I love picking up a book, thumbing through the pages and wondering who’s in charge here. I’m not talking about the point of view character. What I’m referring to is who was in charge during the writing of the novel—the author or the characters?
Have you ever been in the middle of writing a story when one of the characters starts speaking to you? Isn’t it grand when that happens? Suddenly we’re no longer creating; we’re taking dictation. We, the writer and the characters, have connected on a parallel plane; our spirits, real and surreal, have melded.
As a result, the level of our writing deepens because there’s a feeling of connectedness with our characters. Our readers benefit from this.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are times when it’s not so great. I’ll give you an example. I was writing a romantic suspense set in Paris. My hero and heroine were on a old wooden bench in front of Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore on the Left Bank known as a haven for struggling writers and poets. Although the two were fighting their attraction for each other, they shared a kiss.
Later, that night, they showed me in a dream—by acting out the scene over and over—that it was shoddy writing. Finally, after the third run-through of the scene, Niko, the hero, turned to me and said, “Now, do you see why it won’t work?” I crawled out of bed and powered up my laptop.
Now a less-fanciful writer might say it was merely my subconscious communicating with me in my sleep. One could even cite scientific evidence to prove the person’s theory. Our brains do reorganize images and data while we sleep. To which I shriek in the spirit of those annoying salesmen on TV: But wait! There’s more!
I was sound asleep one night when someone slammed our bedroom door. I sat up in the bed, heart pounding. What…what was that? My husband was snoring. The cat was still asleep at the foot of the bed. I’d evidently been dreaming. So I spooned against snoring spouse and snuggled under the covers (alliteration, ya gotta love it!) and went back to sleep. BAM! The door slammed again. This time I saw who did it—Niko, the rascal. “What? What do you want?”
He told me to watch. As if I had a choice. Every time I closed my eyes, he slammed the bedroom door. “Okay. Okay, already. I’m watching.”
Niko, the French government agent in my story, strode down a hallway and opened the door to an interrogation room. My heroine, an America art teacher, was tied to a chair and wore a blindfold. Niko walked in and slammed the door. End of mental picture/dream/figment of my imagination. I waited…
“That’s it? You woke me for that piddlin’ little scene?” I waited some more. Nothing. Nada. So, I ask you. At that precise moment, who was in charge of my story? Me, the author, or one of my characters? It took me four chapters of set-up to get to that dratted scene, and during that month-long span, my mind played it out in various ways. Frankly I was afraid if I didn’t write it according to my hero’s wishes, he’d keep me awake again.
Still, that’s one of the objectives of writing: to become one with our point of view characters. If we don’t, how can we possibly draw the reader into our stories so deep, that for a brief time, the reader becomes the point of view character.
I say this so often to other writers. Our jobs are two-fold. One, we need to tell a great story. Two, we need to draw the reader into our story, so that when he or she reaches that final period, the reader exhales and says, “This book is a keeper.”
Vonnie Davis writes contemporary and historical romance as well as romantic suspense. Her novel, Storm’s Interlude has garnered four 5-Star reviews and was voted Book of the Week at Long and Short Reviews. She has taught workshops on Point of View. A retired technical writer, Vonnie lives in southern Virginia with her husband, who is also an author.
*Edited by Teresa Crumpton*