What characters do when you’re not looking

by Gail Z. Martin

One of the fun things about being an author is that you don’t have to wait for the next book in your series to come out to find out what’s going to happen.  (Actually, that’s not entirely true, because things come up when you’re writing that you didn’t foresee.)

Another fun thing is that between books, your characters still hang out in your imagination, kind of like a “green room” for imaginary people.  They never really go away, they just relax a little when they’re off camera. Or maybe it’s like a “wrap party” after the filming for a season of a TV show ends, and the actors all get together to celebrate.

If you want to know the truth of it, it’s kinda like having a noisy Superbowl party going on in the recesses of your mind, except that no one has to vacuum up the potato chip crumbs.

(What, doesn’t everybody experience this phenomena?  All the writers I know report some variation.  Oh, you meant “normal” people…)

Eventually, the characters get over their hangovers and finish up the snacks, and then decide it’s time to go adventuring again.  That’s when they come knocking ever-so-gently at the front of my imagination, saying, “Please, can you write us another story?”

OK, so it’s more like pounding on the door with the pommels of their swords, yelling and screaming, “When do we get another damn book!”  (My imaginary friends aren’t a demure bunch.)

That’s when I find out that while they’ve been swilling ale and chowing down, they’ve actually been discussing their next adventure among themselves, and they’re ready to clue me in on it, since they need my fingers to type.  The ideas start flowing, it turns into a book proposal, and it’s my turn to take it back to my agent and publisher and say, “I think I’ve got the next story arc.”

So if you ever wondered, characters don’t just wander off to the beach or rent a cabin in the mountains in between books.  At least mine don’t.  Probably a good thing, or it might look like that Capital One commercial with the Vikings.

In fact, I think I’m getting a message from them now.  What’s that?  Oh.  Pass the salsa.

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