Sunday, October 11, 2009

Writing Obsessions - Part 2

Elizabeth Spann Craig (Guest Blogger)

If you missed yesterday’s post, let me catch you up to speed. I’m confessing to being a fully-blown, obsessive mystery writer. Are you one, too? Do you find yourself taking pictures of odd-looking characters when you’re out in public? Does your mind wander off when talking to someone that might be a perfect character for your book? If this sounds like you, then join the club!

More obsessive behavior that I indulge in:

Writing at odd times. Writing all the time. Have you honked your horn at a 40ish woman lately who was busily scribbling and incognizant the red light had changed to green? Might have been me. I frequently get ideas when I’m out running errands and, as a stay-at-home mom, I’m the errand-runner for the entire family. I’ll write at a stoplight in a skinny second. I scribble things in the middle of the night, at church, at school open houses, grocery store deli lines, and in carwashes. I’ve written on my hand, on receipts, and on napkins with eyeliner, crayon, and dead-or-dying pens.

Bringing up murder with non-writers. Apparently, I think that everyone thinks about murder as much as I do. When I’m out having lunch with my mommy friends, inevitably someone will bring up a really annoying neighbor, coworker, or husband. I’ll listen carefully, then say, “That would be a really wonderful motive for murder! Let me jot that down. Did I tell you I just found out that nicotine in liquid form is extremely poisonous? And it’s so accessible!” They have to gently explain, “Elizabeth, we’re just blowing off steam.”

I change storylines when my characters won’t follow directions. I’ve discovered that my characters come to life; and, like willful teenagers, they don’t listen to me. This is a rather Frankenstein-esque turn of events. I am their creator, yet they have their own agenda. You have to wonder if you’re losing it a little when this happens. If I don’t want my character to become an animal rights activist, then I should be able to prevent it. Instead, my characters frequently breathe their first breath and take off giddily in new directions. I try to rein them in, but end up changing storylines to incorporate their hobbies and interests.

I can't stop myself from revising a manuscript--even after I've turned it in to my editor or agent. I keep emailing updated versions of the document, with my new additions and corrections: “Dear Ellen, Please read this version, instead. Thanks! Elizabeth” The next day: “Ellen? Sorry, but I made some additional changes. Could you read over this version, instead?” Thank goodness for Word’s Track Changes, or I’d probably be on my editors’ and agent’s hit list. Even when I should be starting on my new project (that I have a deadline for and am under contract to deliver, for heaven’s sake), I can’t seem to let the original project go. A little wisp of an idea will come to me while driving and I’m jotting it down at the next stoplight. “Ellen? Hey, could you read this version, instead?”

Thanks so much to Sharon and everyone here at Poe’s Deadly Daughters for hosting me the last couple of days. It’s been really fun and I’ve been excited about participating in such a great blog for mystery lovers.
Elizabeth Spann Craig
Visit her web site
Pretty is as Pretty Dies—Midnight Ink, August 2009
Memphis BBQ series—Berkley Prime Crime (as Riley Adams)—May 2010


Margot Kinberg said...

Elizabeth - I change directions in my writing, too! When my characters choose not to follow the original plot outline I'd thought of, I change the outline so the characters stay real. Nice to know I'm not the only one who does that : ).

Helen Ginger said...

Elizabeth, you are just totally weird. Oh, wait a minute. I looked up "weird" in the dictionary and it defined it as "writer." Characters do tend to come alive and march off in their own direction, I agree!

Straight From Hel

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Characters insisting on going off in their own direction...oh yes, yes, yes! This happened the first time for me when I was writing my first script and a character said something that made me go "What????" and then, when I looked at it, made me realize that this line of dialogue took the plot in a far more interesting direction than where I had intended.

I've learned to keep interesting methods of murder to myself, although I have been known (when watching a TV show) to voice out loud "Oh, that's GOOD" when a particularly gruesome or clever method is revealed.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Margot--I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Helen--LOL! Yes, aren't we weird? Glad you identify with the characters doing their own thing.

Elspeth--Characters can be so stubborn! I'll have to take your lead in not mentioning murder techniques out loud. :)

Janel said...

I've been trying to figure out if I can rig up a book light to a notepad so I can write notes in the middle of the night without waking my hubby.

I also love watching other parents as I wait for the kids' school to dismiss. I've come up with a few ideas from these times.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Janel--Oh, mommies are the best! I've had some great murder mystery ideas from PTA meetings! :)

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Hi Elizabeth,
Sorry for the delay, I couldn't wait to read Part 2, but I had family over yesterday and spent most of the day cooking & cleaning. It feels wonderful to know that I'm not the only one who jots things down at strange times and brings up subject of murder a heck of a lot (specifically, in my case, a true crime that's fascinated me my entire life). I'm the same way with revisions -- I'm constantly revising, scared to hand it in. I remember an Ernest Hemingway quote I read, I'm paraphrasing: "Writing is never done, it's just due."
I haven't done much fiction, but I can imagine my characters will have minds of their own, too!
Enjoyed both posts tremendously!
Thanks again to Poe's Deadly Daughters for having Elizabeth as a guest blogger.