by Valerie Ipson
I get into the car to go somewhere and two characters immediately start talking to each other in my head. I don't know how they got in there, but they're there and they're talking, but not to me. They purposefully wait, though, for a quiet moment so I will overhear their conversation.
They're sneaky like that. And it's always the same exact dialogue until I write it down, then they'll move on to a new, but often related topic.
They never really tell me what they're doing, like, I'm going over to so and so's house and tell him off and then he's going to... No. They just talk, chat away, carry on their little conversations and then they want me to figure out the whole story around the conversation.
Sometimes now I show them. When I get into the car I say, "Be quiet. I'm not going to listen to you today. I need to ponder what you're going to do next in the story,"--then I'm the one talking to myself (they will not participate in this part-they're ornery like that), so again talking to myself, I'm like, okay, she could go to so and so's house and tell him off, then that would make him...
No one wants to read a story that's all dialogue and they know it--that's why they need me.
Reminds me of Anne Lamott's book on writing, Bird By Bird, where she writes of characters driving the plot and we are just the typists who get it all down on paper. Good typists listen, she reminds us: “Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other. You’ll see them influence each other’s lives, you’ll see what they are capable of up and doing, and you’ll see them come to various ends.” She quotes another author, Carolyn Chute, who was discussing rewriting, “Over and over, I feel as if all my characters know who they are and what happens to them… and what they are capable of doing, but they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”
I can see that my characters need to step it up a bit and give me more clues about what they want to be doing. They can't be all talk and no action or I'm going to have to make them start doing the typing.