My daughter (8) is a pro at stalling bedtime. She will wait until right before bedtime to say, "But I need to take a bath." She will think of a dozen things that she simply must do on the way to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She can never find her pajamas and has to tear up her room in search of them. She's a pretty sharp cookie and has figured out that her folks almost never say no to reading, so she'll ask if he can read for a little while. And heaven forbid she not be able to find her Stitch plushie. It's her favorite thing to cuddle with next to her cat and if she can't find it, all bets are off.
Of course, normally I am itching for her to go to sleep so I can get back to writing or (gasp) spend a little time with my husband. Not that I don't adore her, but there is only so much eight year old verbal rambling that an introverted mom can take. By bedtime, I've usually reached my limit. Naturally when my characters are talking to me, her little manipulations at bedtime feel downright diabolical.
Turns out she comes by that honestly. I caught myself doing it just this morning. In fact, I'm doing it right now. You see, I have a very hard scene to write. I've been chewing on it for days. I was thinking about it this morning on my drive to my favorite writing spot and I had tears streaming down my face. This scene is going to break my heart, and when y'all read it. I think it's going to break yours too.
So, I found myself stalling. I'll just eat my oatmeal first. That was yummy, maybe I should check Twitter. I know I'll post a little sneak peek on my page. Oo! What was that new song Eric sent me the other day? That album is coming out today. I should download it. What's going on in the news. I should refill my coffee. Maybe I should edit that short story. I need to line up some beta readers for that one. I'll just check Facebook one more time. Maybe I should write a blog post. Oh, look! My favorite booth is open, I should move over there. It's got an outlet, and I'm clearly going to be here a while.
I have the scene all laid out in my head. I know the dialogue by heart, but I haven't put the words down yet and some part of me doesn't want to. I have no doubt that when I do, I will end up weeping into my coffee and probably scaring the café patrons around me. But more than that, I think I'm afraid of showing this character's very private heartbreak to the world. Right now, this character's emotions are raw and open and kept safe inside me. I know I have to write it, and no one will see it for a while once I do. I mean there will be revisions and rewrites and editing to go through.
It's just one small scene in a whole book after all. But once it's written down, and I've moved on to another scene, it will have its own power. It will be able to surprise me, and you when you're reading the book. It will catch us off guard and show this character at a real low point. I'm fond of this character (I'm fond of all of them, but this one...) I wish it didn't have to happen like this. But then, if it didn't it wouldn't be much of a story, would it?
Update: After this blog post and another round of social media procrastination, I wrote the scene. Sure enough, I ended up ugly crying in the back booth of my local Panera like a teenage girl left home alone on prom night. It's there now ready to knock someone over and stomp on their feelings while they're reading. You're welcome.