a guy won a girl in a poker game?” And that’s how The Marker came to life. Plot came first, the characters came second.
And then I let loose with this gem: “And for The Queen Killer, I was sitting on my couch and I heard Alek talking to me.”
It sounded completely insane, and, let me tell you, the expression on my friend’s face said pretty clearly, “Holy shit, I need to get out of here before this bitch blows her top and kills me.” She nodded faintly, as if she understood, but I could see that she didn’t. After all, I think she might have been in fear for her life, and I was, unfortunately, between her and the door.
“Do you hear these voices often?” she asked, her face carefully neutral.
I tried gracefully to back out of this. I really do know that the people in my head aren’t real, but, as was the case with Alek, sometimes my characters just show up on my doorstep. When he came to me, I didn’t know his name or his hair color or even when he lived, but I knew his voice, carrying a faint European accent and a whisper of menace, and I knew he had wings and fangs but was not a vampire, not really. Or, at least, that he was neither dead nor soulless.
But that still sounds like I’m a little unstable, and I swear, I am one of the most stable people I know. I just have a very active imagination. And trying to explain how sometimes a character speaks to me is hard to do, especially when I’m talking to someone who loves to read but doesn’t write. Because even I know it sounds nuts.
“Yeah, I know he’s not real, but yes, he does talk to me.”
Do I have conversations with him? No. He’s not perched on my shoulder and chatting me up all day, and no, he does not tell me to kill the dog over my protests that I don’t have a dog. But maybe that’s because I actually do have a dog, and have no plans to kill him unless he eats another pair of my shoes or continues in his quest to eat the walls of my house. I always wanted a larger bathroom downstairs, but I’m not sure that the way to take out that wall is one nibble at a time.
But I digress.
Maybe it’s not normal to hear voices in your head, to have people just kind of… show up there. But I’m not sure that it’s entirely crazy either. It’s not that I don’t know the difference between fiction and reality, between the world I’ve created in my head and the one I actually live in.
I just prefer the one I’ve made up.