I write on my feet, walking my neighborhood, around the mall, along the river, taking a shower. My characters are always there, milling around inside my brain, clamoring for life, more life.
It’s where the murders happen, the gentle love story between my main character and the county sheriff evolves, and the plot comes together. It’s where Jamie gets a baby chick and Honey becomes obsessed with slow cookers. If it doesn’t sound too terribly crazy, it’s where my characters talk to me and tell me what is going to happen next.
My little Shetland Sheepdog puts on the miles along with me, padding along faithfully and quite content to be out and about. He sniffs and I plot. He is my unknowing co-conspirator in the fictional murders that brew inside my mind.
Along the way, characters are discovered. I found Crusty and his long gray “surfer-dude” ponytail in a wine shop, and Curtis, silver star and all, in a back-country restaurant. They aren’t real people. These are glimpses and impressions of real people that I then fictionalize and morph and reconstruct into something completely different. Sometimes it’s the tone of a voice or the color of someone’s eyes that inspires a character. It’s the Frankenstein model of novel writing, constructing something that appears alive out of bits and pieces of others until the whole resembles something completely different. It’s what writers do.
The notion of a writer as someone who stays inside a room, solitary, lost in a world of imagination is only a bit of the story. The characters and stories come from somewhere, from living, from talking to others. Writers write all the time, wherever they are, assembling bits and pieces of their days as ingredients to a bigger whole. I happily steal from life and let my imagination transmogrify the elements.
Of course, many days require quiet walks in the hills, away from people and where structure and story arcs are developed. Adjectives are conceived and discarded. A short story pops into my head and I’ll stop and tap the idea into my iphone notes app to review later.
My laptop hums along daily – eventually a writer has to sit down and put words on a page – but often I find the words are ready to spill out, having already been formed in my mind. If the words don’t come, then I know it’s time to go for another walk.
My sheltie doesn’t mind.