Last night, I dreamed I was reading a novel synopsis on the cover of a book. I woke at 2 a.m. with the words of that synopsis echoing in my head. I lay in a half-sleep thinking, “That sounds like a good book, I should really read that one.” Then it occurred to me the synopsis had come from my head, not from any now-published novel, and it hit me: I’d better write that down!
I tapped my tappable bedside lamp for some light, reached for my bedside pen and notebook, and started scribbling the words from that dreamed synopsis before they could dissipate into the night. I filled one notebook page then, thinking I was done, put it aside and shut off my lamp. I thought I would drift back to sleep.
A few minutes later, the “what-ifs” hit. What if my protagonist was an old Vietnam vet who still struggles with his memories of the war, even after all these years? What if the secret he is trying to expose is a local terrorist cell? Or what if the reader only thinks that’s the secret, but it’s really the government who is trying to kill our protagonist? What if this? What if that?
And then the characters started talking to me and giving me details.
I rushed to write down all of my what-ifs and story details while secretly wishing I could shut the voices off and go back to sleep. These characters want me to tell their story, and they want it now, damn it!
The problem is, if I try to tell the story of these very insistent characters before I finish the novel I’m working on now, chances are a new batch of insistent characters will get the idea that they can interrupt *this* new story. Next thing you know, I’ll be one of those novelists who owns a huge stack of “great start” manuscripts without a single finished work to her name.
I don’t mind when characters wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me something important. I just wish they would learn to wait their turn!
Does this ever happen to you? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
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