Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When Characters Come to Life

By Nicole Seitz, author of A Hundred Years of Happiness, Trouble the Water, and The Spirit of Sweetgrass

I'm so happy to be writing right now, I could kiss someone. Now, in one sense, the "writing" I'm talking about is that I'm under contract for more books...in this economy. Trust me, I'm counting my blessings. But (and there's always a but, isn't there?) I have a deadline in a couple of months and honestly, with summer here, the kids at home, work calling, I've no clue how I'm going to get this done. But then again, I have to remind myself that I ALWAYS feel this way about each new book and each new deadline. And, I have to remember I'm not alone.

The "writing" I'm happiest about is the actual sitting-down-at-the-computer, feeling the keys beneath my fingertips, forgetting there's a blank page in front of me, just letting it flow kind of writing--like I experienced yesterday, sitting on the front porch, watching my children play. In those moments, I am consumed by my characters. I'm in their heads. I care what happens to them, what they say to one another, what they did in their pasts, what motivates them. In those moments I am completely oblivious to the fact that I'm under deadline or that writing books is even a business at all. Because I don't know about you, but I didn't get into the book business for the "business" part of that equation. I did it because I love this process of "writing."

Oh, how hard it is to remain in that ephemeral place where I once lived for months through the writing of my first novel. All I felt was love for my main character, Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins. I just wrote what she told me to. I had no thoughts of publication, no thoughts of market, no fears of failure or rejection or 'what if this doesn't sell-out'? Back then, I was just a creative person who had a very different definition of the word "sell-out." Have things changed so much since I began this journey? Well, yes and no. I still love the books. The business I realize, although difficult at times, is necessary and worth it at the end of the day. I'm just finding that with each and every new book I write, I know more about writing and more about the business. Sometimes knowledge is a wonderful thing...it aids in survival. But sometimes, knowledge can turn a passionate faith into a technical, nay saying science. And I'm more of a whole-hearted faith kind of a gal.

When I feel too much knowledge nipping at my brain, the kind that zaps all creative thought, I back away. I back away and ask for Essie Mae and Honor and Alice and John Porter and Ernest and all my other beautiful characters who have carried me courageously and valiantly over the threshold of my deadlines, to pick me up once again. They've done it before. Like that tiny red ant my daughter just showed me in the driveway that is carrying another red ant three times its size--by the grace of God, our characters can carry us anywhere if we'll just erase ourselves, forget all we know, and play dead for a little while. That's when we really see what the little boogers are made of. That's when our characters truly come to life.


Nicole Seitz is the author and cover artist of three novels. Her second book, TROUBLE THE WATER, was named one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2008 by Library Journal. Her next novel, SAVING CICADAS, will go on sale December 1. Nicole makes her home in the lowcountry of South Carolina with her husband, two children, a cat, a dog, a hamster, and two frogs.


Jennifer Lyn King said...

A great post, Nicole. Thank you for sharing. Write on, and enjoy the summer with your family! :o) Jennifer King

Unknown said...

Can't wait for the CICADIA story!

Elaina M. Avalos said...

Such a great post. Thank you for putting the words on the page. I needed that little burst of encouragement after a couple of frustrating writing days!