When I asked a reader what she would like to see discussed at CFC, here's what she suggested:
… [A writer] having a character spring to life in her mind and having to write his story. As someone to whom this has NEVER happened, and to whom it is very unlikely to happen in the future, I was interested in what makes the urge to tell stories take root in a person’s mind.
Lordy, gordy. This tiny little bit set my mind on a roll. This is from The Missings—(I needed a minor character to give direction to a secondary character. See how small the role was supposed to be?):
“My sister has been murdered and I am looking for her killer. You and I have both heard about ‘the missings’ in our community, and I’m told you know something about them. There’s a good chance whoever is responsible for their disappearance is also responsible for my sister’s death. Will you talk to us?”
The entire time Elizabeth spoke, the man’s eyes remained fixed on Daniel. Those eyes, surprisingly light in a dark Chicano face, were hot with reined-in anger. His body signaled casual, easy: the kind of end-of-the-day posture all workingmen get, whether they’ve spent hours in the sweat of manual labor or sitting behind a desk. Forget that the clock said noon, his demeanor said relaxed. But his eyes told a different story. Intense. Unrelenting.
Elizabeth paused for a moment, waiting for an answer. The man’s attention never left Daniel.
“Do you always,” he enunciated in slow, precise Spanish, “let women do your talking?” The man did not so much as twitch. His voice remained low. Calm. “Did you leave your balls behind with your Mexican heritage?”
Daniel took a step closer. Pulled Elizabeth out of the way. Leaned in.
“My balls,” he replied in Spanish, “are where they’ve always been. Do you want to see who has the bigger pair?”
The man smiled. Then he laughed. Harder. So loud the rest of the bar once again grew silent. “I won’t work with someone who clearly denies who he is. You won’t get anything from me regardless of the beauty of the women you send ahead.” He cocked his head. “However, I’ve heard good things about someone in your department. Tell Detective Waters I will come to see him this afternoon. Tell him it’s time for me to find someone I can trust and that it isn’t you.”
This was my first introduction to Mex (whose real name is Carlos Alberto Basilio Teodoro Duque de Estrada Anderson). I met him just as readers met him. Fully formed. I knew immediately that he'd suffered tremendous loss. Strong. I knew he had a code he would not violate. I also knew how much that code had cost him. He showed up in the shadows of a bar in The Missings and threatened to derail the whole book. I was thinking Jack Reacher. I was thinking Lucas Davenport. He was thinking Mex Anderson.
I was soooo close to finishing the first draft of this book. I just needed a guy in a bar to help point my detectives in the right direction. Instead, Rambo showed up.
And he wouldn't shut up.
I became desperate. At the same time I was falling in love with this wounded-loner-strong-macho character, I was trying my damnedest to finish this story. My solution? Promise him one of his own if he'd just tone it down a notch.
Here's the deal: our "urges" take us onto the paths we're meant to follow. It's our choice. Writers, mathematicians, teachers, fire fighters, politicians, truck drivers or whatever… we get the urge and then we decide. Once we determine what path we're going to walk, we're at the mercy of the whims of that path. In my case, for this point in time, it was Mex Anderson.