My Characters Pick the Strangest Times to Talk to Me

Creative Life

The narrator of my Jack Donegal Mysteries, Andy Westin, has been rather silent recently. There may be a few reasons for that. I’ve been helping to take care of my parents who have some health issues at present and have been a little distracted from writing in general. In between times, I’ve been focused on writing non-fiction content for my blog.

Agatha Christie said, “The best time to plan a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”


I’ve been doing lots of dishes, but Andy has not chosen to speak to me at most of these times.

The creative process can be strange.

Some years back, I read a book about Swedish culture and travel. The way the author described the Swedish personality stuck with me. This may not be verbatim, but it went something like this … “Swedish friendliness is like a ketchup bottle. At first, nothing comes out, but once it gets going, it never stops.” It seems to be true of some of the Swedish-Americans I know, perhaps including myself. (I am partly Swedish.)

Photo by Dennis Klein on Unsplash

The creative flow in writing can work like that ketchup bottle too. Sometimes life’s events help interrupt the flow. Sometimes, there are elements that can’t be written off the top of your head because they require some research. I’ve experienced these things, but I never call it “writer’s block.” I’m glad. That would be seeing it negatively.


The other day, I received an email that triggered my creative juices.

Photo by Alessandro Bianchi on Unsplash

Well, after I went to bed Monday night, Andy began talking to me again … and, once he started, he wouldn’t shut up. And … I got very poor sleep. Thanks a bunch, Andy! You’re a pal!

This is what spilled into my computer, via Andy’s dictation, and between Thanksgiving preparations, since then.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

“The problem with women is that they don’t come with an off button.

Ahem … let me rephrase that. I am not as evil as that made me sound. Jack Donegal and I, in the context of work at Out of the Box Toys, deal mostly with electronic devices, and when technical problems arise, we are usually adept at dealing with them. People problems are not as simple.

Jack and I were standing in the kitchen of the Salvador Deli, and the owner, our friend, Ellen Danforth, was on the verge of a complete meltdown. What I really wanted to find was the ‘Tears Off’ button. I know she doesn’t have one, but that did not prevent me from looking for one. Perhaps, if I gently touched her shoulder?

‘Now, Ellen, don’t … don’t cry,’ I said. If I were a British gentleman in a Golden Age mystery, I would hand her my hanky and say ‘There, there’ … whatever that means. I don’t carry a hanky. The only thing I had to offer her was a perfectly folded, completely sterile Kleenex. ‘There, there,’ I said as I handed it to her.

This didn’t seem to help matters much and definitely didn’t lead to the “off button” but to a big sobbing noise instead. I took Ellen in my arms and patted the space between her shoulder blades. This was all wrong. She should be in my buddy Jack’s arms, that is, in an ideal world where people actually acted on their feelings for each other. Jack is twice the dork that I am, and he was still staring at her as if she were a malfunctioning machine for which he’d lost the manual. Still, Ellen is my friend too, and I couldn’t just let her float away in an ocean of tears like Alice in Wonderland.

‘I can’t help it,’ she said. ‘Like an idiot, I ….’ Here, half of her words became unintelligible and replaced with crying noises. ‘Blub, blub, blub … ten dozen cookies … blub, blub, blub … place is packed … blub, blub … baker’s sick … blub, blub … burnt!'”

To be continued …

© 2018 Susan Joy Clark

Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash

Does that entice you a bit?

I had been toying with the idea of a Christmas short story with my characters, and it seems I did get my brain going on that.

As for characters talking to me in the middle of the night, a friend recently suggested lavender to me to aid sleep. I have since bought Johnson’s bedtime lotion with lavender scent. The product is for babies, and I am not one, but I hope it will help me sleep like one. It doesn’t say anything about quieting character voices on the label, so we will see.


(I’m an Amazon affiliate, so I may get a a little commission if you purchase through links.)

Fellow writers and fellow creatives, is this relatable? Do you get brainstorms in the middle of the night?

Also, several of my books are on sale for Thanksgiving and some time afterwards.  Action Men with Silly Putty (Kindle version) will be on sale for $2.99 from Thanksgiving Day until midnight on Cyber Monday. Action Men and the Great Zarelda (Kindle) will be on sale for $.99 from Thanksgiving Day until midnight on Friday. My children’s book, The Journey of Digory Mole, (hard copy) will be on sale for $9.13 from today until midnight on Cyber Monday.

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery (Jack Donegal Mysteries Book 1)

Action Men and the Great Zarelda (Jack Donegal Mysteries Book 2)

The Journey of Digory Mole (Creature Kingdom) (Volume 1)

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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