Elusive Characters

I’ve always been a “seat of the pants” writer. When I was writing, writing, writing novels to learn the craft of fiction and in hopes of publication, I simply listened for a character to start talking. I didn’t wait for the whole story to take form; I just started putting it to paper (or screen). But now that I don’t have to write an entire novel before I can sell it, everything has changed. Now I need a storyline to pitch—one strong enough to capture my editor, then the acquisitions committee, then the pub board.
So I thought: how hard can this be? I mean, really. I do some research, come up with a storyline and wah-lah!
For two days I read over my research then stared at the blank screen. Yes, I already had a vague paragraph that intrigued my editor to ask for something longer, but I couldn’t seem to make it stretch. The characters became elusive, like they rounded a corner just ahead of me and I just missed laying a hand on their shoulders from behind. So I took a different approach. I quit trying. I cleaned out part of my office, listening to music, with a notepad at my side.
As my hands worked and my brain pulled thoughts of organizing my office to the forefront, in slipped a thought here, a word there. I jotted. Worked some more. Added another impression.
I feel a bit less stressful now. They are starting to talk. Not “sit down across the table and spill their story” talk, but a word whispered near my ear before they sprint away and hide again. I think they are telling me not to hurry, to be still. Not easy, but necessary.
Good thing I have lots of closets left to be organized!