When I’m writing, I can spend the entire day trying to get those voices in my head to talk to me, tell me their stories. Whether or not it works, the moment I turn out my light and try to fall asleep, the characters inevitably come out to play.
I’m never sure whether to be delighted or annoyed. My ultimate reaction usually depends on how comfortable I am and how many sleeping cats are pinning me in place. Then there’s the spouse factor: after the final goodnights have been mumbled and we’ve lived in silence for several minutes, it’s just cruel to turn the light back on, no matter how great the dialogue in my head and how convinced I am that I will not remember it in the morning unless I record it right then and there. (Naturally, I still haven’t remembered to stock my flashlight in my nightstand, although I’ve learned never to be without a notebook and a pen. Which is why this whole thing was written in the dark. See?)
Of course, just because I succumb to pressure from my chatty characters or Dolores, my on-board narrator, it does not mean that the words were worth the shuffling and fumbling required to capture them on paper. Even if they are legible (at best, my handwriting is a poor imitation of cursive), when I’m in the zone of near-sleep my ability to judge writing quality is questionable.
Take, for example, the night when I absolutely, positively could not sleep no matter how I tossed and turned. If anything, my desperation only pushed that blissful unconsciousness further away. Finally, I settled into thinking about my book. You see, I had a character to name, and this seemed the perfect time to do so. In my sleep-deprived state, I decided that I wanted something unique, so I reached around for the most beautiful, unusual first name I could find. Once I settled on it, I was so happy that I knew I needed a last name to go with it. And so I thought and thought and finally came up with the perfect companion to that first name. It was so lovely, so wonderful, that I couldn’t wait to assign it to a character the next day. Since this was before I learned to keep a notebook handy, I committed it to memory, rolled over, and promptly fell asleep. When my alarm rang the next morning, I had the nagging thought that I was forgetting something. So I fished around in my memory for a while, and came up with it: the name. Only in daylight did I realize that I had, with no sense of irony whatsoever, named my character Dream McKnight. Sure, the name could work, but it would be the bane of the character’s existence, not something of which she could be proud.
With incidents like that, it’s no wonder I record my nighttime ramblings so reluctantly, even if I’m usually glad that I did so.