I have some new tenants in my head this week. Their names are Cherry Bomb and Sensible Emma, and they want me to write a book about them. I’ve tried to tell them that I’d love to, and I’m sure they’re great characters, but I’m already writing a book and there aren’t any openings in it for them.
“We don’t want to be in that book,” they say. “We want our own book.”
“But I like this book,” I tell them. “I’ve got a plot and characters and most of a draft written. It’s about murders in a town full of people who are quarantined for a fatal disease, and it’s about death and despair and murder and death. And it’s funny.”
“You can’t write that,” they say. “What do you know about culture and society and desperation? Who do you think you are anyway? You should only write dumb, silly stuff.”
“Who introduced you guys to my insecurities?”
“Seriously,” they tell me, “we would make a great book. It would be like if you took Sherlock Holmes, P.G. Wodehouse, and Bridget Jones and mixed them all together, and then dropped acid.”
“But I don’t do drugs,” I say. “I’m crazy enough as it is.”
“Exactly! That’s why we’re perfect for you.”
“Right, well where’s your plot then? You didn’t bring one, did you? Setting? Theme? Auxiliary characters?” I shake my head at them internally. (Which is, frankly, rather uncomfortable.) “Look, you can’t just show up here with some character sketches, a backstory and a good opening line and think that just because I’m in a rough patch with my book that I’m going to just drop it and work on yours. I like you guys, I really do, but there’s no use just starting things if you aren’t going to finish them, and I’ve already started this one.”
“But you might lose us,” they warn me. “We’re a lot of fun, but we’re not going to stick around forever. By the time you’re ready for us, you might not even remember our names.”
“All right, fine. Maybe tonight, while I’m watching American Idol, I might do some outlining. But that’s it, okay?”
Some people want to know how writers get their ideas. I want to know how they get them to shut up.