I have this character - J, let's call them. I've lived with J a long, long time. I know what J wants, I know J's opinions, I can make a pretty good guess how J would react to just about anything life throws in J's path. I know J's secrets.We're tight.
I've spent a good deal of time crafting a plot for J, and I test new developments in this plot very carefully indeed. I know where J is going, and I excise without mercy anything that don't fit in with that. It's what J would want me to do.
Or so I thought.
I now have this new character in J's life. Came waltzing in without so much as a by-your-leave. Somewhere back there, despite all the care we've been taking, J 'n me, we must have left a door or a window open, a sentence without a stop, maybe, and all of a sudden we look up and there's this new shape in the room. No idea what they think they are doing there, and they, of course, are still so new it's probably an equal surprise to them.
We are going to call this new character M.
M seems to have come from another type of book entirely, which honestly could hardly be more different to the one he finds himself in now. Does this faze him? Not that I can see - nothing like as much as it has thrown me, that's for sure. You hear of this kind of thing happening, and in fact what you hear is that this is what it's all about, what you should be aiming for - the story reaching the kind of critical mass where it makes itself. Where, in effect, as a writer, you have come as close as you can to creating life - with all its whacky unpredictability, and its gleeful pooh-poohing of anything you might call plot for what you can only call the mash-up. Where this sort of curve-ball has been hurled at me, as reader, I've pooh-poohed it - oh, for goodness sake, I've said, how totally unbelievable. That would never happen.
There are words you write and now, apparently, there are words you eat. The writer, this writer, elbowed unceremoniously out of the way, too agog even to remember her nail-file, is now there as reader, and in the nicest place that life, or writing, can put you in: craning forward, all agog, asking 'What's going to happen next?'