Damon Knight, who wrote Creating Short Fiction, talked about collaborating with “Fred”. Stephen King talks about “the boys in the basement” in On Writing, and Jennifer Crusie talks about “the girls in the basement.” All are different ways of referring to the subconscious part of the mind that comes up with the story part of the book.
“The Girls in the Basement: don’t get in their way.” is one of Jenny’s favorite themes. But sometimes . . . the Girls don’t seem to know what they are doing, either. They can fight with each other. Or after you’ve slaved away over a good day’s worth of words, one of them suddenly pops up and says, “Oh! Got a better idea!”
I’ve got Girls all over the place – basement, attic and third floor mezzanine. I mentioned one last week who is an efficiency freak, and complains when some other Girl says, “Rewrite!” And I’ve got a few Girls who are really susceptible to outside influence. They are people-pleasers, so when I get criticism, they come up with ideas that seem like genius for half an hour, and then nobody in my head knows how to turn the “genius” into a book. Things like: “Got it! My sexy romantic hero is really Ernest Borgnine, and runs around chewing a cigar, and being thwarted by his minions.” That idea sounded brilliant for two hours, and then I remembered that I was writing a romance.
No wonder it takes a year or more to write a book. Sorting out all that noise can be a problem.
That said, the Girls, even the contrary Girls, always bring something to the mix. Often that “better idea” really is a better idea. The crazy ideas have some sort of truth in the center (ie: my hero is going to be thwarted by his own side as well as the other side). It’s important to listen to the Girls.
Who are some of the Girls (or Boys) hanging around in your head? (Just to kick the list off, I’ve got an adorable Girl who loves footnotes. She hasn’t been let out since I was in high school, but she enjoys reading Terry Pratchett. I ought to let her out to play more – a Library Geek is always a good writing ally, even if she gets edited out in the end.)