My muse is an airhead. Just thought I’d get it out there. Okay, airhead’s a little strong – she’s just not detail-oriented. I often say things like, “The characters tell me the story, I’m just along for the ride.” And it’s true in its way. There is a certain element of my story that kind of lands in my head. I don’t feel right taking credit for it, because it doesn’t seem like there was any work in thinking those things up. Blam – there it is.
But then there’s the other thing. See, my muse hands me emotions. My muse drops things, like these great, witty lines and vivid pictures into my head. She shows me who my characters are when I’m doing something mindless, like singing in my car or zoning out in front of the glowing computer screen. But my muse only works in the abstract. She only cares what it makes me feel – and she doesn’t give a shit about the story.
Do these scenes make sense in a chronological order? Where are the plot points? What’s the point of that quirky character my muse keeps bugging me about, when they don’t have any part in the overall story but they can drop a killer line that makes me laugh out loud?
My muse doesn’t care about any of that. That’s my job. There’s the easy, effortless part of writing that’s all about going on the adventure. It’s all about feeling and being in the scene and loving these people who really only exist in my skewed little noggin. But then there’s the hard bit – plotting and pacing and paying attention to the facts of the world I’m writing. Not allowing myself to get so lost in the fun stuff that I let the real pieces of story slide. Because my muse might not give a damn, but I know that the story is all. Without it, all of the emotion and wit and work on craft mean nothing.
So when I say that my characters told me the story, it’s only part way true. I think they lead a lot, but there’s a very real, very hard bit of work involved on my end – the end that thinks it out logically. The end that cuts characters who I’d really like to hang out with – like Logan from Missouri who had this awesome bit of fiery dialogue with one of our antagonists. I loved Logan, but he was only necessary in one scene. No where near the overall arc. Out he went, into the world on his own... maybe my muse will bring him back one day. I think she’s still a little mad at me for axing him, but I had to.
We like to put all of this into romantic terms – we’re writers, regardless of our genre, poetic romanticism is our true currency. But the story is really ours. Our responsibility. Our job. Our decision. While I think it’s important to be true to the story, it’s our story we have to be true to – so when we make these mighty decisions on our characters’ futures and struggles, we chose it. Down deep in there, it wasn’t a predestined muse, or at least if she was involved, we made the decision to go with her there.
So what do you think? How much of your writing is you being true to the story and how much of it is hard-earned, well thought out decision making?