The Characters Write their Story

Writing Yoga for Detectives: First Lesson was the kind of experience you’ve all had where it grabs you by the heart and you trip over your own feet, laughing, trying to keep up.

It was joyous and fun and refreshing.

I met Jaya, Arielle, Tal, Ansui, Rose, and all the others, along with my readers.

Friends of mine asked me if I had modeled Jaya after myself but, really, there’s some of me in all the characters. Sure, on some days I feel like Jaya. But on others I’m much more Ansui. At times I’m Tal, while at others I’m more Yitz. Sometimes 82 year old Rose and sometimes 9 year old Arielle. They’re all inside  me.

Mostly, they took on personalities of their own. Words flew out of their mouths via my fingers on the keyboard, not the other way around. When I tried to create their conversations through my fingers, they most often didn’t ring true and I had to wait patiently for my fingers to let go and surrender to the characters.

The story line tumbled out day by day. I was never quite sure where it would all end up.

These are all the kinds of realities that can be frustrating for would-be authors to hear.

What does it even MEAN? That the characters are in control of their actions and words in a book, and not the author? That the story tells itself, instead of the author making all the decisions?

I remember a Hebrew teacher telling my class, when asked how we know whether the plural of a word is the feminine ending “oht” or the masculine ending “eem”, that it just rings true or not. “How in the world does anything ring true to someone only just now learning the language?” I thought, in frustration.

Frustrating or not, it’s true of language and it’s true of writing.

I fell in love with the characters of my first book. And that’s what’s complicating my second.

The story is taking me to some dark and dangerous places this time. It’s not clear to me yet, as I begin writing Chapter 28, if all my beloved characters are going to survive. The plot is twisty and following an ominous path and there are some days when I’m too fearful for my characters to continue.

Several of my characters have begun to show less attractive traits, alongside the wonderful traits with which I originally fell in love. And that’s hard. In some ways, oddly, I’m finding it harder to expose their faults than it is to expose my own. (Someone has suggested that, perhaps, their faults ARE my own.)

We’re traveling to parts of India and Spain  where I’ve never physically been. How peculiar that after reading about these places, seeing photographs of them and writing about them, I feel that my characters have taken me there and shown me around, through their eyes.

Writing. Not an experience for the faint of heart.

As if self-discipline weren’t challenging enough, there you are, meeting yourself on the path over and over, in the most unanticipated places with the most unexpected feelings. Not all pleasant.

This time my characters and their story are sometimes dragging me forward reluctantly instead of grabbing my heart joyfully.

But I’m all in for the journey.



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Brought up in one of "those" families - a challenge. Lucky enough to marry someone who inspired me to create a much-healthier family and have a life which helped me begin to love myself. From Texas to California to Wisconsin to Israel. From reliable, responsible child to rebellious teen to fearless young adult to grateful grandmother. Five beautiful, fascinating grown children. Fourteen amazing, enchanting grandchildren. From university teacher to researcher to couple counselor to political spokesperson to yoga instructor. Still married after all these years.

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