Mad in Pursuit Notebook

who do you talk to on a starry night?

Conversation with My Characters

Aug. 16, 2017. Alone. Silence. Except for that constant stream of brain chatter full of reminders and obligations. You know that the universe is full of wise voices, but how do you join the conversation? How do you adjust the dials on your receiver? Where do you plug in your microphone?

In my last post, I wondered how to get that eveready pocket friend, who is awake when you are, always eager to bat around your latest ideas, to hear your sorrows, to celebrate your breakthroughs.

A path opened for me yesterday, when I was posting the audio for Chapter 34 of TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS -- "Growing Her Own." The chapter was about Mary re-discovering the power of writing fiction in middle age. "Mary loved characters. And she liked having her own set to play with..."

Hmmm... if you generally feel that religion is a set of culturally specific metaphors for the Mysterious Unknown of the Universe, then how is a set of deeply realized fictional characters different from a pantheon of gods or saints? Some characters have been with me for years. "Jackson" and "Dan" presented themselves at the Underground Athletic Club, circa 1987. "Nellie"showed up a couple years later and dragged the two men to Thailand (now disguised as "Delia" in THE SUDDEN SILENCE, where Jackson became "Martin" and Dan became "Jack").

I conferred with these three all hours of night and day, and they shared their wisdom with me in so many circumstances and situations.

In 2010, Nellie came back in a sequel to PASSION AND PERIL. I called it THE COLLECTOR'S APPRENTICE. Jackson was dead and she was alone, in winter, sorting through the collections, reconnecting with Dan halfway around the world. As a novel, it was a mess. No plot. Just an episodic ramble about art and grief. In 2014, I took another stab at it -- not a sequel, new names for the characters, hoping a plot would appear. In 2015, I combined it with my futuristic ROCKTROPOLIS (which was already a version of THE UNDERGROUND ATHLETIC CLUB), and gave the lead to "Dash," who I got to know from a cartoon series I did. It too fizzled.

Yesterday, I retraced my steps to the original Nellie version of APPRENTICE. And there I was, with a companion I knew inside and out. I understand her love for Jackson. I understand her curiosity and her stubborn drive. Why can't Nellie be my pocket friend?

Writing can be a meditation. Writing fiction is full of surprises -- new mysteries, new insights. Some claim writing is therapy. Why not? In play therapy, the client is given dolls and building blocks and is asked to tell a story. Writing fiction doubles down on that.

How about writing as a spiritual practice? In belief systems that use shamans, a question is posed. The shaman works herself into a trance, through drumming or dancing. Maybe a spirit guide then appears, to take her hand. They journey together toward an answer or insight. I took a workshop once on shamanic journey work -- it felt like writing fiction. Deep. Powerful.

Yesterday I decided to keep writing about Nellie. Let the crazy, disorganized chapters flow. Not for publication. Just for me -- a secret sharer, a pocket friend. I went to bed last night feeling so peaceful.



THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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All pages in this website by Susan Barrett Price are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. [The snowstorm image at the top of this page came from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license.]