Jittery morning, a cocktail of caffeine and thyroid meds and another (delightful, truly) night of “writer’s brain” that demanded my attention at odd hours all night. New ideas keep speaking to me, from out of nowhere, with virtually no preparation or planning from me—fleshing-out bits, new twists, richenings, quickenings. That’s a good thing, so I can’t complain.

I’ve been trying very very hard to avoid thinking about what’s coming, what’s inevitable: the end of the affair. Finishing something is tough on me. Crushingly tough. Those written people are flesh and blood lovers to me; I do not take abandonment lightly.

Knowing what’s ahead, I’ve tried to keep my eye on the light. I’ve begun thinking of the next idea…one that was started and set aside; an idea so complex and wonderful that it is already daunting me in a delightful way. It is truly bad form to email a new lover while the current one is asleep in the next room, so I have been hesitant and circumspect in courting the idea. I have introduced my new notebook to my old one, in the hope that the good mojo will transfer from one to the other (and yeah, I know how that sounds.)  But for now, as my teeny 70-plus-year-old mom used to say when casting an eye over a nice looking young man, “I’m only looking, I’m not touching.”

And then there is the one-more-thing. The flirtation. A habit I cannot break: Portraiture.

Long before I understand the souls and psyches of characters, I find myself compelled to fix a visual image in my head; a sort of “casting” in which the seed of the possibility is planted. I did it in Eye of the Mind, with the Karel character, especially (that was pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy, back in the day.) In the book I’m working on now, the process is even more acute. Those few friends who know the identities of the current character-models have been sworn to secrecy. If readers wind up figuring it all out on their own, great—but I ain’t tellin’.

I carry photos of the people in my notebook. I keep them on my computer desktop. I add new pix when a found-shot matches an emotion or an attitude or a characteristic expression that reports the character. I playback those shots every time I need to. It’s the same playback button that switches my music soundtrack on; the two are inextricably linked.

Do other writers do this: use portraiture as a tool for character development? Seems strange to write about my practice in this way: These are real people, remember.  I know they are. I can look at them.

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