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?
Originally posted at Casablancaauthors.blogspot.com 7/27/2010