I just finished writing a scene in my second book today, and it went well for me. That doesn’t happen every day (actually, that doesn’t happen often at all), so I thought I’d record it. For posterity and such.
It was my favorite kind of scene, the kind in which two characters are feeling each other out, and the dialogue takes them to places they never thought they’d go. Or maybe they knew. But I didn’t.
This is the greatest part of writing fiction – when something develops nicely into an exciting piece of the puzzle you didn’t know you needed. And a story line is deepened. And a character’s dimensions are revealed. And you are allowed the pleasure of sitting back and watching it happen.
This is why I do this work.
I couldn’t type fast enough – the characters were sharp and snarky and were firing words at each other faster than I could record them. And I was reminded of a TED talk my friend Maggie directed me to not long ago, given by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she talks about the writer’s process, and introduces the lovely thought that (at about 5:40) maybe we are not the source of the creativity we convey, but that we are, instead, the vessel in which it is transported.
Beautiful idea, isn’t it?
If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, when a character ripens without your explicit intent, you might relate to this idea. Sometimes, we start writing, and we have a small idea of where it’s going to go and then something happens – SLAM – and we are suddenly thrown into a scene that’s out of our control.
It’s surprising when it happens. And riveting. And makes me look forward to writing again tomorrow.
If you listen to nothing else in this podcast, listen to the story (at about 10:13) of the American poet Ruth Stone, who used to work in the fields in Virginia and would “feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape” and she’d have to chase it back to the house in time to get to a piece of paper fast enough.
Too bad she didn’t have a laptop.