Do Characters and Worlds Haunt Your Brain?

Gus didn’t enjoy his adventure as much as he thought he would, but he did make a new friend.

Do Characters And Worlds Haunt Your Brain?

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

What is it about writing stories that forces us to write? Is it the characters in our heads clamoring to get out or the ideas of putting together a world different than our own?

I’ve had characters so insistent that I write their story, they keep me awake at night and some of those characters haven’t even been human. Like Gus, he’s a mouse. He wanted an adventure so badly that once I met him, he wouldn’t leave me alone.

Believe it or not, I first met Gus while I was working with my daughter Jamie cleaning an apartment. That’s what Jamie and her husband David do for a living, they paint and clean apartments when people move out of them. I sometimes help them on weekends.

Anyway, on this particular day, I was on my hands and knees, cleaning under a sink and I started thinking about mice. Well, you know, under a sink is a place mice often live. I’m not really afraid of mice, but if one were to show its self suddenly, I might scream. So I was watching for mice when this idea popped into my head. What if a mouse were to get lost? What if a city mouse suddenly found himself in the country or vice versa?

At that moment Gus introduced himself. You see Gus lived with Billy. Billy was Gus’ friend and he took care of Gus. Billy would read to Gus about pirates and adventures on the high seas, but then Billy would put Gus in his cage where he was safe and Billy would go on adventures of his own. Gus wanted to go with Billy, just once.

Gus lived in my head after that until I finally gave him his adventure in “Gus’ Big Adventure” which can be read at

Have you ever had a character like Gus haunting your brain until you write his story? Some characters have a specific location in mind or something different in their world that doesn’t exist in your own. For me, that was Emily. She kept bugging me until I wrote her story and gave her, her own world?

If you’ve had a character like Emily, your character may have wanted a world set in the far off future or in the past, but my character wanted her world right here in Iowa at a location that’s in the north east corner of the state. I live on the western side of the state, twelve miles from the Missouri River. Emily’s world is 250 miles away from mine, but Emily wouldn’t take no for an answer. She insisted that’s where she had to live and then she sprang something else on me.

She’s a psychic and something terrible happened in her past so bad, she didn’t want to remember ever having her “gift” or what happened to make her deny it.

Now I personally don’t know anyone who is psychic. I’ve met a couple of people who claimed to be and they even got paid for doing it, but I didn’t really know them.

And I’ve never met anyone in my small town that claimed to be a psychic either. I’m not saying they don’t exist in my real world, I’m just saying I’ve never met them. But psychics do exist in the world I created in my book Nightmares. Emily is one of them and she lives in a small town in Iowa and her world has psychics, a ghost and a serial killer in it.

The worlds I create in my fiction, are worlds similar to my own, but yet very different. So when I write stories about people who have the “gift” for a little while, I get to live in their world with them. I get to see everything through their eyes and feel what they feel. It’s heady stuff and I love it. I guess that’s another reason why I write.

What about you? Why do you write? Do you have characters in your head begging to come out? Or maybe you don’t write, but you love to read. Do you read so you can live in those other worlds for a short time too?

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

My facebook author page is: My facebook profile page is: Twitter is:

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

6 responses to “Do Characters and Worlds Haunt Your Brain?

  1. Well Donna,

    That was a fun post. I can definitely relate because characters live in my head also and they know what they want. I rarely sleep because of it – maybe 3 or 4 hours a night max. I agree it is fun escaping into their worlds once in awhile.


    • Hi Sunni, thank you for visiting and leaving a comment. I’m glad you liked the post. I never know what to say so I just start typing, but I’m never sure what write makes sense to anyone but me. Fiction is much easier to write than nonfiction, at least for me. I would die if I could only get 3-4 hours of sleep a night. I gotta have at least 6 hours. Thanks again for commenting.

  2. I write and my characters come after me to tell me what they want in my dreams. But none of them have ever been animals!

    I love gus! 😀

  3. Hi Donna,

    Wow, what an awesome post.
    Love the picture of Gus and his friend.

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