Where Do They Come From?

Where do they come from?           No, this is not the dreaded question posed by a child about babies. This is about characters that pop into the minds of writers almost as miraculously as those babies. How does that happen? One minute I am standing in my kitchen shifting from one foot to the other as I tend to the laborious task of stirring risotto. The next minute a woman named Elise is talking to me inside my head.           You might wonder, do I have mental health issues? If I do, they have nothing to do with the chatter from Elise, who is clamoring for me to tell her story. A lawyer by trade, she loves to cook as a creative outlet and becomes quite accomplished as with everything she does. Elise is an overachiever, who tells me her entrepreneurial husband capitalized on her culinary talents by inviting clients to lavish dinner parties resulting in huge success for him.             Maybe it’s the tedium from stirring the risotto, but I’m intrigued. So what’s the big deal about that, I ask Elise. Now I am talking in my own head to a woman who doesn’t exist. And no, I am not sipping wine as I cook. Elise is only too happy to fill me in with the details. Jeff became so successful she could stay home and raise babies while she continued to throw dinner parties for his clients that Ina Garten would envy. As the years slipped away, Elise began to regard what once was her own joy of cooking as a job. When the kids were done with college, she quit. She told her husband he could start taking his clients to restaurants. He told her he understood. He wanted to quit too. The marriage. “And that’s only the beginning of my story,” Elise whispered, while I added more liquid to the pot. By now I am thinking, screw the risotto.  Where’s my laptop? I need to get this down before I forget. Before Elise goes away and I don’t get to know the rest of her story. But don’t worry. There’s no chance Elise is going to leave my head before I know the whole bloody mess. She reveals juicy details when I least expect it. While driving on the highway when I don’t have a pen and am terrified to text. In the middle of the night when I have insomnia and have to decide whether to simply scribble down a few notes and try to go back to sleep or to accept the challenge and hit the keyboard at 4:00 a.m. The woman will not stop talking to me, so I must write her story if I am ever to have quiet in my brain again. When my fingers hit the keyboard, I feel I am channeling Elise. Yes, I know this is weird and may explain some of the things people say about writers.Where did Elise come from? Was it the aroma of the risotto that released her from another world? How did she reveal her story to me, a story that it may seem I made up, but did I? I have always written mysteries, which I also adore reading. But Elise wasn’t having a murder in her story. At the end of 263 pages, I discovered what she already knew. Her story was a romantic comedy. You won’t find Elise’s story on a bookshelf. Yet. I haven’t known quite what to do with it or the revelation to me as a writer that I am no more in control of the stories I write than I am in the garden I plant. Maybe the process is more deliberate for other writers. For me, I am just going for a ride with my characters wherever they take me. But I am still scratching my head, asking where do they come from?  

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