I have entered the Twilight Zone — tha
t stage in a book where an entire fictional world has coalesced inside my head, populated with characters that I am convinced lead their lives without me when I am not paying attention to them. I imagine them fighting among themselves, jockeying for a bigger role in the book, conspiring to waylay my outline and generally taking on lives of their own.
It’s a good sign when this happens in some ways. It tells me that I have successfully created a world with enough layers to sustain a reader’s attention. But it’s not such a good sign when it comes to my real life, which suffers during this period from what some people have charitably called my “absent-minded professor syndrome” and others have called just plain old half-assedness. I plead guilty to both. But it is a condition impossible to fight. Whenever I am not concentrating on another task, it seems as if the characters I have created clamor for my attention and send me off on mini-daydreams in which I contemplate whether I have given their characters enough shading in the present draft or whether I am taking them in the right direction in the pages to come.
They can be quite insistent at times, which pulls my brain away from daily matters, and so I have found myself doing all of the following during this period of time:
Forgetting to pick up the mail for 10 straight days… which also tells you how exciting my mail usually is.
Forgetting about parties and birthdays (but somehow never forgetting about eating, drat it all).
Not checking my personal voice mail for two weeks and counting. Apologies to you all, especially that company in Raleigh that wants to sell me a home security network for mere pennies a day.
Getting in the car and heading in the wrong direction for a good 10 miles before I realized what I was doing. But, hey, Efland is a lovely little town and I worked out a new plot point on the way home!
Wearing my shirt inside out, usually until around lunch time when someone points it out with a puzzled look on their face.
Wearing two different shoes, which in my defense were both black and remarkably similar in design. Sort of.
Standing in front of the bathroom door with my remote car opener, clicking furiously while wondering why the hell the bathroom door won’t open. Words fail me at this one.
Reading an e-mail on my Blackberry and then promptly forgetting I ever received it in the first place. But, face it — you do that, too, and you don’t even have a good excuse for it.
Addressing my daughter by one of my character’s names, a practice that can be somewhat confusing to her when I demand to know why she’s not answering to “Rodrigo” or “Lamont.”
The older I get, the earlier I seem to enter The Twilight Zone. This time, I have a good seven weeks left before my book is due and, honestly, my characters formed their Occupy Katy protest starting a good month ago. I can only hope that once the book is turned in, they will give me a rest — and the rest of my brain back. All of which leads me to an interesting idea for a Twilight Zone style short story involving a writer whose characters won’t let her… ah, well, never mind. The cycle will surely repeat itself again and again so I may as well make the most of it. It’s a good thing we Mungers have very big heads. There’s a lot of characters living in mine.