In many ways, I’m sort of a jerk. Some of those ways have proved quite beneficial. I have a remarkable ability to hear stories of terrible tragedy in the lives of others and then wander off wondering if I should have peanut butter and jelly crackers for lunch or chips and salsa. It is not my memory that sucks. It is just that reality has never really seemed, well, all that real to me. But more like a book or a movie.
Life is real to me when I am in the story. In the moment. While I am listening to the heart-rending tale I’ll cry my head off right along with the teller. But once I close that book and move on to the next… I guess the old expression “out of sight, out of mind” really does sum me up.
This sort of “professional distance” (I used to hear lots of horrible stories and real life nightmares regularly as a part of my job) has allowed David Mark Brown, common citizen, to roam the earth pretty care-free. Hurrah. But as a novelist it is death.
As a writer I create characters that spring forth from my bounteous brain matter and attempt to spread wings and take flight. But for that to truly happen they need real lives. They need histories, stories, quirks, foibles and the lot.
In order for characters to develop these things they have to actually exist. This means that dozens of additional stages have to be opened up in a writer’s mind for each character to carry out the basic tasks of everyday life, cataloging their humanity along the way. It’s like on-line gaming. If the characters where to die or disappear when I stopped thinking about them what sort of characters would they be? No, they must keep on living.
So until I stop working on a manuscript completely every character therein must be continually in my most intimate thoughts. Every decision I make spurs a decision for each character in a parallel universe existing only in my mind. Bit of a bummer, really. (I have had to rework the whole daydreaming strategy to life.) And when some of those characters are sociopaths or schizophrenics, well, the thought trees can get a little psychedelic.
In conclusion, you can probably see it is extended exposure to this sort of mental exercise that probably accounts for why so many good writers are alcoholics. Cheers.