Thursday, January 16, 2014

Help! My New Characters Took Off Without me

by Saralee Rosenberg

In the final stages of labor, it's not unusual for women to swear they will never get pregnant again. But they lie (and many of us are proof of that). Writers are like that, too. After pushing out a new book we insist we will never endure the pain and suffering required to write another. Ha!

Me and my baby girl Alex, circa 1988
Every time I finished writing a novel I went through a brief period of mourning and walked aimlessly around Kohls and Costco. Then I went home and jumped into bed with a whole new cast of characters. It's fine. Call me a book slut. But who are these characters and what is on their minds? Can't tell you until I let 'em talk.

This week in my head I heard two best friends talking over breakfast. Had no idea who they were, where they were located or what secrets they were hiding. All I knew was that they made me laugh.

Scene: Suburban kitchen. Morning. Two women are clutching their coffee cups.

"He came over last night," Traci said.

"Who did?" Meryl asked.

"Mike. From my bereavement class."

"Really? That's nice."

"I suppose... I think he likes me."

"That's very nice."

"No," Traci replied. "He's got kids."

"So do you."

"But his are crazy."

"So are yours."

"No, I mean like out-of-their minds crazy," Traci said. "His older son is a pot dealer and his younger son takes SATs for rich kids."

"Good. They're industrious..."

"...Doesn't matter. I'm not ready to date."

Meryl yawned. "Then why did you join the bereavement group?"

"Because you made me."

"Because it's been two years and you are ready. Is he cute?"

"He's forty-six. I think the cute ship sailed."

"Fine," Meryl replied. "Does he have hair? How is his cholesterol? Does he move his bowels?"

"No idea. Check his Facebook page... he asked me to dinner."

Meryl clapped. "Great. When? Where? Can I eavesdrop at the next table?"

"I told him I'd think about it. We have nothing in common."

"How do you know?"

"Because he's ready to date and I'm not. Plus he has two crazy sons."

"So?" Traci said. "You're not dating them, you're dating him."

"But what if we fall in love and get married and they become my sons, too?"

"Wait. You have zero interest in going out for dinner, but you're already planning the wedding?"

"He's very good looking. Tall. Dark eyes. Nice hands."

"Okay, you know what?" Meryl said. "Don't go out with him. I'll drive home, kill Larry, join your bereavement group and see if asks me out."

"Really? You would do that for me so I don't have to date?"

"Yes, I would."

Hmmm. This could be the start of an engaging novel. Or it could be the only meaningful conversation Traci and Meryl ever have. It will probably take a year to figure out. Or ten minutes. It all depends on whether they stay in my head and keep me up nights worrying about their future. Uh oh. This just in... Mike with the nice hands just texted Traci. Stay tuned.

Saralee Rosenberg is the author of four novels from Avon/HarperCollins including DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DREAD; FATE AND MS. FORTUNE, CLAIRE VOYANT and A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE. She recently finished writing her first novel for younger readers, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM. Visit her website.


  1. This sounds great! I want to read more...keep talking, Traci and Merle!

  2. Don't ever stifle those characters! I love them.

  3. Love this dialogue and these characters! I think this may be your next project. Can't wait!

    By the way, Alex definitely looks a bit older than she did in that photo. You, not so much.

  4. I love funny, engaging dialogue. This is great. I definitely want to see where this story goes.