Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Losing a Grip on Reality

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?

Yesterday 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 when it comes out this fall. 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.


Luisa Perkins said...

Annette, we really are the same person. I've actually almost used anecdotes from my characters' lives to support arguments--but fortunately have stopped myself in time. They do become awfully real, don't they?

Off-topic--I heard one of my favorite Celtic ballads this morning and thought of you (and A of GG). It's called "The Tinkerman's Daughter," sung by Niamh Parsons, and the last line of the chorus is "The tinkerman's daughter/the red-headed Anne." Do you know it?

Tristi Pinkston said...

You're not crazy, Annette, you're a dedicated novelist!

And FWIW, you're not alone. I've done the same thing. A lot. And like you, known that no one would really get it except for another novelist.

Josi said...

Yeah, the nice thing is that there is always someone to talk to and they always tell you you look great! Being a writer is definitely neurotic.


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