Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I don't wanna think about it!

In Greek mythology, the muses were nine sisters, daughters of Zeus, who presided over the arts, whispering in artists’ ears, inspiring them to create great works of art.

I don’t like to spend a lot of time thinking about muses. Oh, I believe I have a muse. I’m certain of it, in fact. Well, probably not a daughter of Zeus, but you know what I mean. I have this idea, however, that if I spend time thinking about my muse or trying to figure out where it comes from, that I’ll lose it.

Go ahead and laugh.

I know it sounds silly, and yet I believe it whole-heartedly.

How do I know my muse exists? I know this because I am a “pantser”. Half the people reading this just went, “Ah. Yep, you have a muse.”For the rest of you, and for those who don’t know what I mean by “pantser”, the short version is I don’t know what will happen in my story until it happens. Often I’m just as surprised as any reader would be. Probably the most tangible way to explain this to someone else would be explaining the development of my characters. When I first start writing a new book, I’ll spend hours, or even days, imaging my hero and heroine. I know their names. I know their back stories. I know who their parents and siblings are. I know their age. What they look like. Their education level. Socio-economic status. What they fear. What they want.

Then I develop a conflict to start off the story and place my newly created characters in that situation. What happens next… Well, it just happens. My characters react, and the story progresses from there.

But I’m not done. That doesn’t necessarily scream “muse” at anyone, I know. However, keep in mind what I just said. I know those characters before I start writing. They are solidly in my mind. I have a pretty good idea how they will react to different situations, because of who they are. That’s all work I’ve consciously created.

But then… Well, then there are characters who literally come out of nowhere. I didn’t even have an inkling of their existence until they popped up on the page and had something important to do or say. If this happened once or twice, I could write it off as happenstance. But, in all honesty, it happens more often than that. These aren’t characters that I’ve placed in my story because I’ve researched them. These aren’t characters that I know inside and out. These aren’t characters that I can predict in any fashion. These are characters I know nothing about and they are as much a mystery to me as they would be to anyone else. These characters, they came directly from my muse.

You could name any character in any book I have and I could tell you within a second whether they are a character I developed or a character my muse created out of nothingness. Some of my more popular characters aren’t ones I labored over creating, in fact. I’ve become to depend on my muse. “I don’t need to worry about XYZ problem, something will happen and the rest of the story will fall in place.”

You can see why I might not want to question it too much by trying to figure out where my muse comes from. I’m just happy that it’s there, whispering in my ear from time to time when I need it most and nudging me in a direction I might not have thought of despite my preparations. Losing my muse would be devastating. I think I’ve already spent too much time thinking about it as it is. So I better stop before it’s too late.

Do you think you have a muse? And if so, are you afraid of upsetting it?


  1. I will definitely be tardy in replying to posts today since I am traveling, but I promise to respond once I get to my final destination. :)

  2. Ahhh, all you people traveling to Nationals. It's funny, yours is like the 5th or 6th post regarding muses (and whether they exist or not) I've read in the past week.

    In answer to your question, first let me say that like you I am a pantser. I don't know if I've got a muse, but I probably do since, again like you, I'll have characters or ideas just pop into my head out of nowhere. Just yesterday she used a hint brick to nearly crack my skull open when I came up with an idea that I should have seen months ago, but didn't. It's amazing what those darned (or blessed) creatures can do when they're so inclined.

  3. Lydia,
    I think Muses are a part of all of us. Or maybe like "Angels" they are around us at all times but only show themselves when a certain emotion shows up or situation.

    When we have those quiet moments (few and far between lately in my house) to reflect on life and ask "What if . . ." they show themselves and create those scenerios we call creativity or eventually novels.

    Maybe for us they are the angels who sit on our shoulders and whisper the words that seem to pour from our fingertips as we type--not really knowing what we are typing until we re-read and say 'wow, I have a story here'.

    But it takes focus and emotional clarity for me and my Muse. She comes out at 2:am when she wakes me with an idea, or when I am powerwalking around my neighborhood (not in the 100 degree weather lately though).

    Maybe lately I have been thinking about her too much and that is why she is not there. Or there is just too much 'reality' going on for me right now (computer was down last week, leak in the upstairs bathroom, CV joint in van needs to be replaced before warrenty expires, etc).

    I need a little fantasy and my Muse--but after reality has settled? I'm sure she's not wanting to be around right now.

    Here is to our Muses and taking us out of the daily grind!

  4. I too am a panster. I have often wondered where my story ideas come from, so I suppose I have a muse of some sort. I basically just try to write at least a chapter every day once I've started a new manuscript. This seems to be the best way to keep my muse talking to me.

  5. makes perfect sense to me. I don't like to think about my writing too much until there's a problem. Why analyze what's working?

  6. Lydia! Great post. I'm a planner but I still believe I have a muse. These ideas had to come from somewhere. Some people believe if you plan things out you don't have a muse... not me. I have learned the hard way that the muse rules because even if I have a detailed outline if the muse wants to veer to the left, than that's where we're going lol. More often than not here lately though the muse and I are on the same page, so I've been lucky with that. It makes things so much easier. =)

    But I'm like you, if I question it too much, I'm afraid she'll vanish. So I just let her talk to me while I'm planning and pretend like all that brilliance is mine LOL. =D

  7. I'm a plotter but have ended up pantsing several chapters. My characters have definitely decided what they want is not what I had originally intended.

  8. Of course muse is real! She's wonderful and she and I work together often. She has the best ideas!


  9. I SO know what you mean about "something happens and then the rest of the story falls into place!" Been there, done that! My current WIP is one of the first I've written from a fairly detailed synopsis, but, as always, I know it will change. Blame it on the muse!

  10. Tory ~ You need to pay attention to your muse so you don't get your skull nearly cracked open. :)

    Loni ~ Good heavens! It sounds like you need a break!

    Julie ~ A chapter a day? I'm so jealous right now. :)

    Shana ~ Yep. I'm in complete agreement.

    Melissa ~ Being on the same page as your muse is a definite must!! Good for you.

    Sarah ~ Characters do sometimes have a mind of their own.

    Amelia ~ Sometimes I'm a little jealous when my muse comes up with something better than I had planned out. ;)

    Chery ~ Are you following a synopsis? I have NEVER written one before I finished the book. Then I would know where it was going and I wouldn't be able to write it. Good for you. :)