Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Listening for Voices


You know what it's like to have a character's voice suddenly show up in your head, telling you stories and demanding that you write them down?

Wait, you do? 

<Sighs with jealousy> 

It seems like a lot of authors have been accosted by their protagonists before they even started writing their story. The characters appeared to them in dreams, or woke them up with a scream or a monologue, and then continued to haunt them until their stories made it to the page. Even my husband, who never planned to be a writer, is currently writing his first novel because a story came to him and now the characters won’t get out of his head. 

This has never happened to me. I'm usually struck by a concept or a piece of plot; the characters start as game pieces, essentially, and I have to flesh them out from there. 

Even though wishing for voices in my head sounds, well, crazy, I’m jealous of authors who have such vocal and developed characters from the start. My characters aren’t completely  submissive: I have been pleasantly surprised when they do or say something unexpected as I’m writing them. But they’re never very active in my head when I'm not writing, and many of them still don’t have voices that feel real and strong.

But I’m coming to terms with the way my writing mind works. And even though my characters don't yell at me when my word count dwindles (caused more by Hulu than the holidays right now, I’ll admit it), random messages from the universe have been reminding me that making dreams a reality takes time and dedication, not excuses or delays. (Thank you King’s Dark Tower series, which is saturated with procrastination guilt, and the second verse of “Airplane.” Told you they were random.)

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get super stressed or beat myself up about the days when I don't dive into my writing. Making writing feel too much like work is not helpful either. I just keep reminding myself that I need to finish something – really finish it and shine it up all pretty and send it out to people – before I can say that I even tried to achieve my dreams. And afterall, I do enjoy my WIP, so we should really spend more time together.

Plus, the more I write about them, the more likely my characters are to develop into real people and have a stronger presence in my mind.

I know:  Be careful what you wish for…

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