I’m (Finally) Listening

I like things to be perfect.  I mean, like, really perfect.  The papers on my desk at work are all at right-angles.  I make lists for my lists.  I worry that I’ll forget to pack something for a trip that’s a month away.

Yeah, that kind of perfect.

So, needless to say, I have control issues.  And I’m learning that sometimes, absolute control in my writing isn’t a good thing.  Sometimes my characters are trying to tell me something, but I’m not listening because I want to impose a plotline or a trait on to them. 

It’s become clear to me that I need to relinquish control and listen more openly.  Writing with an agenda isn’t usually productive.  I carry my soapbox around with me too often as it is; I should leave it at home (in the trash?) when I write. 

As I blogged recently, I am currently energizing my manuscript with a major curve ball.  I joked at the SCBWI holiday party on Thursday that there’s a solid 10% that needs a injection of caffeine, and others suggested that heroine or crack may actually be more effective.  (Yikes.)  While I plan to stay far away from the street drugs, I do have something very scary planned.  I’m going to kill one of my darlings.

I was reluctant to do so, because I had an agenda without even realizing it.  I wanted to maintain control over what my characters did, and over every choice that they made.  I wanted my readers to view them in a particular way, and every carefully-planned and orchestrated decision was based on this desire to manage my readers’ reactions.  But come one—how realistic is that? 

As soon as I surrendered to the terrifying, alarming prospect of the Uncomfortable and the Unknown, my mind un-blocked.  I found the direction and energy and momentum that I was missing.

My characters were (and are) trying to tell me something.  Hell, my novel was speaking to me.  Shouting, even!  It was screaming for change, but I was heavy-handing my way through a critical section like a pit boss.  And feeling almost as violent and unfulfilled about it.

So, okay, kiddos.  I hear you.  And I’m listening.

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