"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye."
Jack Kerouac, ON THE ROAD
***For the past two-and-a-half years, I've been obsessed with the internal and external lives of the characters in my work-in-progress. I finally finished the story and sent it off to my agent. And so begins the waiting. And yes, Mr. Petty, the way-yay-ting is indeed the hardest part.
In the meantime, I've been fiddling around with some new story ideas. But what's surprised me is how much I've already let go of the characters that I've lived with 24/7 for a thousand days or so. Oh, I know I'll be spending plenty of quality time with them after my agent and editor read and (please, God, please) accept the manuscript. But in my mind, the characters are pretty much pacing the waiting room, bags packed. They're itching to escape the danger of yet another change to their appearance or motivation. They're tired of words being put in their mouths, of constantly being asked if their actions and reactions are realistic or "in character." Some of the secondary characters are especially nervous, knowing that if it's decided they're not pulling their weight in pushing the story forward, they'll fall into the already over-crowded pit managed by that Charon of the keyboard, Delete.
I'm eager to make sure my beloved characters are in the best possible shape before sending them out into the world. But for quite awhile now, they've been the uninvited guests at the King house, occupying my thoughts in the early and late hours and, more often than not, during breakfast, lunch and dinner. They've dominated the conversations on "date nights" with my wife, and my children are becoming less and less tolerant of my grumpy battles with the main character. It's nearing time to say good-bye.
It will be nice for a while. A bit freeing, actually. But I know that soon things will start to get a little too quiet around here and it'll be time to meet some new friends. In fact, just this morning while shaving, I met an interesting character in a terrible predicament who needs a place to stay for a day or so. Or maybe a thousand.