Tuesday, February 1, 2011


When I'm working on the first draft of a story, at some point the narrator of the tale steps  forward, and begins dictating the text to me.  Not in any coherent order, though.  So it is imperative that I write down immediately every word at the time I hear it; because the dictation seems to float out of my head as quickly as it floats in.  And the dictation won't happen when I am sitting at my desk, with a pencil in hand.  Not at all.  My narrator is the most verbal when I am walking---physically moving.  Or when I am between sleeping and waking.
     Three things help me catch hold of these skittish dictations.  In my living room, directly in the path of traffic, is my antique schoolmaster's desk.  It's a matter of only a few seconds for me to pause at the desk, jot down the phrases I've just heard, then continue on my way.
If I want to really encourage my narrator to talk to me, I can take a walk or a hike.  For this I hang a notebook on a ribbon around my neck.  The pencil fits perfectly into the spiral binding.  And I am, once again, prepared to jot down instantly anything that my narrator might have to say, hardly breaking my stride as I do so.
And in the middle of the night, when my narrator is feeling especially loquacious, and I am barely conscious?  I found that if I sat up, turned on the light, looked for my glasses, and groped for a blank page in my notebook, my narrator would have already quit in disgust.  Instead I keep this three-ring notebook under my pillow, with the pencil clipped to a blank page.  When my narrator begins, I do not turn on the light, or even open my eyes.  Instead I stealthily pull the notebook from under my pillow---all the while listening intently to my narrator---open to the marked page, and transcribe in the dark.  I've learned to put just a few lines on each page, then turn to the next page and continue, so as to end up with something that will be relatively legible the next morning. 
I find this method really annoying at times---so inefficient!  And especially when my narrator keeps waking me up at night because there's "just one more thing" to tell me.  But it does get a story started.  And I've never discovered a better way for myself.  


  1. I am full of admiration for you if you can write in the dark! I've tried every possible solution to those in-the-dark ideas--currently use a pen with light built-in, because when I write with no light, no matter how carefully, all the words come out on top of each other and the result is an unreadable hodgepodge.

  2. You and your narrators could teach world leaders a thing or two about communication.

  3. Really interesting. I am starting to write again so I am fascinated by this.

  4. so interesting! Thanks for sharing this with "the world".

  5. Annoying, perhaps. But how lucky you are to have a narrator at all!