ME: (clutches heart) Oh my god, Stella, I told you not to do that again!
STELLA: What? Suddenly leap out at you from the novel you're revising?
ME: (weakly) That was the general idea, yes.
STELLA: Well, you're making some huge changes, so everyone's all shaken up in there. I had to come out and say something. (peers at computer screen) So what's all this about a...
ME: Spoiler alert.
STELLA: And did you decide to kill...
ME: Spoiler alert!
STELLA: What about that scene where she's got the knife...
ME: SPOILER ALERT! Stop trying to ruin the ending!
STELLA: (crosses arms over chest) Okay, fine. But you owe me an explanation. Why are you changing the entire ending of ELEGY?
ME: First of all, I don't owe you anything. You are a figment of my imagination, and if I wanted to, I could do this. (finger hovers over Delete key)
STELLA: You wouldn't dare. I'm too young and beautiful and talented to die.
ME: (calmly deletes an entire page)
STELLA: STOP IT, YOU NUT JOB!
ME: (hits Ctrl+Z to undo) Get a grip, you know I need that page. And I'm not changing the ending. Not for sure, anyway.
STELLA: (glares, points at screen) Then what is this all about?
ME: This alternate ending's just for fun. Half of my CPs liked ELEGY's original ending, but the other half didn't, so I want to see what happens when I end it the way they think it should have ended.
STELLA: But why? You love the original ending, too.
ME: That's... I... (defensively) I'm open to feedback. And how would you know?
STELLA: (eyeroll) From the tear that rolled down your cheek when you reread it, you cheesy sap.
ME: Why are you so upset about me changing the ending, anyway? I don't have to change anything about you directly. (pauses) Wait a sec. That's the problem, isn't it?
STELLA: (loftily) I haven't the faintest clue what you mean.
ME: You want everything to be about you, and you're mad that I'm focusing on this other character.
STELLA: Everything is about me. I am ELEGY. Just like Theseus over there is THREADS, aren't you, Theseus?
THESEUS: (from behind) Well... yeah.
ME: (clutches heart) Okay, moving forward, you guys are officially BANNED from jumping out of your stories.
THESEUS: (raises eyebrow) I killed the Minotaur, I am a prince of Athens, and I may or may not be the son of Poseidon. Also, I am quite pretty. So I believe I can do whatever I please. (looks casually at the screen) Yes, I see what you mean, Stella. She totally cannot write.
ME: (angrily) Why are all of my characters egomaniacs?
NOELLE: Hey! I'm not an egomaniac! I am friendly and adorable, and I have a magic wand and great taste in shoes. (eyes Theseus) And men.
ME: He's too old for you.
NOELLE: No, he's not!
ME: PPP is a middle-grade novel. You are fourteen. So yes, he's too old for you.
LAUREN: Okay, since we're all jumping out of our stories, I would like to say that I am not an egomaniac, either. (looks thoughtfully at me) In fact, I'm like you. I think I am you.
ME: (blushes) RICE FLOWER MEMOIRS was my first novel, okay?! Self-insertion is totally allowed just that one time.
STELLA: Why is this suddenly not all about me? (stomps foot) We are talking about my story, and my character arc, so all of you guys can get lost.
LAUREN: Let's take that ego down a few billion notches.
STELLA: Excuuuse me for being self-confident. I don't see anyone else in this room who opened a Carnegie Hall concert at age thirteen.
NOELLE: I fought a band of evil goblins at age fourteen. Does that count?
THESEUS: I traveled, barefoot, from Troezen to Athens and slew a bunch of monsters along the way.
LAUREN: And I was in high school? And, uh, I wrote a novel?
STELLA: (scoffs) My point is, all of you guys are on the shelf, and this conversation is about ME and MY ending. And I want to know why it's changing.
ME: Because I said so.
ALL CHARACTERS: (staring blankly)
ME: I know you guys think you run the show because I let you do random stuff sometimes, and I agree to your crazy schemes here and there, but get this through your hopefully three-dimensional, hopefully well-fleshed out heads: I AM THE BOSS. The big cheese. La jefe. Lauren, if I want to shamelessly write myself into a story under the guise of an original character, i.e. YOU, I'll do it.
LAUREN: (nods meekly)
ME: Theseus, if I want to write in a gory injury for you - maybe as a punishment for just abandoning Ariadne like that - I'll do it. Capiche?
THESEUS: (flexes again)
NOELLE: (gazes at his biceps)
ME: He's still too old for you.
NOELLE: Oh, fine, you grump!
ME: And if I wanted to write ALL of you into one ridiculous mash-up of a novel, in which fairy godmothers must use haunted violins to battle a secret army of Minotaurs in Vietnam, I'LL DO IT. OKAY?
STELLA: (mutters something that sounds like "Look who's an egomaniac now")
ME: Okay, now that we're clear on that, I have to get back to work. My pitch and pages are going up for Pitch Wars soon, and I have to make sure ELEGY's in good shape.
ALL CHARACTERS: Yeah, yeah...
THESEUS: So... that mash-up novel? Is that really happening? And can I be the main fairy godmother?