GUEST POST: A CHARACTER’S VOICE IN MY HEAD

I’d like to thank author Kate Belle for contributing this guest post about characters who speak to their creators. Kate is an accomplished, multi-published author of dark and sensual erotic fiction. Her first full length novel, The Yearning, was published in April 2013 by Simon & Schuster to rave reviews. Her second novel, Being Jade, is due for release June 2014 in Australia/New Zealand. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much-loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets. Visit Kate’s blog Ecstasy Files here.

As a writer it’s rare to have a story that just ‘comes’ to you, fully formed. Most authors will tell you they have to work hard for their stories. And the more stories they write, the harder they have to work. The first inspiration for a story soon peters out once the big scenes are down on paper. There are always plot knots and character inconsistencies to sort out and it’s nothing but hard, painful slog to unravel them.

Being Jade, though, was a sort of exception to this rule. It was kind of ‘gifted’ to me from some other place. Not the story, mind you, the voice – I was given the voice. Banjo arrived in my head one day about four years ago, took me by the throat and insisted over and again ‘YOU MUST TELL MY STORY. YOU MUST’.

At first I wasn’t sure who the hell he was or what he wanted to say. I listened to him and used a stream of consciousness technique I learnt a few years (ahem…decades) ago and let my thoughts dissolve and Banjo take over. I scratched out a few lines or paragraphs, his words coming in loud and clear as a radio signal.

It didn’t take long for me to realise who he was. I’d had a picture of Jade in my head for a while. I had a few thousand words from her daughter Lissy, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make a story of.

As I let Banjo have his way, gave the keyboard over to him, I felt his anguished love for Jade pour through my fingers. Sometimes I felt it as a physical pain in the centre of my chest.

Eventually, whenever I sat down to write anything from his point of view, the words just flowed onto the page, as if I were channelling him. But don’t think for a second the strength and clarity of Banjo’s voice made writing of this book easy. It was a really tough book to write. An inexplicable fear gripped me every time I sat at my computer. I had no idea what I was doing. I ate loads of toast and two minute noodles and chocolate. I drank cup after cup of coffee and tea. I started thinking about wine at 11 o’clock in the morning. I did anything to avoid writing this story – including the most despised task in my life – housework!

Looking back I think it was because I didn’t understand the story. I was dependent on this strange muse to deliver it to me and I didn’t trust my ability to interpret it accurately. When the anxiety became too great I learned to return to Banjo’s words. There was something calming and reassuring about them. As I reacquainted myself with his voice, I was able to gather the courage I needed to continue. I might not know what I was doing but he sure did. He knew how the story should go and, scary as it was, I had to trust that.

Over the many months of writing Being Jade Banjo became a companion. I walked my dogs, typed long into the night, ruminated on the problems I was having with the story, and all the while felt his presence around me. Strange as it seems, the more I wrote, the more I fell in love with his character.

No one like Banjo exists in my life. I fashioned him on no one. He’s just an imaginary man, who is deeply in love with a woman, so much so he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Ironically, a few days after I submitted the final manuscript to my publisher I was out walking my dogs again and I felt him leave. It was early evening, summer. The birds were singing down the sun and the air was warm and felt him say ‘Thank you. Thank you. I can go now. Good bye.’

It was sad, feeling him leave like that, but I understood. My job was done. I’d not only told his story, I’d defended it. I had fended off all the wise advice of people who know better than me, people who tried ease my pain by making the story simpler. I’d trusted my instincts and him, battled my demonic self doubt, made myself sit and listen to a disembodied voice in my head who delivered a story to me I could never have consciously thought up myself.

Funny, that was six months ago. I still miss him.