Me, Myself, and My Characters

It’s said that writing is a solitary pursuit. Or is it?

The other day I was texting with a good friend who is also an author. She has known me for years. I told her about the cute long raincoat and matching hat I’d treated myself to, due to the increasingly regular torrents here in New England. The package had just arrived from Ireland, with less than a week of transit time (thanks, FedEx Air!). Oh, and I’d gotten a pair of green Hunter boots to go with them, perfect for tromping through mud and peat bogs.

Or maybe, after a quick hop across the Irish Sea, for traipsing the moors. Or that royal weekend at Balmoral.

Photo by Iain on Pexels.com

“You are definitely manifesting your character,” my friend texted back.

What? Oh. Well, yes, my ms. has an Irish theme. But I’m not turning into my character or anything. Writers don’t go all Method, the way some actors do when they’re preparing for a role, right?

Play those incriminating clips in my head, Sam:

My editor for the Lizzie McGuire Mysteries tells me I am Lizzie McGuire (and not just because I have the very same fake-Tiffany heart necklace—it took a while for me to graduate from my middle-school mindset).

That authorized celebrity “autobiography” I wrote where the celebrity was too busy to answer questions, or even read the ms.? No hassle at all. Hey, it was fun being a celebrity for a while. Hope they liked the life I made up for them.

Lacing up my skates to get the feel of the ice again for a skating romance. (Ouch.)

Endless laps in my mom’s assisted-living community pool while plotting the Ladies Smythe & Westin. My sleuths and I toasted each clue with strawberry pina coladas.

Rat Pack playlist looping through my headphones as I penned a story about a Sinatra impersonator while consuming Italian takeout.

Nope, no personality cloning issues whatsoever.

As a former Psych and English major, I don’t think I need to delve too deeply into the idea of me turning into my fictional characters, or vice versa. But if we make it through the road trip to the end of the story together, it doesn’t really matter who drove, right?

There’s a problem, though: I currently have 3 different manuscripts in progress. That’s a lot of bickering characters in the backseat. Sometimes I have to pull over or turn the car around. Sometimes I just toss the map in disgust and go home.

I once worked with a very successful entrepreneur who needed help writing his book. Fascinated by his ability to work on many different projects at once, I asked him his secret. “Easy,” he said. “It’s like there’s a long hall with doors on each side. I walk down the hall and pick different doors to open. You know, to check on how things are going. Then I go to the next door. Or else I create new ones.”

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Well, that sounds like a breeze, doesn’t it? I can’t remember if he mentioned that he had employees diligently executing his vision behind each door. But the compartmentalization idea is helpful, I think. Or it would be if I were capable of shutting any doors on my characters. Because sometimes they get flashes of inspiration or solve a pesky plot twist. And sometimes they flounce or sulk or slam the doors themselves.

It just so happens that today—November 1st—is the first day of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). Yep, 30 days set aside for authors worldwide to devote themselves to furious writing abandon. Or, in my case, to deal with a motley crew of characters fighting each other for attention. I think we need chocolate. And extra coffee. Any maybe a silencer.

Readers, do you read more than one book at a time? And writers, anyone else with character issues, or is it just…us? Let us know in the comments section below!

28 thoughts on “Me, Myself, and My Characters

    1. Thanks, Tracy–glad you enjoyed it! I’m reading multiple books, too–not something I ever used to do. Loved hearing that you’re dusting off that WIP–me too!

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  1. I’m always reading more than one book at a time. That way if I’m not in the mood for a certain type of book, I have another one to turn to. And no comment on my character issues as an author!

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  2. I have read multiple books at a time since high school, and as an English minor in college. Until recently, I’ve only worked on one writing project at a time. But then I started writing Sherlock Holmes stories. Now I just joied NaNo to help me get my latest novel finished, but I need to complete a Holmes story first so my beta group can review it by next week. I’ve also been tossing around an idea for a new cozy series (yes, me, writing cozies!) But more on that later…

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  3. I usually read one *novel* at a time, but sometimes I’ll read non-fiction along with fiction. Lately, though, I’ve been playing around with reading two novels at a time. We’ll see if I can maintain the level of concentration!

    As for characters, I need to firmly shut the door. Only one (related) group at a time, please!

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  4. I love the image of the doors, Lisa! My problem is that I want to spend a day (or week or month) in just one room. I can’t just take a peek inside. And those of you who can read more than one novel at a time?? So jealous!

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  5. I only read one book at a time. I will listen to an audio book while reading a book, and occasionally even then I start to blend characters and plots together in my mind. Definitely couldn’t read more than one book at a time.

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  6. I rarely read more than one book at a time, and as yet, have never worked on one m.s. at a time. I guess I’m a linear type of gal. But I do love the metaphor of the hallway with all those doors–even though it seems kind of scary to open them…

    And I SO want to read that story about the Sinatra impersonator! Where can I find it?

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    1. Thank you, Leslie! The Sinatra impersonator will be in the Malice Domestic Anthology 16 (that the 2021 edition, which hasn’t pubbed yet–we’re awaiting word). The story is called “Fly Me to the Morgue.” Our very own Cynthia also has a story in this antho!

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  7. I read multiple books at a time because of work. Though I try to be working on only one writing project at a time because the focus is better, but that’s not always possible.

    Someday I hope the day will come when you can reveal the things you’ve ghostwritten…though I know that’s not how it works. So curious! 🙂

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    1. I will tell you off the record at Malice. (I don’t think the celebrity would care. Tho the lawyers might, lol.)

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  8. What a fun post! I’m a one-book-at-time reader. if I’m reading two books, it means one of them didn’t hold my interest and i’ll eventually put it aside. I want to know more about your shopping haul from Ireland!!

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    1. I so wish I hadn’t discovered Weavers of Ireland, lol. I want everything, especially with the cooler weather. The ads popped up in my FB feed, I think b/c I’d researched something Irish.

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  9. I don’t read more than one book at a time, and I TRY not to work on more than one book at a time, even though I write three or four a year (gulp). But sometimes – like right now – when I have a book due in a month, the characters for the next book on the schedule come knocking on my brain. “Remember us? Can we come in and hangout while you’re working?” I want to scream, “NO! I’ll get to you, I promise.” But what if they have a surprise for me, or a secret to tell? I don’t want them on mute. Sigh. Like all of you, I try to tiptoe along that balance beam.

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  10. Three manuscripts?! My hat’s off to you! (Or since I’m lacking in the chapeau department, perhaps I can borrow your new hat and tip it your way?) How exciting!!

    I’m a read-one-book-at-a-time gal, I think because of the trauma of reading eleventy-billion books at once as an English major. (Fun fact: I, too, had an English/psych double major! Let’s diagram sentences as we analyze coworkers, shall we?) I’ll definitely read YOUR three simultaneously, though, because I want all the awesome I can get. ❤

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    1. The hat will look amazing on you, Kathy! And I didn’t know you were a Psych major, too. We’ll definitely have to compare notes. I always tell people I use my Psych major more…

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  11. I will sometimes have as many as three books going at a time, depending on where I’m sitting. Somehow I manage to keep them straight.

    I only write one book at a time, but sometimes (like now) the characters from one series “talk over” the characters I’m working with. But usually I’m able to tell them to wait their turn – I’ll get to them eventually.

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  12. Lisa,
    So glad I’m not the only writer that finds myself saying things or doing things that my characters do! Then I wonder, did I say that because she did, or did she say that because I do? Identity crisis! I love your line “it doesn’t really matter who drove, right?” Right!
    That Irish rain gear sounds cute.

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