I have entered the Twilight Zone — that stage in a book where an entire fictional world has coalesced inside my head, populated with characters that I am convinced lead their lives without me when I am not paying attention to them. I imagine them fighting among themselves, jockeying for a bigger role in the book, conspiring to waylay my outline and generally taking on lives of their own.
It’s a good sign when this happens in some ways. It tells me that I have successfully created a world with enough layers to sustain a reader’s attention. But it’s not such a good sign when it comes to my real life, which suffers during this period from what some people have charitably called my “absent-minded professor syndrome” and others have called just plain old half-assedness. I plead guilty to both. But it is a condition impossible to fight. Whenever I am not concentrating on another task, it seems as if the characters I have created clamor for my attention and send me off on mini-daydreams in which I contemplate whether I have given their characters enough shading in the present draft or whether I am taking them in the right direction in the pages to come.
They can be quite insistent at times, which pulls my brain away from daily matters, and so I have found myself doing all of the following during this period of time:
- Forgetting to pick up the mail for 10 straight days… which also tells you how exciting my mail usually is.
- Forgetting about parties and birthdays (but somehow never forgetting about eating, drat it all).
- Not checking my personal voice mail for two weeks and counting. Apologies to you all, especially that company in Raleigh that wants to sell me a home security network for mere pennies a day.
- Getting in the car and heading in the wrong direction for a good 10 miles before I realized what I was doing. But, hey, Efland is a lovely little town and I worked out a new plot point on the way home!
- Wearing my shirt inside out, usually until around lunch time when someone points it out with a puzzled look on their face.
- Wearing two different shoes, which in my defense were both black and remarkably similar in design. Sort of.
- Standing in front of the bathroom door with my remote car opener, clicking furiously while wondering why the hell the bathroom door won’t open. Words fail me at this one.
- Reading an e-mail on my Blackberry and then promptly forgetting I ever received it in the first place. But, face it — you do that, too, and you don’t even have a good excuse for it.
- Addressing my daughter by one of my character’s names, a practice that can be somewhat confusing to her when I demand to know why she’s not answering to “Rodrigo” or “Lamont.”
The older I get, the earlier I seem to enter The Twilight Zone. This time, I have a good seven weeks left before my book is due and, honestly, my characters formed their Occupy Katy protest starting a good month ago. I can only hope that once the book is turned in, they will give me a rest — and the rest of my brain back. All of which leads me to an interesting idea for a Twilight Zone style short story involving a writer whose characters won’t let her… ah, well, never mind. The cycle will surely repeat itself again and again so I may as well make the most of it. It’s a good thing we Mungers have very big heads. There’s a lot of characters living in mine.