Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Two Worlds

by Jeffrey S Savage

You ever have one of those days when you seem to be constantly jumping from thing to another? At work two of my employees have left over the last couple of days. We have a new product we are supposed to be rolling out that has fallen significantly behind in development. Tomorrow the kids start school, and tonight I had the opportunity to give them their traditional back to school father’s blessings. And along with this, I’ve been busy finishing changes to one book while editing another.

In the fantasy book I’ve been doing final edits to, I was working on a small problem and discovered a major plot hole in a nearby section. As I was in the middle of solving the plot issues, my wonderful wife called me downstairs for a great dinner of lime chicken, corn cake, and pineapple (I told you she’s great.) And for a moment, I found my mind trying to separate what was going on in my book world from what was going on in the real world.

It’s funny because in the book, my two main characters leap between Earth and the magical world. At times it can become quite disorienting for them to jump back and forth. Especially since one of them needs a wheelchair to get around on earth, but can walk with a cane on Farworld. So here I am trying to separate in my mind the problem that was being solved in the book from the issues going on in my real world while my characters are doing the exact same thing.

This made me think about the fact that as authors we really do live in two worlds. I almost always fall asleep thinking about issues both in whatever books I am working on, and whatever is going on in my life. And sometimes as I drift off, the two get mixed up in my head to the point where I have some really bizarre dreams.

Stephen King spent a lot of time in several novels and short stories exploring the fine line between writing fiction and living it. The Dark Half, The Flexible Bullet, Secret Window Secret Garden, and several other books explore the concept that writing a novel that truly comes alive to you is somewhat akin to dancing on the edge of insanity. Not that I’m suggesting that authors are all crazy (only a few of you, and you know who you are.) But how many times have you pretended to be listening to someone while you are actually caught up inside a scene in your head? How many times do you talk about your characters or even to your characters as though they are real people—so real that you wouldn’t actually be all that surprised if one day they showed up on your doorstep?

Julie Wright let me read a great short story of hers where that actually happens to a Fantasy writer. His characters take him hostage and force him to submit their manuscript. Is that what makes us writers? Is it because the characters in our head get so loud that we have to let them out and have their say? Are we manic about our work because we can so vividly imagine the joy of successfully publishing their stories and the failure of having them rejected at the same time?

I guess it’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand it’s really hard to be lonely or bored when you have a million different voices in your head pressing to be heard. On the other hand, sometimes it’s really hard to get any peace and quiet. At least until we sit down at the computer, or keyboard, or tablet, and set them free.


At 8/21/2007 6:30 AM, Blogger C. L. Hanson said...

This is exactly my situation, and it's one of the main reasons why I haven't written new fiction in a few years: I'm not so much driven by a desire to be a writer as by affection for the characters I've already created. And strangely, it makes me hesitate to create any more if I can't generate a large enough audience for the ones I've already got.

Every time I get emails from readers saying they can relate to how the various characters in my stories feel, I love it because not only do I like making a connection with real, live people through stories, but also because in some sense it makes these fictional people I care about more real.

I'm sure that sounds completely insane, but this whole post is about authors admitting to how writing ties in with a little bit of craziness... ;^)

At 8/21/2007 10:07 AM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

It must be weird for authors whose books are turned into movies to see characters on the screen appearing different to the ones in their head.

At 8/21/2007 10:57 AM, Anonymous marlene said...

I'm so relieved! I thought it was just me. I'm see-sawing, working (playing) on two fictions and a non-fiction plus finding two separate ancestors with their lives and families in my family history. I've been worried because I forget things (in real life) and feel spacey. Guess I will choose one book and stick to it.

If an author is writing in first person, do you think they could actually start having multiple personalities? I'm not talking about myself, of course, never me...

At 8/21/2007 11:34 AM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

I suppose that is why I always tell my kids that I have never been bored. They think that makes me crazy. How can I be bored when there is always a story going on in my head?

At 8/21/2007 1:43 PM, Blogger Josi said...

what really makes me nervous is how my book world affects my mood. When I'm writing about a lot of angst and contention, I find I feel that way, and react to my own life that way. My husband will ask me what's wrong and somehow telling him that my fictional characters are fighting just doesn't seem to be a good enough reason. But it becomes very real to me and really kinda freaks me out sometimes.

At 8/22/2007 1:09 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I think, though, that it's good to feel the emotions of what we're writing because it makes our writing better. If we didn't experience some of it for ourselves, we wouldn't know how to portray it.

Yes, Jeff, I do talk to characters in my head when I'm supposed to be doing something else, or working on plots, etc. I had a fabulous idea for fixing a plot hole while out running errands the other day. And there are times when I'd much rather be spending time with my characters than with the people I'm spending time with at that moment.

At 8/24/2007 9:13 AM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

We writers are a weird bunch, aren't we? I've been dealing with a level of grief about my latest book that I've never had before--it's been really hard this time to accept that my characters never did live. Bizarre, but they're that real to me.

At 8/25/2007 1:09 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

A quote for you all: "Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called
mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing." ~ Margaret Chittenden

But I want you all to know here and now, I get the remote when we're on community time in the mental institution.


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