Today, one of the characters from my present work-in-progress picked up a nightstick. It seems he intends to keep it.

How do these things come about?

I am constantly mystified by what comes out in my writing.  Granted, I give my characters free-rein to wander about in my head, but it is what they find there that astounds me. I have to wonder where such thoughts and ideas come from. I cannot trace them.

Perhaps my memory is at fault. Perhaps at some time a nightstick made an impression on my mind (hopefully not literally), but if so, I do not recall it. I must admit, I find this randomness, this subconscious aid, very refreshing. Too often, I have to battle with problems and questions to find the right in-story answers. It is grueling work. Sometimes I divert my mind to give my subconscious, and the characters wandering about in it, time to find the answers.

And then, sometimes a character picks up a nightstick and won’t put it down.

The question was not even on my radar. I had assumed him to be the sort to pick up whatever was handy. Apparently I was mistaken.  I am glad to be mistaken, for this is far better than anything I could have thought up.

I assume that this kind of thing is common among writers. Have any of you experienced this sort of thing?


About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

17 responses to “Mystifying

  • Urania

    Yeah, I think this happens to me. Sometimes with whole characters: a man with a baroque cross tattooed on his back showed up quite randomly one day and said he was going to be in one of my stories. Or sometimes with character details. I knew another character had a tattoo, and I wasn’t sure what it was of, but for some reason, he insisted it was an arrow, for no readily explainable reason (though I might blame Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for suggesting the idea of an arrow tattoo). Or another character showed up one day and had grown his hair out, which shocked me because I went through a phase where I forced all my male characters to wear long hair for my own shallow reasons, and then I saw sense and realized it was impractical and I finally let most of them go get haircuts. And then Leo randomly showed up with a ponytail. Who knows. The creative process is certainly interesting for illuminating strange, slumbering parts of the brain, isn’t it?

    • jubilare

      Whole characters do indeed just show up, and details spring up like weeds! I often find, if I think about it hard enough, where the seeds of inspiration come from, like your mention of Huckleberry Finn. Most of the time the final result is very different from what inspired it, but I can still trace the origin. Then something like this happens and all I can do is look at the page and think “nightstick? Seriously? Where did that come from?” I must admit, I really enjoy that feeling. It gives me hope that not all of my personal limitations will be passed on to my writing. You never can tell what characters will come up with, or be, if you let them loose.
      Strange and slumbering parts of the brain indeed. Strange and slumbering, good and bad.

      And I am still highly amused by the nightstick, though I feel bad for whatever unfortunate law-enforcement-officer is lying in an infirmary wondering what hit him.

  • emilykazakh

    I created a character originally meant to be a servant to my protagonist. I gave her a name at her creation, but only because I figured if she and my protagonist were going to be in close proximity with each other, she would need a name.

    Last night, she decided she was also a spy and a member of the resistance. Given the fact that a lot of the dissension I have brewing in my fantasy world derives from racial issues, the fact that she is obviously not a member of any oppressed race makes this sudden change even more interesting.


  • palecorbie

    All the time, from “ramps” to Toiru’s blood to Hebrew and working with horses.

  • bekindrewrite

    Accidentally stumbling across things way more perfect than you could’ve thought of? Yes!!! Happens frequently. Gives me hope this story is in better hands than mine.

    We should come up with a name for this phenomenon. Something more literarily specific than “serendipity.” Literarendipity?

    • jubilare

      So incredibly true. I might give up in despair if I thought I had to do this all on my lonesome.

      Oo… I like that. I am also currently tempted to call it “the night-stick principle,” at least as it refers to my own work. :)

      • bekindrewrite

        I actually like “night stick principle” better than “literarendipity.” l occasionally refer to a “Dooley’s Grandfather” or a “Ransom’s Backpack” myself. They fit in with “hang a lantern” and sound kind of like the names for cons mentioned in the Ocean’s movies (e.g. “A looky-lu with a bundle of joy”). It’s like we have our own language. I can just imagine some writer saying “I was really struggling with this plot hole, but luckily, I got night-sticked by a minor character in chapter seven.”

        • jubilare

          I am very curious about both “Dooley’s Grandfather” and “Ransom’s Backpack” neither of which ring a bell for me (though I haven’t yet had my coffee). “Hang a lantern” still cracks me up, in a morbid way, as one of my characters is named something that means “lantern” in his world and there are certainly people who want to hang him. :P Even more ironically, he’s the one who picked up the night stick. I can just imagine him thumping me experimentally on the head with it to see if it wakes up my muse.

          Being “night-sticked” sounds quite painful, which in some cases might be appropriate. :)

          • bekindrewrite

            “Lantern” ha! That’s hysterical. Kind of like “Fire at Will!” (poor Will).

            Dooley’s Grandfather and Ransom’s Backpack are terms I coined. Dooley is from James P. Blaylock’s “The Elfin Ship,” which apparently helped found the Steampunk genre. Dooley is sort of a half-wit who tells ridiculous stories about the adventures of his grandfather, which the other characters of course don’t believe. But, little do they know…
            And Ransom’s Backpack is from “Out of the Silent Planet,” of course. I wrote a blog post about it awhile back, which you’ll probably remember:

          • jubilare

            Poor Will, indeed. What a hard life!

            Oh my.

            Ah! I do remember that now. I still need to finish that series. I found a lovely hardback containing all three last weekend. It is time.

  • Raewyn Hewitt

    I totally get it. But the best thing is when you’ve been writing a story and all of a sudden you get some kind of reveal and it turns out all the things you’ve been writing are totally consistent with it. I love it when you surprise yourself!

    • jubilare

      That sort of thing makes the hair on my arms stand up. This summer, a character appeared in my writing with some unusual physical traits. Since I write fantasy, I like to try and avoid the usual magical/mystical explanations for such things unless it is important to the plot. The character has prematurely graying hair and rather wide-set eyes. What set me off to research, though, was the fact that she has heterochromia iridum, or different-colored eyes.
      It didn’t take me long to stumble upon Waardenburg Syndrome. Apart from sometimes causing different-colored eyes, Waardenburg Syndrome type I can also manifest prematurely graying hair and noticeably wide-set eyes. It is usually an inherited syndrome and often includes at least some hearing impairment. So instantly I found myself with some insight into her background and family.
      In short, a character appeared in my work with a syndrome I had never even heard of. I am still trying to get my head around that!

  • jubilare

    […] One of the characters involved in this story eventually picks up a nightstick: And this story is neither mine, nor is it related to any of the above, but I think it is awesome […]

  • New years, nightsticks, and tropes | jubilare

    […] on a sort of side-note, I recently found an answer to a question that came up two years ago in my writing. One of my characters picked up a nightstick as a favored […]

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