Thursday, January 6, 2011

The voices in my head

Last night a fellow writer on Twitter was talking about his characters and how they had commandeered a scene. He wanted it one way, but the characters wanted it another. For someone who doesn't write that may sound weird. You're arguing with characters in a story you're writing? Where's your straight jacket?

Trust me, it's not that crazy.

Part of a writer's job is not only to write an amazing story, but to make characters that are real. Characters that you can see yourself interacting with, loving or hating. It's another piece of advice I have gotten over and over, If the character is real to you, he/she is real to the reader.

So are my characters real to me? Oh yeah, they are very real in my mind, always talking, eager to tell their story. Sometimes what they say isn't even in the story I'm writing but I still have to listen. I listen and learn who my characters are, what they like and dislike and everything else that gives a person (real or fictional) personality.

And sometimes how I think a character will act isn't how the character acts.

I  recently took a break from Being Human, starting on what would be considered the sequel. In this one, we meet Drew. I knew what sort of person he'd be and how he'll evolved before I started writing. That was a no brainer. What I didn't know was who Mackie was. Mackie is Drew's foster parent in a way, he runs a home for very troubled teens. At first I thought he'd be a horrible man, cruel and uncaring about his charges. Then I started writing and Mackie showed me who he really was. And he's not mean or cruel. He's a really sweet guy that cares deeply about the kids he takes in, about Drew. I couldn't get him to shut up! Mackie was peeved I wanted to portray him as a jerk and he made sure I knew the kind of person he really was. No arguments.

There is a downside to this. While I couldn't get Mackie to shut up, Drew was very silent. I struggled to write because Drew just wasn't talking to me. He wasn't talking because right now he's shy. He's shy and uncertain and wishes he was invisible. Even now, I can see him, face tipped down, occasionally glancing up at me, worried he'll say something stupid.

(Later in the story, he will open up, unafraid to talk. I just have to get to that point, struggling to get him to tell me what's going through his mind, his views, his story. All the while, telling Mackie to shut the heck up!)

See what I mean now? From that little bit wouldn't you think I was talking about two people? Two real people? That's what I have to do. With each character, even the minor ones. When they are real to me, they are real to you.

Are they real yet?

Also, curious about my friend at the beginning? Check out his blog or Twitter.


  1. Nice post - and I am now following your work. I agree certainly - my characters become very real to me. Very nice blog and I look forward to reading more. Fabulous!

  2. Glad to year that Saylor! Thanks. (writer's are the only one who can get away w/ talking about voices in head and not get looked at too crazy!)

  3. Aha! But you are crazy Patty!! LOL So true tho ... about the characters speaking to you.

  4. I dunno... plenty of religious people seem to get away with it too.

    I can definitely relate to what you said about certain characters speaking up at different times. Right now, for example, Mik has uncovered a rather painful memory, and doesn't particularly want to talk about, and meanwhile Ash is being very vocal with his opinions about what is about to happen.

    And thanks for the mentions... any traffic is greatly appreciated =)

  5. No problem, us aspiring writers gotta stick together. Plus, I'm really digging your story. (Got this blog idea from yours too.) Now back to characters that don't want to talk. ^^;;

  6. Character commandeering? Hm, with me that usually means there was a plot hole or the situation I'd planned wouldn't actually fit the story or characters.

    I generally act out scenes rather than hear my characters jabber on in my head about real life. Until recently, I'd never actually had the characters themselves intrude on my life; I put myself in theirs, or tap them on the shoulder and "ask" what they'd think of something.

    Recently, my family visited a historic site. It was as if I was listening to two of my characters walk through it. The teenage girl insisted the building had "ugly" decor; her older male companion argued that just because she didn't like it didn't make it ugly. (Oh, it got better. And funnier. I wrote the scene out, though I'll probably never be able to actually use it.) I was a bit unnerved by the girl being more interested in the gardens than I am, but I look forward to experiencing that, again.

    And as a note, not all writers have their characters "talk" to them. It really depends on the way your mind works, I think.