Monday, August 4, 2008

Back and Raring to Go...And Pregnant with Novel Characters

So after a lovely weekend soaking in stillness and blistering my heels during walks in old hiking boots in the abbey woods, I've returned home, much to the glee of my two cats, who act every time I'm gone as though they are on the brink of death without me.

After many prayers (8 short church services in one weekend) and reading all of Leif Enger's new book (I loved it), my spiritual and creative sides are both refreshed and raring to go again. I feel, for some reason, like a boxer who's just had water dumped over her head before returning to the ring.

Oh geesh, there are the sports metaphors again--this happened to me the last time I wrote this particular character in the new novel I'm working on. I find it so mysterious, the relationship between an author and her characters, and how they affect her.

It's really hard to explain to others (especially those who don't write fiction themselves) why you might seem obsessed with, say, moose, or why you might suddenly start speaking in sports metaphors for days or months on end, when these things are really your character's preferences that are somehow taking shape in your imagination, sometimes almost without your notice, and ultimately claiming a voice in the outer world. It can be quite inconvenient at times.

It's a terrible cliche, but no wonder they say writing a book's like birthing a child--I would extend that and say that it's first like carrying a dozen or more children at once, their personalities forming inside you in some mysterious way. And like a pregnant woman, in this condition I am found doing all sorts of odd things because of my condition, some of which actually involves eating food I never would have eaten otherwise. For instance, the novel I'm trying to sell right now--the one that's for all intents and purposes done--involved much effort put into tracking down and eating moose meat. (It's illegal to sell, so you have to know someone who knows a hunter--it can be challenging. But it's quite good--not that different from beef, though most like elk, another meat I tried while waiting to track down the moose.)

And then the weirdest part is when one novel's characters are trying to emerge into the world while another's are beginning to form--all present in one's imagination together, though in separate rooms. Not to mention all the non-fiction that's birthed out of me on a regular basis.

Sheesh, this is an odd life I've stumbled into. Good thing I love it.

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