Some characters I know the moment I write them. I lay out that first paragraph like breathing. Sitting. Stretching.

Salieri Conti.

Some characters I have an idea, but I've got to pound and rewrite. Slap, pound, knead, and rewrite. Eventually I feel like I have someone I'm content with. But I'll still stop on occasion to smooth down their hair or give them a shove.

Claudeen. Montiere.

And then there's the one character that I just keep writing. It's an exploration through a dark house. I've lived her for years—it's my home—but it's dark. Familiar, and I know where the furniture is, but I'm bumping into it. The lights are off, and there's no moon. I know the space, but I'm still trying to feel the edge of the rug under my toes. Then I reach the doorway, finally, and someone turns on the lights behind me.

And I turn, and then suddenly, I get it. It's not a surprise (it's my living room) but all those bumps and fumbles make perfect sense and I understand the space. I get it.


It's strange and thrilling—a relief—to reach the near end of a manuscript and have the lights suddenly turn on.