Why do I write? I can’t keep a secret.
December 7, 2013
I know why I write.
I can’t keep a secret.
If I know something, suspect something, overhear something, think something, or believe something, I have to go out and tell somebody.
To me, the rumors, gossip, accusations, and grudges are absolutely fascinating.
To them, it’s probably a waste of time and words.
But I get it off my chest.
I clear my conscience.
I’ve cleansed my mind.
And by tomorrow, with any luck at all, I’ll have another secret to tell.
That’s why I write novels.
I hang around all day and night listening to my characters talking to each other.
They seldom talk to me.
They prefer better company.
Besides, they don’t trust me.
If I know what’s on their minds, I’ll go out and tell someone.
I lose a lot of good friends that way.
I seldom lose any characters.
They take me for what I am and who I am. But they never tell me all of their secrets, at least not until I’m ready to hear them.
I have discovered two important facts along the way.
Writers have writer’s block.
So when I sit down to write, I usually find that I probably have nothing worthwhile to say.
My characters do.
I simply open the door, let them wander into my mind, listen to them talk a little while without any interruptions, and give them enough time to spill a few secrets.
Then I’m off and running again.
Rose knows why she’s leaving George.
George knows it’s all Nancy’s fault.
Nancy knows why she’s spent the night in Fred’s bed.
And Fred knows why he’ll kill George the first chance he gets.
Nancy knows why.
And Rose knows how.
And poor George is in the dark.
I’m like George.
I’m in the dark.
I prefer it that way.
If I knew the ending before I began a novel, I probably wouldn’t start.
It’s all about secrets.
Everybody has them.
If one of my characters doesn’t have a secret, then he or she is shown the back door, and the last you ever see of them is at the train station or a funeral. Wave goodbye or whisper a eulogy because they are gone.
Don’t want them.
Don’t need them.
That’s why, over the years, I have discovered that a few minor characters suddenly play much larger roles in the story?
I didn’t know it and I didn’t plan it, but they have more secrets than anybody else, and I’ll keep them around until I find out what those secrets are.
And often they know the most important secret of all: the ending.
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