The Line Between Sanity and Fiction

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Merriam-Webster defines sane as mentally sound; especially :  able to anticipate and appraise the effect of one’s actions.

She defines fiction as an assumption of a possibility as a fact irrespective of the question of its truth.

Here’s the problem: as an author I’m able to anticipate the effect of my character’s actions because I’m their God, and in my mind anything they do always contains the possibility of fact. You’ve heard the old adage: there’s truth in fiction. I can’t have my readers say, “that could never happen!”

The line between sanity and fiction is a blur for me.

Two summers ago I struggled to finish Welcome to Skull Mountain, the third book in my middle grade series. While I forced the words onto the page, a man and a woman started talking to each other in my head. They would talk when I should’ve been writing WTSM. The spoke when I was reading for pleasure, driving in my car, and taking long walks.

I heard songs on the radio that meant something to them. I found myself creating a sound track of songs fitting their story. When they popped up in my head I played the music suited to their relationship. I listened to them fall in love, have arguments, and was even a voyeur while my male main character came down with appendicitis. The entire time they invaded my space I thought  – Shut up! You’re driving me crazy.

They made me nuts because I couldn’t think about anything else. I wanted to know what they were up to next. I decided the only way to quiet the noise in my head was to write their story. They became Grace and Blaise in the first book of my women’s fiction/contemporary romance series. Thanks to Grace and Blaise I sold that book, A Second Chance House, to The Wild Rose Press in a three book deal. (Due out probably early next year. Still waiting on a publication date. Publishing doesn’t move quickly.)

I’m very attached to my characters. I spend a lot of time with them. I hear what they hear, see what they see, smell what they smell, and feel what they feel. I’ve developed a crush on Blaise because of the many hours I’ve spent in his company. (Hopefully, Grace will forgive me. If she doesn’t, I can just knock her off. I am still her God. It’s not insane to think you’re a God, is it?)

Author, Editor, Social Media expert Kristen Lamb says authors play literary Barbies. We make them move, say, and do whatever we want them to do. (Often times, they do what they want to do no matter how much we try and force them to do our bidding. Kind of like having kids.) But, we basically pose them, tell them what we want them to say, wind them up, and set them loose.

Recently, I played music from off my phone. The Coffee King came in and asked who I was listening to. I told him. I added that this guy wrote a song that would be perfect for Colton and Harley. (The protagonists of book two in the same series.) CK scrunched up his face, looked at me and said. “It’s like you’re playing with Little People.” Yup. Just grown up versions who curse and have sex.

I worry about myself. While I’m deep in the worlds of my characters I can be found laughing out loud at something they’ve said or done. The other day my writing buddy KM Fawcett looked across the table at me and said, “Are you crying?” I was. I couldn’t help it. Colton often makes me laugh and cry.

The good news is many other authors react similarly to their characters. I know authors who have cried when a character dies. I haven’t killed anyone I cared deeply about. I’m sure I will cry then too. At the moment, I’d rather someone cut my arm off before I had to hurt Grace, Blaise, Colton or Harley in a tragic way. (There’s so many people to worry about.)

Do you see what I’m saying? Insanity? Or possibly good at what I do? I’m going with the former. No offense to my author friends who cry and laugh through their work. I can only speak for myself.

I’m not sure how to handle my situation. Should I seek therapy? Do therapists lock people away for thinking someone is in your head talking? I don’t talk back. That must be a good thing.

Until I find a support group for my mental illness, I’ll return to Heritage River. I left Harley in a parking lot in the middle of a very important conversation with her BFF.

What?

“Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.”
William Shakespeare, Richard III

 

 

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Editing Tip Tuesday

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World Building

One of the things I loved about writing fantasy novels was I got to make up the entire world. All the rules of the world were determined by me. I didn’t have to worry about where Route 80 intersected with Route 66 (if that even happens, see?) My world didn’t function within the laws of the real world. It was very freeing. And scary at the same time. The rule of thumb when creating a fantasy world is; whatever rules you make up have to be consistent throughout the book. You can’t change the rules to suit the needs of the scene. In my series, the three main characters can’t do magic. The world around them is magical. When I placed them into difficult situations, they had to use their smarts to get out of it. Magic was reserved to the creatures that lived in the world I created. Unfair odds? Maybe. But my characters learned a lot about themselves along the way.

Here are some things to think about when creating your own world:

  • Climate
  • Terrain
  • Money
  • Educational system
  • Technology Level
  • Transportation
  • Rights and privileges
  • Crime and its punishment
  • Government
  • Values
  • Good vs Evil
  • Right and wrong
  • What is worth living for?
  • Add your own rules for your world. The sky is the limit!

Any questions?

A Writer’s Life

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Hard to believe my desk looks like this on a regular basis. I blame it on the creative side of my brain knocking out the more sensible, organized side. The bitch.

Have you ever wondered how a writer spends her day? She must be sitting at her computer with hands flying over the keys. Her characters jump around in her head to be heard. The whole world outside of her office stays at bay until she pushes herself out of her imagination ready and energized to face the real world.

Now this is what an average day looks like for me. Let’s take today:

  • Delayed opening at school because it won’t stop snowing. (I hate the winter. You will never hear me complain about the dog days of summer, but these days filled with blinding white snow and temperatures that freeze your blood in its veins, I complain about all the time.) The morning is two hours behind even before the alarm goes off.
  • Forgot to pack up my donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters and they were arriving by 7 am so right after feeding the dog, I packed up four garbage bags of clothing, small appliances, and books.
  • After delivering two Noodges to their respective bus stops at the respective times, neither of them the same, slapped on some face paint and went next door to talk to the neighbors about feeding their cat. Needed the face paint not to scare the neighbors and hadn’t had time for any caffeine to shock the look of exhaustion out of my eyes because I forgot to mention the load of laundry I also did before the school buses arrived.
  • Have you noticed I haven’t written one word yet?
  • Received the instructions from the neighbor on how to care for their spoiled rotten cat while they are away, hopefully going some place that never sees snow, and what should have taken fifteen minutes took an hour.
  • Where I am interrupted by several calls from Noodge 1 and the Coffee King. Noodge is sick. Go and pick him up at school.
  • Again, no writing. No, characters jumping out of my head and onto the page. The outside world has parked itself front and center blocking my path like the pile of ice at the end of my driveway the town saw fit to dump there after we shoveled ourselves out.
  • By now, I have to eat lunch because I eat every three hours to keep my sugar level from crashing and you don’t want to be around me when that happens. Trust me.
  • Two more phone calls from the Coffee King.
  • And finally, after checking emails that have piled up from yesterday, I sit before my computer to craft another story, to find a way to meet more readers, to build this business of writing that calls to me like a mental illness.

A writer’s life isn’t glamorous unless of course, you’re Stephen King. I’m certain the outside world stays far away from him until he surfaces for fear of being eaten alive. There are days where the words just don’t come. My characters will do anything but talk to me and I find myself staring at a blank screen hoping that a remnant of an idea will find its way out.  There are constant interruptions especially because I have two Noodges, a big, furry, puppy who wants to play all day long and sheds enough hair on a daily basis to make a king size comforter, a husband and a home.

I choose to allow those interruptions to weave their way in sometimes. How much longer will I be needed by Noodge 1 when he isn’t feeling well? His adulthood is in sight, it might still be in the distance, but I can see it’s ugly little head coming right at me. If I can’t stop and enjoy a conversation with my neighbors, whose door will I knock on when I lock myself out of the house without my cell?

Oh, but I long for uninterrupted writing time too. It’s a constant juggle. One I take on gladly. Now, I have to go make a cup of tea to warm my hands by, put on another pair of socks because I lost the feeling in my toes hours ago, and then, maybe then, I’ll craft the beginnings of my newest book.

 

Don’t forget, coming this spring, book three in the Gabriel Hunter series:

Book Three in the Gabriel Hunter Series
Book Three in the Gabriel Hunter Series