I am one of those writers of fiction that believes that the characters usually take over the story and write it. I wrote a short story about that idea a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites, so I’ll post it again. It is a little too long for a blog, so I’ll break it into two parts. Enjoy.
Who is in Control?
It always happens when the room is too quiet—like now while she’s cooking. At first, random thoughts race through her mind, usually about food such as hash browns and blue cheese. Why hash browns and blue cheese? They don’t go together. That is how it starts—always. However, she knows she has no control over these random thoughts. One leads to another which leads to another, and then it happens. She is out of control. No use even fighting it. She has learned to accept it. She wants to enjoy it, but sometimes there is stress, tensions, and emotions. The emotions are always there--of lost love, of love rekindled, and, of course, sex. The experience leaves her exhausted and excited at the same time.
Another random thought rushes through her mind--German black forest cake! What’s the thread? It makes no sense, and she knows it but cannot stop it. Black forest cake, a black forest, a dark forest in Europe? No! A castle in a dark forest in Europe. That’s it! She feels it. Inside the castle, it is all black and dark. No! It is light. Candles are everywhere. Red velvet hangs on the walls. It is a grand ballroom. She sees herself there in a long, formal black dress, flowing and yet sensual. However, it is not her. It is someone else. Who?
She clenches her fists in an effort to drive the thoughts out of her head, but she cannot. The pot boils over—again. Crud! Double crud! Crud for spoiling another meal and the crud burnt to the bottom of the pot. She will tend to it later. Another meal destroyed by random thoughts. As she places the pot in the sink to soak, she notices a movement in the reflection of the window. She turns toward figures in the family room. Damn! They are here. Too late to run an errand to maintain some sanity. Her uninvited guests have arrived and now sit motionless. They are waiting for her. With a sigh, she finally gives in and goes into the family room to join the group. They have saved her favorite chair for her. She sits down and lets her thoughts take over.
She looks at the person opposite her. He is there—the protagonist. God, he is gorgeous! If ever I want to commit adultery, it would be with him. That’s silly. I’m divorced now and it would not be adultery. I could give myself to him willing. But it can’t be. He’s in love with her. She looks to the person siting next to her protagonist.
They’re sitting there holding hands and smiling at each other. She envies her. Her with her long, blonde hair, good looks, and a body that makes truck drivers do U-turns for another look. She wishes she had her legs. Mental note; must give them both names.
The antagonist is there too. She hates him with a passion. He reminds her of her ex-husband, a mind so twisted and cruel and yet cunning. Somehow, he will get what he deserves. She will make sure of that. The others are there too but for the moment they aren’t important.
Her protagonist speaks. What an angelic face. She decides to call him Angel. “Good, you are back. Where did we leave off? Yes, of course, I was trying to rescue my true love from the castle.”
“Over my dead body,” says the villain.
She decides to call him Blackheart. It may be too descriptive, too obvious, but it will do for now. Besides, it makes her feel better.
Blackheart continues, “I will stop you, and I will throw you in my dungeon to rot.”
The fair maiden speaks with a voice like butter melting on a baked potato. She decides to call her Mary, using her own middle name. Now they have even more in common. “If you do, I will rescue him, and we will be married and live happily ever after.”
Baked potato? Where the hell did that thought come from? Then she remembers and rushes to the kitchen. Too late! The potato in the oven is now black and crispy. It looks like another PB and J sandwich for dinner. She grabs a newspaper and fans the smoke detector. When she gets it to shut up, she returns to her chair. Her guests have remained motionless, waiting for her return.
“Too trite,” says Angel, picking up where they left off. “It has been done. Is this a fairy tale? We can do better than this. You might as well tie Mary to railroad tracks, and I could ride in on my white horse just ahead of the train. Come now, people, think!”
“Perhaps we should modernize it a bit,” says Mary. “You know, make it more relevant. Make it Chicago, or New York.”
“Not a bad idea,” says Blackheart. “I could be the rich tycoon and Angel could be an intern. Mary could be my sexy administrative assistant whom I secretly desire.”
Angel scowls, “Sound more like a reality TV show. Let’s be original.”
After a while, she gets the courage to speak, “Women still fantasize about knights in shining armor, castles and damsels in distress. Their own lives are like a dungeon and they want to be rescued.”
Angel, Blackheart, and Mary stare at her for a moment. Blackheart breaks the awkward silence, “Get real, will you? Besides, this is not about you. What do you know about romance? You made a mess of your own marriage.”
“Blackheart!” shouts Mary, very annoyed.
“Okay, that was a cruel even for me, but the point is; this is your first novel since your divorce and while this may be therapeutic for you, it may not be interesting to your readers. We, on the other hand, have been through this a thousand times and know what readers what. So, sit back, pay attention, and we will get you through this.”
“Blackheart, you are an ass,” interjects Angel. “What Blackheart means to say is that we can help you write this book. And what is with the name ‘Blackheart’? That’s you talking and not a realistic name. Kill it!”
“Wait a minute! I like that name,” protests Blackheart.
“You would!” says Mary, still annoyed. “What about ‘Angel”? Turning to Angel. “Honey, I love you, but I can’t make love to an angel. That must go too. Will someone get that stupid doorbell? I can’t think straight with that ringing”
The doorbell startles her. She goes to the door and signs for a letter. It is an offer from her publisher for her novel. Her guests remain motionless, waiting for her to return, but she does not return. She takes this opportunity to escape upstairs to her computer to work on her novel.
As she starts up the stairs, Mary’s voice rings out, “Where are you going, Honey?”
“Upstairs to work on this novel.”
“Okay, we’ll wait here for you. And while you are at it, kill that ‘voice like butter melting on a baked potato’. That is just too much.”