And that’s how that happened.
By Amy Lane
Inspiration… inspiration inspiration… I’m not sure I’ve ever met a writer who hasn’t worried, sometime, somehow, that the creative well was going to go dry.
Yes—even those of us who are relatively prolific (500-750K a year) worry. If we’re making money off of our imagination, we’d better be damned sure that thing doesn’t fritz out on us, right?
So we start looking at the things that inspire us and wondering how to reproduce that moment of wonder that spurred us on to create in the first place. I’ll be honest.
It’s rarely just one thing, and often? You couldn’t reproduce it. Not in a hundred years. Not in a thousand. That moment in time is just one more proof that miracles exist.
So, the other night, I was writing—and then I was writing my blog. I was writing a scene where Brandon, our young, horny, sexually assertive MC was dealing with a construction crew made up of older workers, all of whom had distinct personalities. Which means I had to name them.
Now think about it. In our real life, names repeat all the time. I’ve had multiple friends named Barb, multiple friends named Mary, multiple friends named Mark, James, Henry, or John. But in the book world, if we make a construction worker named Rufus with a graying blond ponytail and a pot belly with three ex-wives, people are going to wonder if he has a purpose or if he’s going to show up in another book. Same with Matt, Mark, Mike and Gus, the other four guys on the team.
But you don’t WANT them to show up in another book, you have too many series out there as it is! But what are you going to do with Matt, Mark, Mike, and Gus. And Rufus? Because now they’re OUT THERE. They’re on paper. And people remember guys like that. Gus is 6’4”, bald, and can lift a bucket of bolts with one arm. Who wouldn’t remember Gus? Anyway—you’ve given an interesting thumbnail of these guys, and, worse, you’ve used their names. What if you want to write another Gus? A hot Gus? Like the guy on Major Crimes with a little bit of facial scruff and big limpid eyes and a way of getting under a tough cookie’s skin that makes us all melt just a little. (Seriously—in the “I love you” scene with Gus and Rusty, my husband went “Awwww…” and thems some special romantic hero superpowers right there.)
So what am I going to do with bowling-ball-belly Gus? I mean, I used his name! And we have to deal with that all the time—when you’re thinking of a tertiary character, you can’t use a name too obvious or too ridiculous or two out there.
But you can’t use that name again.
So I proposed—just in jest, mind you, on the blog since I was blogging that night—that I just grab this cadre of guys, Matt, Mike, Mark, Rufus, and Gus, and use them constantly. Wherever you need a chorus of work guys, we’d have Mike, Matt, Mark, Rufus, and Gus. They’d be everywhere, in every profession. Construction workers, engineers, pet store employees. They’d be like a repertory theater of tertiary characters, and the best part?
I’d never have to write them as MC’s. I’d never have to worry about writing a Rufus and worry about people confusing him with long-haired Rufus with the potbelly, the toenail fungus and the three alimony checks—that’s just Rufus! There’s only one. He’s everywhere!
And of course, I was being facetious.
But the people (there’s like three of them—I love them so) who read my blog got offended for Rufus. But wait? Didn’t middle-aged potbellied aging hair band rockers with toenail fungus need love too? Why couldn’t bald, goateed Gus who belches three times with every meal be Rufus’s best buddy and then his romantic hero?
No. No, no, no, no, no. I was drawing the line.
I had to be able to dream about these guys shagging, and no. I wasn’t doing Rufus and Gus, meeting at the dermatologists to turn their toenails a healthy white again.
And that’s when things got weird.
Because I was in the grocery store line while my husband went to get another cart, and I checked my FB feed, and saw this:
Yes. That’s two guys in crocheted jumpsuits.
And the commenter, Faith, was suggesting that, here were Gus and Rufus in their younger years, and I shouldn’t give up on their romance.
First I cracked up. I mean… LOOK AT THAT PICTURE.
Then… then, I began to imagine that conversation in the doctor’s office about the embarrassment of toenail fungus and how rad their new acrylic jumpsuits were and shouldn’t they meet each other’s grandmothers and how they had a whole closet of jumpsuits that they could share.
And the line moved and I looked up to see if Mate had gotten the cart.
He had. He was standing there with it, and staring at me, a smirk on his face.
“I was talking to myself again, wasn’t I?”
He bust out laughing.
“You were having a full on convo. I hope it was romance in bloom.”
Yes. Yes it was. It was Gus and Rufus bonding over acrylic yarn and toenail fungus and dammit. They were just supposed to be tertiary characters in the damned novella!
Now, I have at the moment a queue—full on that I could write for three, possibly four years without pausing for breath. But, at some time in the future, you find yourself reading about Rufus and Gus, acrylic jumpsuit aficionados and toenail fungus sufferers, now you know two things.
You know that the imagination is a fathomless well that collects all sorts of shit whether you want it to or not.
And you know that I talk to myself in public when my imagination is working and I don’t have a keyboard in public.
And you know how that happened.