There’s always one in every writing project of mine.
They often begin as a background character. An outline, a sketch of a person. Perhaps they’re mentioned in passing by a primary character. Perhaps someone passes them in a corridor and holds a brief exchange meant to steer the action. However they appear, what comes next is always the same.
A nudge. A tug. An itch in the back of the brain.
I need more details for my appearance. I’ll dash a few phrases down, and soon, another nudge. But how do I sound? What’s my posture? Do my clothes swish as I turn around? They whisper as other characters converse. I have opinions on this, they tell me. Maybe she should talk to me in another scene.
The unplanned character. The one that often becomes a pivotal role, a missing piece so vital to the puzzle. I thrive on them, as a “plantser”. I never walk into a project with the minutiae laid out. I trust that the skeleton will lead me to the meat on the bones. The characters I need will find me.
When plotting Another Light Missing, the outline saw a focal main character setting out to find a missing best friend–and discovering an unseen predator in the shadows. I saw them as solitary, gathering a group of like-minded sleuths.
In painting a picture of life before the disappearance, a petite blonde had other ideas.
She was meant to be a glimpse of normalcy, a subject of debate between two people. Charles, a concerned gay man and impossible romantic, nudging Basti, his genderfluid best friend into finally making a move on someone, anyone–and why not the cute waitress they’d been flirting with for months? In the after, there would be no time for romance, no time for flirting at bars. But before, there was a moment between Basti and Sierra, a spirited pansexual woman with a playful smile.
As the chapter closed, the whispers began.
You’re not going to make them face the darkness alone, are you?
Well, yes. Yes, I am, I argued back.
But I know shadows, too. They need me. There’s another way to tell this story…
Sierra had a point. There was one perspective missing, one I could portray through her. It also allowed me to explore another sexual identity more thoroughly in the book, and in reflecting back on the original outline, I question why I thought I could craft this story without her.
As Bastian (Basti) and Sierra evolved on the page, a song in the writing playlist soon became “theirs”. It’s alluded to in the pages, in gratitude to the artist, as her music shaped much of the writing of Another Light Missing. On Pride Sunday, there is no more fitting song to spotlight than one that reminds us of the beauty of love, wherever we find it.
More Sonic Sunday reflections on Another Light Missing: