“How was your day?” my husband asked me one evening when he arrived home from prison. I won’t go into the reasons he goes to prison, but every week, he does get released.
We sat on our porch with two cups of hot tea, watching fireflies light up the darkness.
“Same old same old at work,” I said, taking another sip of tea. “Oh, I killed someone tonight.”
“Hmm.” He stood up to flick a stinkbug off our screen.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah.” He answered me as though he’d always expected I’d wind up a murderer. No surprises there. “How’d you do it?”
“Polonium. Know what that is?”
“Of course. It’s what killed the man in Ukraine, the one running for President.”
“Yep. It’s radioactive. The KGB and Stasi were big fans. Usually kills within days or weeks. But I gave my guy an extra big dose, so it only took a few hours for him to die.”
“You picked a winner. The perfect poison for you.”
“Constantin went out in the woods with a shovel and buried him. How long would you expect it’d take him to dig a grave, a strong man in his late thirties?”
“So the ground’s not frozen … about two hours. Just a guess.” He took another sip. “Who’d you kill?”
And such is the life of a fiction writer.
On Saturday, I wrote the last page of the first draft of my young adult novel, my capstone project completing my master’s degree. There is much revision work ahead before they hand over the diploma to me, but I want to celebrate each small victory along the journey. And sorry to tell you the ending without first issuing a spoiler alert, just in case my most far-fetched dreams come true and it gets published someday. The process can take years, so maybe you’ll forget by then. (I probably will.)
Writing has intrigued me my whole life, but I never knew how much fun it could be to be a novelist. When I was little, I lived in the world of my imagination. I created alternate realities, populated with my imaginary friends.
Then I grew up. And now, I get to imagine all over again.
Novelists create whole worlds. We create people. We give them personalities and histories. We know what they want, deep down inside. We see what they look like, how they move, we hear the pitch of their voice, know what they’d say. They visit us, sometimes in our dreams, and talk to us. “I’d never do that!” they might say. “That’s your voice, not mine.” Sometimes, magic happens, and our voices merge.
We create spaces. We birth their town, their country, even their planet from our imagination. We build their houses, lay out their streets, anchor them in place and time. We’re the masters of their entire existence.
Fiction writers hold the power. We can give them what they long for. We can frustrate them. Sometimes we even kill them.
I do hope no one ever examines the search history on my computer. “Symptoms of polonium poisoning” could be incriminating.