Monday, June 6, 2016

Losing My Grip on Reality

A popular post from September 2010

by Annette Lyon


It's happened every time. You'd think I'd get used to it.

But somehow I get the same weak-knee, punched-in-the gut, light-headed feeling every time.

I stare. I almost cry. And then I have to stop myself from looking around just in case one of my characters happens to be lurking around in spirit form. Sometimes I'm tempted to grab someone near me, point, and say, "Did you know that right over there, so-and-so stood and did such-and such?"

And of course, if I really did that, I'd sound like a total crazy person, because "so-and-so" never did exist, and never did "such-and-such."

What happened?

I was at the Garden Restaurant at the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. It has the most marvelous view of the top of the Salt Lake Temple.

I knew this. I've been there before. But the last time was a good decade or so ago.

BEFORE I wrote a book about the temple. With an epilogue that takes place on the day of the capstone celebration. The end of the epilogue is at the top of the spires, exactly what I was looking out at.

During that time, while the scaffolding was still in place, they sold tickets to the public to climb up and view the city from the top of the the temple. (Can you imagine what a sight that would have been?)

That night in 1892, after the capstone celebration, shortly after Angel Moroni was set into place, I have my characters at the top of the temple. (I'm not going to tell you who they are or what had transpired; you'll just have to read the story. Let's just say that I'm already getting a bit emotional telling you this much. Man, I love my characters . . .)

So there I was at the restaurant staring out at the spires. I nearly snagged a lady standing next to me. "Over there, see?" I wanted to say. "That's exactly where they were standing with their families, looking out over the valley."

Instead, I gazed out, felt a fluttery feeling in my stomach, blinked back tears, and tried to get a grip on reality.
They're not real, I reminded myself.

But the same thing happened the first time I drove into Logan after
House on the Hill was released (I swear I nearly saw Abe and Lizzy running across Main Street toward the Tabernacle) and again when I visited the St. George Temple after At the Journey's End came out (I almost pointed out to my daughter where Clara and Miriam were dropped off on the wagon and she first walked into the temple).

What is my problem?!

I guess what it boils down to is that I love the landmarks I write about. I feel immersed in the history. And I completely fall in love with my characters. They feel real to me.

And when all is said and done, I hope they become as vividly real to my readers, too.


Julie Wright said...

Ha! I love that! And the same thing has happened to me (only not because of the temple view from the garden restaurant but because of the view of the train station). I love that it's the same for you.

Chas Hathaway said...

Awesome! I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one so wrapped up in my stories that I'm scarcely aware of what's really happening around me.

For me, the worst is when someone walks by, sees me staring into the abyss, and says, "What are you doing?"

What can I say? I can just picture the conversation:

"Well, I just learned why Alexander doesn't know who his parents are!"

"Uh... who's Alexander?"

"He's the kid who was raised by baboons and basically lives forever."

Long pause.

"You feeling okay?"

"Are you kidding? I feel great! I've been wondering about that for a LONG time!"

That would just confirm my insanity. So I usually just say something like, "Plotting."

Krista said...

What a relief! I'm not insane! Just went to the Oregon coast this summer and walked where Jill and Scott walked. Ate where they ate. Drove where they drove. Last year, went to Jackson. Saw the fictional store where Elizabeth works. Drove past the road that leads to the place where THINGS HAPPENED.
In my head.
For real.

Becky McKinnon said...

I'm glad I'm not the only crazy one! A while ago my bro-in-law was describing someone and I immediately went "I know her!" It took me a minute to remember the person I meant wasn't actually real.

Heather B. Moore said...

Sometimes I think my characters are mad at me. "Are you ever going to get our book published? We've been collecting dust back here!"

Heather B. Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenna said...

Hey, I'm not the only one that does that! It happens to me all the time--I swear, sometimes I think I've finally sold my timeshare in reality and have turned my vacation home in Fantasyland into a permanent home.

Lori said...

Wow! I believe that the most talented writers are the ones with more or less of an insanity within them. That is what makes their writing unique and nteresting in the first place.

Josh Hoyt said...

It was a great workshop and I learned so much that I feel I need to rewrite my entire book now (: Thanks for the support and look forward to following your blog. The only thing I regret is not winning the prize (:

Danielle said...

Does anyone else argue or talk with their charactors? It's irritating but cool at the same time... and just awkward when someone catches you doing it...

Anonymous said...

I hope to experience this very thing in Nauvoo some day!!

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