Friday, January 15, 2010


When I finish a writing project, there is a strange period afterward in which I experience the blues. I've never be able to explain it successfully, but it must have something to do with the immersion into the world of the story, and the connection with the characters. They aren't real, of course, but they take on a life of their own. I've talked to other writers about this and discovered it's not uncommon.

Feeling restless, I headed for the local bookstore, and while walking there I passed a high-end antique shop, the kind that sells original artwork and real collectibles. I wandered in, and found myself standing in front of an ornate, wooden music box. This was odd because in the script I just finished, a music box becomes the manifestation of love, loss, and the passage of time.

"Would you like to hear it?" an elegant lady in her seventies asked, walking toward me with a metal key in her hand. I nodded, and she opened the box. "This was made for a seven-year-old girl," she said. "She had it her whole life. When she died, it ended up here."

Haunting yet strangely comforting music began to play. "This was her favorite song," the lady explained. "Isn't it beautiful?" I agreed, spellbound, and we both stood in silence, listening to music that had come to represent an entire woman's life, a woman neither of us had met. But in that moment, it was almost as if we knew her.

The song ended. I thanked the elegant lady and left, still feeling pensive but better somehow, as if someone had reached out to me from a place I hadn't known about.

I think the reason a writer--and, sometimes, a reader--becomes so attached to characters in a story is because they are made up of pieces of all of us, our foibles and virtues. Saying goodbye to these characters is parting all over again from those we've loved and lost, from a thousand unrealized possibilities. I guess you could say we are haunted by ourselves.


Jenni said...

Great post.
I love going antiquing, but I always feel sad when I come across personal artifacts, like pictures, that are of people and times past that were discarded or sold because nobody wanted them anymore.

Much like that music box that was so loved by a woman who didn't have anyone to give it to...Somewhere along the line it lost it's meaning, and to me, that's heartbreaking.

Excuse me while I pop a Paxil.

Connie said...

As a avid reader I can relate. You are excited about a great story, can't put the book down, anxious to keep reading...and then it's done. You feel like you've lost someone just left you...that's why we readers look for sequels or prequels. We don't want to (or maybe can't) let go of the characters.

Who is this Writer? said...

Yes on both counts! I would buy that music box myself but for the $22,000 price tag...