Ahhhh, it’s the holiday season here at The Backstory Cafe. That means twinkly lights, festive garland, and giant piles of goodies in the overflowing bakery case. Yesssssss!
Today I’m sitting at a small table near the back, sipping a vanilla latte, trying really hard no to snag a delicious looking candy cane off the nearby Christmas tree. My novel is done (whooohooo!) so the stars of that project, the Burberry family, have decided to take a much needed vacation, making it quiet in the cafe today.
I had imagined an uneventful morning of writing, maybe I’d work on some scenery, but just as I got comfortable in my chair I was interrupted by a question from behind me.
“Up for some gin?” asked a slurred voice.
I smiled, recognizing the boozy drawl immediately. It was Lolly, one of the most wonderful and unruly of characters ever to barge into my writing.
I turned to her with one eyebrow up, “Did you bring cards?”
Lolly tipped her grey-coiffed head and plunked herself down at my table. An invitation for gin with Lolly could easily mean a trip to the bar, but as Lolly sat down to join me, I could see she had already softened her mood with a few shots and was currently shuffling like a Vegas pro. A game it is.
As she delt me seven cards, Lolly watched me with a glimmer in her eye. “So,” she began.
“So,” I said setting aside my notebook and pen.
Lolly fanned her cards close to her face and smiled smugly at me. “You working on something new?” I could tell she had a good hand.
I glanced over at my notebook and smirked. “Could be.” Lolly and I first met about three years ago during my first attempt at writing a novel. I had this whole tidy story idea in my mind about a man who fakes his own death on a cruise ship. I began the writing process with some organized notes and even a sketchy outline, but when I sat down to write the story on my laptop, the plot hit the fan. By page ten, Lolly–a totally unplanned character–had stolen the show.
“Kinda quiet in here,” she said looking around. Lolly’s sly smile and blinky eyes told me she was hinting at something.
I blew out a deep breath, remembering how hard I tried to wrestle Lolly into a minor sub-plot as a nosy elderly shipguest with a knack for cards and martinis. No matter how hard I tried to steer the scenes, Lolly always ended up with the best lines. The other characters didn’t stand a chance. After months of pulling my hair out, I set the chaotic manuscript in a drawer and promised the cast I’d get back to them.
“You miss me?” I asked sorting my cards.
“No dear, YOU missed me.”
I looked into those crinkly blue eyes and had to laugh. Lolly is back. And she wants a starring role this time.
“Okay, okay,” I said shaking my head. “I’ll make a few notes.” She has been very patient, you know, not even visiting the set of my latest novel.
Lolly nodded, knowing she had my complete attention. Lucky for me, I thought, I have a few more years of writing experience under my belt now. I’m sure I can create a workable story for her, something exciting–she’ll like that. I’ll do the plotting, she’ll do the dialogue. I can handle Lolly this time, right?
I smiled across the table at this dynamic woman and wondered how on earth I was going to keep her in line. Lolly smiled back as if she could hear my thoughts, then laid her cards on the table with a snap.