Taking a long walk...strange conversations.
Okay, I don't pretend that I'm the first author to let my characters live in my imagination. Any author worth their reputation has had to do that.
About two years ago, while staying with my eldest daughter, I happened to say to my youngest daughter, "I'm going for a walk. I need to have a chat with my imaginary friends." You can guess her reaction and those of others in the room. Something about first signs of madness, blah, etc. I should have known better than to say it aloud or maybe bothered to explain what I meant. Maybe... or maybe I'm glad I didn't. Why explain. You don't have to.
My family, especially my daughters, never treated me seriously as a writer. At least they didn't at the time I was writing Jimmy Mack. Perhaps I'm mistaken in this next assumption but I still have a genuine feeling they thought it would never get finished let alone find its way into print. Still, the memory's there even though it's a seeming irrelevancy. As it happened I took many walks that summer working on the keyboard in my head before returning to the keyboard in the house. It was one of the most important parts of the day roaming round Windmill Hill that summer. Allowing my characters to have conversations in my imagination proved essential. It wasn't only the conversations inhabiting my mind, it included the times and places in their lives. They had to be real too.
One of my most crucial lessons happened long before I started writing the novel and it came many years earlier when I stumbled across this quote by Ernest Hemingway.
When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.
Since then it's never been far from my thoughts when writing. How did I make a character live? In my head they were real enough. How was it possible to transport them from this dimension to make them live in the printed world? That's when life in the other world / dimension began. So I made the time real, made the places real that I had experienced. The decision to stick to real historical time and real locations became imperative and concrete. (Visit The Gallery on this site to see what I mean). As I said at the beginning I'm not the first to do this.
A much younger author has confessed the same, although probably in not quite the same terms when it comes to time and location. Yet, her words have that authentic truthful feel. Charisse Spiers (see the meme beneath) talks about becoming a slave to imaginary people and the universe they inhabit.
Slaves to imaginary people. Yes. That's so true. We writers do become slaves to their experiences and we do inhabit their world. Translating this effectively becomes our labour and no! We're not crazy! We are writers. Until you do this you'll find that what you write will never feel true. For myself the acid test remains simple. If it reads the way I envisaged it in my head then the translation from head to words has worked. If it lack that 'authenticity' I know it's failed. There was never any doubt about this novel. With all its imperfections this was the novel I was destined to write. I never doubted what had I committed to print, it was as faithful as it could be because for me some thing was just meant to be.