Let me tell you what happened to me the other night, after many crazy days and hours editing my MS. I realized my characters were spazzing all over the pages. Yes, you heard me correctly. They were dialogue-tagging themselves into epileptic fits of nodding, shrugging, and head-cocking. Their eyebrows had taken on bestial lives of their own–furrowing and rising and falling all over my characters’ faces in alarming ways. And their hands–don’t get me started–their hands rubbed, chafed, caressed, and squeezed themselves and others into frenzied desires, while their legs shuffled in embarrassment.
“This is ridiculous!” I told myself, rubbing my aching eyes, furrowing my caterpillar brows. I stormed over to my bookcase (because, you see, my characters were in fits of overly-active verbs, as well, Poor Dears), and like a tornado, I swept my favorite books off the shelves, whirling them around to the beat of eighties-era heavy metal, for the purpose of discovering one truth: Did the characters in my favorite novels act in the same violent, spastic ways as my characters were acting?
It happened that, amongst other hardier novels, I had blown an Ian McEwan book off the shelf and onto the table where I had been pounding anxiously like so much driven rain on my keyboard all day. I opened McEwan’s book. I paged through it, searching for dialogue and action. And then I kept thumbing. And then I thumbed some more. By the end, I thumbed my nose at my favorite author, for there was no dialogue until, oh, about page fifty. When I saw the quotation marks, I realized the characters were finally talking to each other, rather than thinking deeply about the world, the times, and their respective situations. I sighed in relief, the storm spent.
And what do you think I discovered? McEwan’s characters did not go into spastic fits, even though they were finally talking! They whispered to each other quietly, and then they stopped talking for another fifty or so pages–as they pondered those few whispered lines and what they meant–what the hidden meaning of the words could be. Would she really go to bed with him? he ruminated. Would she? Could she, damn it?!
This writer banged her head against the table and muttered, “Writing is all just words. It’s all just words on the page.” And then she began to nod and cock her head and shrug her shoulders in the worst way. Her hands caressed her face, the table, the McEwan novel. Her fingers pointed and lurched into crude gestures she didn’t know the meaning of (um, actually she did, I’m sorry to say). And then she, in the throes of her fever, whispered quietly to herself, “Will I go to bed now? Will I? Can I, damn it?!”
And her answer was yes. Oh, what a relief. Good night.
p.s. The image is a visual representation of my ravaged mind.