When Your Characters Won’t Go To Bed

I am sitting on the couch with my wife. Between us is an elf, a twenty something warrior-politician from an agrarian, pre-industrial earth…

Woman with white-faced Halloween make up and red hair poses in front of white background
Photo by Kanea, used under license through Adobe Stock.

I am sitting on the couch with my wife. Between us is an elf, a twenty-something warrior-politician from agrarian, pre-industrial earth, and the ferocious White Witch.

I am remembering that I have to pay the internet bill. The game is on TV. Snacks on the table. The White Which reaches for some hummus. I roll my eyeballs as she takes the last cucumber slice. I mean, it’s as if there’s nobody else here. Can you even share? Witch.

The elf asks why his favorite wood scouts were slaughtered in a recent skirmish. The warrior politician asks me what her story arc is since all she’s done so far is get poisoned and dragged through the forest.

The witch smells like onions. Or maybe that’s me. My wife slides further away.

“I don’t know. I don’t,” I tell the warrior-politician, trying to ignore the others for just a moment. “Maybe it would have been better if you left for a few years, to live in the forest or something, and come back a hero.”

I just watched the musical, The Lion King. Simba left for a few years and things worked out pretty well for him, I mean, aside from his dad being stampeded by wild animals. He came back and got to be king! But I didn’t write that. I wrote that she stayed in the village, and she became a politician.

“Warrior-politician!” she interrupts.

“Yes, I know. I know. I know because I created you. Can I finish?”

As I was saying, she becomes a warrior-politician and then gets poisoned by the White Witch.

Talk about your awkward seating arrangements.

So then she is pretty useless, being poisoned. The elves drag her around until she can walk again. There are some battles she misses because, well, she’s been poisoned. But she’s my hero! Maybe I can justify it when she just shows up for the big boss battle. The boss battle. Hmm…

The White Witch looks over at us, chewing with a half-smile, eyes widening.

“Can you close your mouth when you chew, please? Besides, everything isn’t about you.”

She sniffs.

On the TV, Ohio State scores, again. My wife is taking Instagrams of the food spread.

“What’s dramatic about your arc?”

The warrior-politician is offended. “I was raised as a guardian of the high order!”

Yeah, I know. Believe me.

Maybe it’s just as well she isn’t the focus of change. Maybe the change is in the elf. Or the witch. Or, something more profound, like the planet?

“What about my scouts?” asks the elf again. No, he’s too insecure. And so … boring. Gonna have to fix that.

The witch? Seriously? No. She was an afterthought! I didn’t even know she existed until I was forty-five thousand words in. Ugh. I wish she would stop staring at me. She burps.

“Listen, it’s not personal, witch. It’s just, you’re a bad person. You poisoned her!” I point to the twenty-something. “Readers won’t relate to you!”

That comes out too harsh.

“Hey, hey, no. No, don’t cry. You can’t cry. You’re the White Witch! Here, have some guacamole.”

The room got uncomfortable. I sigh.

A giant, ancient matriarch spider creeps up behind us, almost reaching the edge of the couch with her massive fangs. I turn and swat her away, “No! No giant spiders! OK, NO! It’s overdone!”

My wife announces that she is going to bed.

I’m left on the couch with these needy freaks. Freaks that I made. Always following me. Asking me questions about their purpose; needing to know if everything they do, everything they say is right or insightful or repetitive. It’s endless!

“What am I gonna do next? Was that realistic? Why is the timeline so far off? Does my life’s purpose make any sense? Is my outfit culturally and period-appropriate while not being offensive or off-putting to temperamental modern sentiments?”

From where I sit, I can see my laptop on the dining room table. As I stare at it, everyone leans forward with anticipation. I make to stand but instead reach for some toasted pitas. They all groan.

“When are you going to finish?” asks the warrior-princess.

I waive a hand in the air, “This year … or next year.”

“What’s the plot for the second and third installments?” asks the White Witch, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “What do I do in those books?”

I chew on my lip. “Remember the big boss battle at the end of this book? I don’t think you’re going to …” my voice trails off.

“Going to what?” she asks, looking at me blankly. Her pointy hat is not the sharpest in the wardrobe, I must say.

“Nothing. I just think I should get through this book before I start planning anything else. I’ll come up with something super fun.” I wink.

It’s the fakest smile I have ever forced across my face.

She moves closer to me, “I know I’m your favorite.”

“Not true” chimes the elf, with his amazing hearing bonus.

“You’re all my favorites. Everyone is so special. So …” what’s the word … “special.” Ugh. I stink at this word choice thing. Isn’t there a phrase for how I feel right now? Something about killing your darlings?

“But listen, I have to go upstairs to bed. Now.”

I put the food away and turn off the downstairs. They line up behind me as I creep up the stairs. I’m brushing my teeth, they are all three looking at me in the mirror, eager, waiting. And there behind them in the door frame is the spider, trying to join in. I shake my head. He slides dejected back down the hall.

Climbing into bed, my wife mumbles something. I get under the covers and the White Witch, the warrior-politician, and the elf all jumble in next to us staring at me expectantly.

“Yes, yes,” I say, as I stare up at the ceiling. “I’ll figure it out.”

“What’s that awful smell?” my wife asks.

“That’s the witch.” The warrior-politician guffaws. The elf fixes his hair for bed. I finally fall asleep, all of them laying in bed with me, waiting until I wake up so they can ask more questions.