A long time creative non-fiction writer (and friend) used asked me how to questions about the spooky art of fiction writing, all the time. Anyone who calls him or herself a fiction writer (maybe that’s writer of fiction, hmm?) is always asked, Where did you get the idea for the story? And How does it work, you know, when you get an idea?
For the record, I don’t think there is a one-size fits all way to create. If you think of yourself as a writer–and you don’t have to be a writer to write, you might find joy in writing for the sake of it–you would answer this question differently depending on your respective approach to the blank page. Me too, depending on the story and where it came from, as it’s never the same. I had a flash of an idea recently and took a few moments to transcribe the event for my friend, and in the, cannot live without writer journal.
This is how it works…
Your sitting at your desk reading through the editor’s edits when the doorbell rings. Damn, I’m only half dressed. You grab the yoga pants, the ones you bought at Sports Basement, from the edge of the unmade bed, and slip one foot, then the other into the legs of the pants, and pull them up as you walk barefoot across the living room hardwood floor. You’re aware of the dust bunnies multiplying under the farmhouse table but you refuse to allow that thought to settle. Writing comes first. You wish for the millionth time that you had a wife to take care of you. You reach the front door and pull it open just as the FedEx guy is walking back down the redbrick path your husband and son put down after Christmas, to his truck.
“Hi,” you squeak out. The beefy, thick, necked, driver turns around.
“Thought I missed you,” he says walking back down the path. He reaches the door and hands you the package, which you scrutinize.
To: Rosa Guerra
Package from: Estafeta, Mex.
You lift your eyes to the driver’s and say, “Not me, wrong address,” and hand the FedEx, letter size, package back to him.
“What address is this…?” You tell him. There is an apology, which you wave off before closing the door so you can get back to your edits. You make a detour to the kitchen for another cup of coffee. Midway through the pour you see a woman, maybe five foot, curly brown hair with streaks of gold, highlights probably, purplish colored eyes, natural or contacts? You can’t be sure. She isn’t real. She’s in your head. You think to yourself, why do these characters always show up when I’m working on something else. You know you can’t do anything about it, not that you would if you could. The coffee pot is left on the brown tile counter next to the half filled cup.
Before returning to the edits you do what you always do when a character and story drop in unannounced, open a new document and type. Later, after the edits you know you have to finish, you’ll come back to the file and figure out who the woman with curly brown hair is.
The FedEx—letter sized—packaged arrived at 2102 Cherry Lane, Friday afternoon. Ted, the driver was in a hurry. It was after five and he had a date with the divorcee from 2045 two streets over. She was lonely she told him. Dinner, wine, no television, and a night you’ll never forget she had said. He wasn’t going to miss that or her. He dropped the package on the doorstep and trotted back to his truck. He’d learn on Monday, after and much too late, two things: 1) the packaged required a signature, and 2) it was meant for 2210, a bit further down the street.
And this is how it goes inside of my head all the time. Welcome to the world between.
Have you experienced a moment, which took your mind on a trip you hadn’t intended to take? Where did it lead you?
Post script – my friend, the non-fiction writer, doesn’t ask me how to questions anymore. She’s given into her alter ego and is now penning her first imagined story.