Ooooh, I have such a story to tell.
Yes, I know, that’s why I’m a writer, duh.
But the problem is that there is so much to tell, and so much to say, that I have trouble deciding who/what gets to be first. This is something I face everyday.
At home, it’s my husband, three girls (12, 9 and 5) and me. Who gets the most attention? Sometimes it seems like the one who’s screaming the loudest. Yeah, that is usually me! But sometimes it’s just the one whose needs are the strongest. For example, as I’m writing this my eldest is sitting on my youngest, who’s lying on her stomach laughing, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” At the same time the middle one wants me to look at her flute and my husband has run out to put gas in my car and get an eyeglass repair kit since my daughter has broken her glasses yet again. So, as the lone parent, who do I help first? Well there is the one who says she can’t breathe, which I know is not true, because if she couldn’t breathe, she wouldn’t be talking—or laughing. Then there is the one with the new flute, who is so proud and wants me to share in her new toy. But it’s the oldest, who is apparently flexing her muscles (hence why she is sitting on her little sister) that needs me the most. You see, once I get her off the child, then said child can breathe and go to bed. I can move the eldest to another room where she can watch TV and wait patiently (HA!) for me. She just wants attention; it doesn’t matter when she gets it, as long as she gets it. Which she will, and it will be undivided attention after I listen to my other daughter play the new flute.
And then my husband will come home and peace will again reign in our house. (Okay, I just threw that in to get the happy ending we are always looking for. Remember, I write fiction.)
Yes, home life is never easy, but what does this have to do with the story?
Well, in a way it’s very similar. I have my second young adult book in the works, a young adult short story for an anthology that needs to be sort of done by next month, and a historical romance that I am dying to write. All these characters are in my head scrambling to be the one who gets my attention. I picture them all in a big sitting room in my head having conversations with each other until I call them forward like the great OZ. I often imagine Lord so and so talking to one of my YA characters and he is floored by the audacity of the young chit, (for those of you who don’t read historicals, a chit is A saucy girl or young woman.) And yes I know, that sounds like another book entirely.
So who do I pick? Well, not so unlike my children, because all my characters are my children in a way, I bring the neediest to the forefront. And by neediest, I mean the one whose story is the strongest to me right now. They are the ones who need me to tell their story at that moment. So, for today, the teen who is going to have her “first love” in the short story is the one who is talking to me. (Of course I’m sure it also might have something to do with the deadline looming over my head.) But tomorrow it could be my high school journalist or the mysterious Lord so and so from Regency England. Not only does that make writing challenging, but it keeps things interesting. (And makes me slightly insane!)
So far not one of my characters has decided to sit another, but you never know what these crazy kids will do, and really, as long as they can breathe, they’ll be okay.