I’m sitting here tucked away in a booth at a sports bar, rich mahogany walls, dim lighting, white table cloths, and a clear view of the pond. When I told her I was a party of one, the hostess asked if I wanted to sit at the bar. No – I came here to write.
Writing is cathartic. My best results come from those magical moments when the story spawns itself from within and travels through my heart, into my mind, and down my fingertips. Those scenes or tales where I have no idea where we are headed are the ones that give me the most joy. I am a facilitator only.
Years ago, I began writing a thriller. A sci-fi thriller to be exact. In this sure-to-be-a-summer-blockbuster-movie, my female protagonist and her trusty, platonic, male cop buddy would uncover a conspiracy by the US Government to hide the existence of aliens. She was an office clerk who got in over her head – they would be on the run from government officials in black suits with thin ties. I spent an entire day watching YouTube videos of believers – abduction stories, panels of “higher-ups” with NASA or pilots or doctors.
Then I set this story in my hometown community in Louisiana – a place I knew so well I could describe the smells, sounds, and tastes. I wanted authenticity. Now my female protagonist was director of the historical society and was organizing an auction of high-value antiques. There would be a heist. Her trusty, platonic, male copy buddy would help solve the crime. In the background there would be chatter of a “body dump” and then at the end of the art-heist thriller, at the annual chili cook-off, there would be breaking news that a second body was discovered. Cue music…..set-up for the second book. I spent an entire day researching Antebellum antiques – the higher the value the better.
My earliest version was third person, female protagonist. Carol? I think that was her name. She walks into the diner but Frank, her trusty, platonic, male cop buddy would take a call and leave. Guess what happened? The reader leaves with Frank. I remember clearly because my writing critique partners mentioned it. We left with Frank…woke up with Frank. Frank just sort of took over.
We were supposed to care about Carol. And Jim, the mysterious newcomer. But their scenes lacked spark. It was forced. Unoriginal. Dreadful. Looking back, I can see I was following the typical formula of thrillers and made-for-tv movies. Cliché-ridden. Rubbish until Frank took over.
I didn’t ask him to. I didn’t intend for him to. But he did. He’s like that.
Before long, Carol and Jim were cut. Chapters with Frank were written. He started telling me his story – working through me. His voice. His thoughts. His cigar. His pain. I carried it with me.
In the grocery store. In my dreams. In my office. In my kitchen. His story took over. All-encompassing, the way a new love is. It consumes your mind, body, and soul. I couldn’t shake him. And I didn’t want to. He was mine and I was his. I was his facilitator and he chose me to tell his story. I couldn’t get out of his head – the change from third person POV to first person narrative was magical.
I had written chapters….hundreds of pages….nearing the end. I lost the manuscript. I mourned it. I searched for it. I dreamed of finding it only to awaken depressed that Frank was gone. Forever.
That was almost 4 years ago. I recycled bits and pieces of Frank’s manuscript I managed to have from sharing with my critique partners for a creative writing class. I hoped it would spur creativity, but nothing new came from it. Work happened. Life happened. And that fire had been put out. A pile of ash remained, cool.
I wrote new stuff – new characters, stories. It felt stilted. Forced. Formulaic.
Something happened today.
I was sharing something via email with a dear friend and I realized I could use that substance in my Frank manuscript.
Just like that. As if there were hidden hot embers in that pile of ash – hidden, forgotten about. Frank was back. I drove to lunch and wrote out a scene. In his voice. His thoughts. It coursed through me as if it never left. I held my pen so tightly and wrote so furiously, my hand cramped. But I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to.
4 years – I longed for that high.
4 years – I needed those magical moments of real writing, but it eluded me.
I feel reunited. As if I left Frank in a booth – alone. And there he remained, loyal to me. Hugging his mug of coffee – waiting on his trusted facilitator to return. A ghost – with unfinished business – his story must be told.
It’s in me. His pain resides in my soul. His burden is heavy on my shoulders. And he will wait – until we finish.
4 years. I’ve kept him waiting long enough.
I’m here, Frank. Sorry I kept you so long. So…where were we?