Carrying the story through dialog is the best way to write a novel. All authors, at least those who produce well-written stories, know this to be one of the most important elements in leading readers along. But I’ve discovered hidden power in surrendering to dialog while solving problems. I call it arguing with myself.
I’ve often maintained that my characters do all the writing, that I sometimes feel my role is one of secretary, taking notes and putting their thoughts in logical order. I write, basically, by the seat of my pants, allowing my muse, and my carefully constructed characters, to take the lead. Whenever I have a problem that research and contemplation fails to resolve, I turn it over to my characters, close my eyes, and let the solution run its course.
A good example lies in a conversation near the end of Midnight Skye, the book I’m currently putting the finishing touches on. In this book, I introduce a new line of characters – the Sen Aesir, an evil vampire offshoot from ancient times, and Adept, wizards who work with elemental magick. Interaction I wrote early in the book that has since been withdrawn for later use (for reasons I’ll explain after Midnight Skye is released) revealed the fact that vampires cannot drink from Adept. Since the problem resurfaced in a meeting near the end, I had to come up with a reason why.
And so, I asked the question of my knowledgeable King and Council through my confused heroine, when she learns the Community are holding two Adept prisoner.
“I don’t understand,” Summer argued boldly. “Why can’t you just take control of them?”
“We cannot drink Adept blood, and blood is what helps us secure our connection,” Lucien explained.
“You can’t…why not?”
“They’re marked as paranormal beings, though not immortal, and are followers of nature,” Jason answered. “Vampires exist outside nature, our very presence a violation of her most basic rules. Drinking that contrary power would render us nullified for a time, which would cause both our bodies and spirits great distress, as well as make the task of forcing a servant bond impossible. It would also leave us more vulnerable to intrusion and mortal injury.”
The solution was so simple I should have understood from the beginning. But when my vampire expressed his confusion over why he couldn’t drink from the young woman standing before him (again for reasons I can’t reveal right now), his confusion stuck with me. It took me asking, through my newest and least experienced member, to find the answer. And the answer came, believe it or not, just as I finished typing the question, as if Jason had been waiting for just the right moment to speak up. Surrendering myself to my characters and letting them argue it out has since become an easy habit.
This probably isn’t true of all writers. Then again, maybe more than a few have had similar experiences. Our imagined friends, whether they stick with us through a series or only inhabit one story, very often have minds of their own, insisting on paths we’d prefer not to take. There have been times when I was the reluctant follower, and when I placed my faith in my inner vision, these altered paths led to more important consequences than I ever could have imagined all at once.
After all has been said and done (and written down), isn’t it more interesting to read a story where the characters are involved and emotionally interactive, instead of page after page of dry explanation? My characters come to life in the minds of my readers. This is the power of dialog!