Photo of a red sunset at Bude Cornwall

The curious life of a writer

Two things can be said about becoming a writer and penning your first novel. Life can never be boring. You’re never bored and you’re never completely alone.

You know how those types spout on about mindfulness and quietening the mind (probably while twisting into an impossible yoga pose)? That’s a mean feat to achieve if you’re a writer. The brain is forever ticking away, debating one aspect and another.

Sweet Dreams are made of… how about I change the POV in this scene?

Dawn breaks, the alarm awakens you and from the groggy throes of sleep, you fumble for a means to write down the half-forgotten dream or idea you had when you were drifting off the sleep. Once you’re in the shower or driving you’ll, of course, remember it with crystal clarity and go into a mild panic because you’re a writer and you’re unable to write it down! Like a mantra you’ll repeat the thought over and over until you’ve found a piece of paper to note it down. Repeating it aloud might cause a few heads to turn, especially if it’s about killing off the antagonist’s henchman in chapter twelve.

I dreamt of a book title but forgotten it once I woke. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had a gruesome nightmare and noted it down as a good death scene for a character.

Emma Cox ponders writing while she looks out at the sunset
Hmm… I could use this

A hoarder of ideas

If you’re like me, your Mind Palace looks like the home of a hoarder. If it were a computer desktop it would be covered in hundreds of different files. Your inbox email total would be in the thousands. You collect little nuggets of information and you can’t help it. A stranger’s habit or choice of clothing will be filed away for use.

Instead of thinking how magnificent the sunrise is, you end up internally narrating it like you’re a noir detective. The rising sun did little to warm the Monday blues but everything to burn my retinas. The harsh, golden light and the rain-slicked road blinded me as I dodged the oncoming traffic.

I’m a word hoarder too. I’ll read a book or watch some TV and a word will leap out at me. Or you’ll find a new word and try to find a reason to use it.

A photo of chapter eight
We need to talk about Chapter Eight

I’ve created a monster

Then there are the characters. They used to be quiet, when they were young, under developed ideas. First, we gave them a voice. Then a body appears and a personality, which blossoms in ways we expected, and more often than not, in ways we didn’t.

Character development is my favourite part of writing. I love bringing a concept to life. The double-edged sword of a well-written character is they’ll start ‘talking’ back when you get it wrong.

I can see him, the main character in my current WIP, like a ghost out of the corner of my eye. Steely eyes, the clenched jaw, the lips a tight line. His thumb and forefinger absentmindedly twist the ring. He’s agitated (I know this because I gave him these characteristics) and wants to talk to me about something. Thankfully he understands when I need to live in my own reality and keeps quiet. Although when it comes to nighttime (3 am usually) he seems to think I am doing nothing, and therefore it’s the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation.

Eventually, I look at him out of the corner of my eye and raise a questioning brow and like a spring he animates. Elbows on knees he leans forward, fingers steepled and although his face remains impassive the eyes never hide the emotion within.
‘Chapter eight,’ he states.
‘What of chapter eight?’ I reply, paying more attention to whatever task I am doing rather than him.
‘I’m not happy with it.’ I stop what I’m doing, my incredulous expression enough for him to continue. ‘You know I wouldn’t do that.’
‘And what would you do instead?’ I enquire.
‘The complete opposite,’ he grins wolfishly.

I know he’s right because I wrote him. There comes a point where you build a character with so much detail they’re almost alive. You compile a scene and a day or two later, like an annoying itch inside your skull the characters prod and poke you until you change it.
I debate the magnitude of what he’s implying. ‘That’ll mean I’ll have to change more than just chapter eight.’ The impish grin I receive infuriates me all the more, but I know he’s right.

Restless is the writer’s life. I try to ensure I put my characters to bed before I go to sleep. Give them no reason to prod me but no doubt a new plot will come to mind while I drift off to sleep.

Do your characters ‘talk’ to you? Or am I just bonkers? How has writing changed the way you view the world around you? Do others think you’ve changed since you’ve started writing?

People say they didn’t know I had it in me. There’s a saying, ’empty vessels make the most sound.’ I guess mine is full to the brim.


    • emmacox

      I’m glad I’m not normal. 😉

      I daydreamed for most of my childhood. I’ve two older siblings but the age gap was enough we didn’t do much together so I made my own company in my head.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.