Instinct

Ellie James is my very special guest blogger today.  Ellie writes the Midnight Dragonfly books that follow the life of a 16-year-old psychic. Her latest book Broken Illusions is being released today, and it is fantastic.

Sometimes it’s a whisper, that quiet voice inside you when you see someone for the first time. Eyes meet—or they don’t—and something inside you shifts. You’re either immediately drawn, or immediately repelled. Maybe you’re not even consciously aware of the sensation. Maybe you write it off to something that happened earlier that day, to being tired or sad or a thousand other things.

Other times it’s more of a shout, a fierce, urgent voice from somewhere unseen, screaming for you to shove your way across the room before someone walks away—or insisting that whatever you do, you stay exactly where you are. That you don’t cross the room. You don’t walk through the door. You don’t step into the darkness.

And yet, whether the knowing comes through a whisper or a shout (or somewhere in between) the source is the same: instinct. It’s hard-wired in us. Our senses are constantly working in concert, like the most amazingly well-rehearsed symphony, often behind the scenes, to guide us in the right direction, to make the right decisions. It’s the mother who knows when her baby is sick or hungry, and the teen who knows which stranger is going to lead to big trouble. The key is listening. Hearing. Trusting. Often this means ignoring conventional wisdom or logic, advice or what appears to be fact. This is how our ancestors survived, how they knew when to seek shelter or stand their ground, when to go for the kill or run for their lives.

In many ways, instinct is the soundtrack of our lives. In movies or television, music provides the prompt. You can close your eyes and simply listen, and the music tells you when to be afraid, when to run, when to melt.

Unfortunately, in real life we don’t get the pounding percussions (at least not usually!) when we meet someone who is trouble, or the rich, swelling melodies when we meet someone of a whole different kind of trouble! But we know all the same. We know. Maybe the warning comes through a quick chill or a warm rush, a sharp twist of the stomach or a tightening of the throat. Those are all cues—instinct—every bit as much as music in movies. And yet, sometimes we ignore or suppress, pretend it’s not happening, because we don’t like what it’s telling us. We want to trust that incredibly charismatic stranger, or to be part of the “in” crowd. We want to walk into that room or take that chance.

We don’t want our instinct to be true.

The same is true with writing. You have the perfect plot. You’ve slaved over every action and reaction, sweated every twist and hammered out every detail. You know exactly what needs to happen, and why. And yet, once the words hit the page, something…happens. Maybe it’s the whisper. Maybe the shout. Regardless of the form, your inner knowledge it trying to communicate: something is wrong.

Over the years my muse has become increasingly vicious with me. Typically as I’m tired and racing toward a deadline, I try to ignore the whispers. However, rather on the tenacious side, she gets more aggressive, spewing cold through me with little messages that claw at my gut. Foolishly I lean on Tums, dark chocolate, and wine to silence what I don’t want to hear. But with time (and great pain) here is what I’ve come to realize. We know. All of us. Even when we don’t want to, even when we don’t understand why, we know when things are right, and when they’re wrong. We know when to rush forward or regroup, when to retreat or recreate.

With the book I just turned in, the third in my Midnight Dragonfly series, I had a new character painted one way, but he totally needed to be someone else. I tried to convince myself he was fine the way he was, but my muse did her cruel, evil, vicious thing, and ultimately it became in my better interest to change the character, versus ignore what instinct was trying to tell me. And now that he’s fixed, wow, not only do I love him, but he won’t stop whispering his story into my ear!

The key, I’ve learned, is remembering that whether instinct whispers or shouts, the message is the same: Listen up, or you’ll be sorry!

About Ellie James

Ellie James is the author of the Midnight Dragonfly books, a new series about a teenage psychic, dreams that terrify, and secrets with the power to heal, and destroy. Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary average wife and mom of two kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.

What they don’t know is that more often than, Ellie is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.

Regardless of which world Ellie is in, her story worlds or the real world, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning, the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall, family, friends and animals, dreams, happy endings, and…chocolate chip cookies.

You can follow Ellie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309.

Her next book, Broken Illusions, is available from Griffin Teen as of today.

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