It may seem like a strange thing, but many fiction writers become so involved with their characters that the dramatic personae take on a life of their own. In a recent (admittedly small-scale) Facebook survey of writers, a large percentage of novelists admitted that they talk to their characters, dream about them, have arguments (silently) with them and so on. Sara Paretsky, the mystery novelist, once told me that she got the idea for her character V. I. Warshawski, when she started hearing a voice in her head (and I can testify that she’s not crazy).
Now, as I start a new novel, one of my own characters is not only talking to me, he wants to take over this blog for a day. So take it away, Travis:
You know I’ve always wanted to be a blogger, so here’s my big chance! I’m really a photographer and do everything from the occasional portrait to large-scale artwork, mostly ofnature and majestic rock formations in the American West. I do my best work on the art shots and recently was picked up as a freelancer for one of the most amazing photo magazines in the U.S. They are sending me to the Great Wall of China for my first assignment and I can hardly wait. I feel a special connection with China.
You see, I had a dream about being there. It was more than a dream, actually. I felt I was really there. I was in a courtyard, surrounded by scores of martial artists. We all had horses with us. When the clarion sounded and the Emperor came out to the plaza, we jumped up as one and did a synchronized display of martial arts movement, riding dressage on the horses, all while carrying the Emperor’s signature flag. It was spellbinding.
I can’t seem to get rid of that dream. Now I’ll get a chance to find out if I really do fit into the culture over there.
I certainly won’t fit in visually. I’m a tall guy, about six-foot-one, with reddish brown hair down to my shoulders, and a scruffy beard. I could maybe created a small ponytail at the back, but my hair’s just not long enough. You remember Aragorn in Lord of the Rings? My hair is pretty much like that (only not dirty all the time!). I am pretty exuberant and sometimes embarrass my friends in crowds, so the polite Chinese might find me a little much.
However, that’s just the visible me. The inner me is much more complex. Although I have what looks like a good career for a guy who’s in his early thirties, I actually worry every day where the money is coming from. Since the advent of digital cameras, and then the proliferation of cell phones that can take good pictures,
everyone thinks he or she is a photographer these days. I live in Boulder, Colorado, and often sell my photos to the local paper or even the Denver Post. But more and more these publications are buying the work by amateurs. Cell phones may just spell the end of my career if it gets any easier to take a beautiful shot without knowing about f-stops, lighting, and all the things I learned in photography school.
Worse, I wish I had someone to share my life with. I haven’t had a girlfriend since the day my sister Sara died of lung cancer. That was a few years ago. I just haven’t had the will to get out and introduce myself to women. I have become something of an anti-smoking crusader, however. I owe that much to my favorite sister.
So, I hide behind my camera viewfinder and look at the world through a camera lens. Not really participating in the world, but really wishing I could.
And be nice to Lynn. She’s telling my story and it will be in a book one day. Maybe I really will be famous.