The other day I was in the pantry looking for some coffee. Pretty normal human thing to do.
Until I started talking to myself. Out loud.
“Where is the coffee?” I, as a grouchy Russian man, asked.
“Hmm, I don’t know,” responded an American bozo in an affected, lilting voice.
“Where is it?” grumped the Russian.
“Aha!” said the bozo. “Here it is!”
I reached in and pulled out a box of Keurig cups.
“That’s not it!” scolded the Russian in his gravelly voice. “That’s caramel. You want hazelnut. Stupid, stupid girl.”
“Oooooh, yes, so sorry, so sorry,” said the bozo.
“Yes, come on now, find the right one.”
“Ooooo, here it is!” the bozo sang in victory.
“Finally. Let’s get out of here,” the Russian responded.
I turned around with my K-cup and locked eyes with one of my dogs, who was staring at me questioningly.
That was when I realized I had been speaking out loud.
Before I go any further, I want to assure you that I am not insane. I am completely aware that these are not real people. There are no “voices” in my head.
However, there are random characters everywhere.
For example, in the kitchen one day, one rogue Captain Montoya, with his flamboyant red feather sticking jauntily from his pirate hat, began arguing with a potato that I was heating up whether or not it deserved to die. He even threatened it with his rapier. Luckily, this conversation did not occur aloud.
A large green inflatable crocodile followed me around once. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me he was just waiting for me to do something amusing.
These random characters are everywhere. Most of them have never appeared in a book, including all of those above. (I’m not sure what exactly I would do with a talking inflatable crocodile.)
But some have.
This girl with incredibly pale skin and black hair kept popping up. Finally, I asked her, “Are you a vampire? I don’t do vampires.”
“No! Why does everyone always think that? I’m a wizard.”
I tried to give her a middle-grade children’s book about some lighthearted magic at a country mansion. A nice little stand-alone novel to have something completed while I worked on bigger projects. She wasn’t having it. She demanded a 100,000-word YA contemporary fantasy complete with Arthurian legend, bloodthirsty wizards, murder, and revenge. Oh, and she decided she was a Shadow Walker, hiding in darkness with the ability to summon shadows.
“Not okay,” I told her. “You’re a fun protagonist. A cute good guy. A shy little bookworm.”
“I am a good guy,” she responded. “And I am intelligent. But I’m not cute. I’m facing very real evil.”
She then proceeded to demand a trilogy.
Another character showed up in a book; coincidentally, he showed up in two of her books, even though he appeared long before she did. He was the man in the pork-pie hat, a bald, rotund little man with a gloomy expression.
His first words? “My face feels like a noodle.”
I burst out laughing. I got a weird look from my mom. He followed me around for a while. “I don’t like salty forks,” he lamented.
Two years later, I was shocked when editing my trilogy that there he was, and the sad little man had found his purpose.
A petite blonde with curly hair, slanted green eyes, and pointed ears started fluttering around. “Nope,” I said. “I don’t do fairies. That’s stupid.”
“Come to my village,” she said. “I have to hide that I’m a fairy. I’m blamed for things I didn’t do because of superstition.”
“That’s dumb. Fairies are tiny.”
She sighed. “We’re not birds. We’re just smaller than most humans.”
“Fairies are still stupid.”
“Look. Here’s complex world, complete with topography, trade routes, and a social system, with complicated wars and political subtleties. Cool fantasy races. Dragons!”
“Overdone,” I interrupted. “Tolkien imitators. Basically fan fiction.”
“Magical race hybrids that produce interesting moral conundrums. An over-powerful halfling shunned by humans, elves, and fairies alike, now determined to break centuries-old treaties that oppress and kill certain unwanted people groups considered too dangerous to live.”
“Trope. Is that you? Typical ‘chosen one’ main character?”
“No! I’m one of four main characters. Besides, it’s someone else entirely. Who uses questionable means. Is he good or bad? Am I fighting on the right side? Is there a right side?”
“Not enough there.”
“Also, these two countries are at war. Which is the good guy? Is there a good guy? Hard to tell with all this political maneuvering and lies. Unfortunately, I have to figure that out while also involved in the struggles taking place in the magical world. Do you like political drama? Battle scenes? Magic?”
“Fine! What do you want?”
She grinned. “Four books.”
“Here’s the first half of your first book and the plot synopses for the others. You’ll have to wait your turn for the rest. I have other projects before you.”
She smirked and strode off happily.
This is what I deal with. This is what your writer friends deal with. We really don’t have any choice about writing; they demand it. I recommend watching The Man Who Invented Christmas. It’s terrifyingly accurate.
So please, give us grace.
And if we are insane, keep in mind that writers’ insanity is what brings you good books.