Muses and impudent characters (and bears, oh my!)Posted: February 12, 2013
I always thought writers who talked about their muses as though they were people were being self-indulgent, using some of that artistic license that is one of the tools of the trade. In “On Writing” (yes, I go on about that book—I just re-read it over the break), Stephen King describes his muse as follows:
“He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you.” (The full quote is here.)
I’ve seen my stories take unexpected turns—but I thought it was just that, as you were writing, you saw better options.
Then two experiences changed my mind.
The first was when, more than halfway through drafting my previous novel, there was an entirely unplanned kiss between two characters. One of them did something a little bit clever that the other didn’t see coming, and the other, in an excess of exuberance, gave the first a hug that suddenly got all romantic.
This was particularly awkward given that the kissee had a significant other.
I knew the kisser was interested, of course. But I never in a million years thought he’d make the first move. SURPRISE!
The other instance was more recently. Some of you may recall me having a whinge about not knowing which novel idea I wanted to pursue next: the fantasy (fully plotted out) or the urban fantasy (no plot whatsoever). I’d decided on the fantasy; I borrowed books to do research, so I could start my world-building, and was all good to go. Excited, even.
Then, one day driving home from work, I had the basic plot structure for the urban fantasy land in my head like someone had dropped a load of bricks on the car. I lay up half that night thinking about it. I couldn’t let it go for days, walking around like I was sleepwalking (I probably was, given the laying up all night!).
It only stopped when I gave in and started the other manuscript instead.
My conclusion from all of this is that my muse, whoever she is, isn’t a bloke smoking cigars in a basement. I don’t know where she lives or what she looks like, but she wears combat boots (for stompin’ ideas into my recalcitrant head) and probably has a battered and super-trashy novel featuring a love triangle tucked under one arm.
Is your muse personified? Has he or she pulled stunts like this on you?