Out of Control Characters

I don’t think this has ever happened to me before. Last night I dreamed that I was writing And/News, and that the book was completely out of control.

A little background. As I mentioned earlier, Chapter Thirteen marks the appearance of the characters Vic and Ray. I’ve been thinking about these folks for a long time, and it was interesting to get to meet them, because they didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected. But that’s a good thing. That means the characters are organic and are growing on their own. My subconscious has apparently been working on them even more than my conscious has.

Anyway, one of my last thoughts before going to bed went something like this: Vic and Ray turned out to be interesting characters, and Ray is more overpowering than I expected. Plus, K really likes them, more than I thought she would. I need to be careful that they don’t take over the story.

So what did I dream last night? That Richard was not in the book at all. I kept writing and writing and writing about K, chronicling her Forrest Gump-like adventures as she managed to be at every historic focal point of the next ten years (yes, you read that right). The interesting part of the dream was that I wasn’t just sitting and writing about her. I was following her around through all of this, tapping what she did into my iBook.

I’ve never dreamed about writing like that before. And I’ve never met one of my characters in a dream before. I hope this doesn’t mean I’m getting too hung up on K. My wife will be jealous.

While I’ve had characters do unexpected things while writing, I’ve never had one go completely out of control. Tommy Thompson, the author of several potboilers in the late 70’s and early 80’s was interviewed in Writer’s Digest after the publication of his novel Celebrity, and he talked about such a thing happening. He discussed a character he’d brought in called Uncle Bun, and how he threatened to take over the story “until I said, ‘That’s it Uncle Bun, you’re through.’ And I gave him liver cancer.”*

Because of that interview I read Celebrity, but it occurred to me that Uncle Bun’s threat had either been overestimated by Thompson, or he had had a run-in with a blue pencil in addition to liver cancer. Or maybe Thompson started dreaming that he was following Uncle Bun around with a typewriter.

Things like that happen to writers. Sometimes we’re aware of it, sometimes not.

Meantime, I wish I could remember what the historic focal points of the next ten years are going to be…

* Ironically, Thompson died of liver cancer shortly after the WD interview. I suspect he’d had the disease for some time, and projected it onto Uncle Bun as part of his grieving process.

NP – Moby, Play


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