You’re Not Crazy, You’re a Writer.

Anyone who has people in their head talking to them must be crazy right?

Probably.

But aside from having a few screws loose, Writers sometimes describe the characters they imagine as if they are real, making their own decisions.

Your story’s hero telling you what happens next is a subject that often comes up in my writers group, particularly from one  writer I greatly admire named John. I admit it sounds pretty bonkers, but the more I write, the more firmly I believe he has a point.

John explained that he began his fantasy novel from the POV (that’s point of view for anyone who does not yet know) of a male character. A young girl, intended only as a supporting character, slowly began to impact the tale more and more. As thought she had a mind of her own, she shoved everyone else into supporting roles and took center stage. Having read large portions of John’s work, I can’t imagine the story working from anyone else’s POV. He will say she told him to boot the other guys so she could tell it how it really is.

Fantasy writers are a special breed of people who spend their lives with their heads in the clouds, myself among them. I catch myself staring off into space sometimes, a picture of some far off world that doesn’t exist dancing through my daydreams. Political intrigue, murder, magical spells, a stolen throne…

Good thing I am my own boss, or I would have been fired ages ago.

I think mental attachment to the characters in your story will serve you in the end. Let the characters go where it feels natural, and breathe your own life into them-even the bad guys. Understand their motivations, imagine how you would feel in the situation you have set for them. When you are dealing with the fantastical and unbelievable, how else are you going to make your characters relatable, or believable? You can’t really step through a portal and find yourself in a world full of pixies, unicorns, and cotton candy clouds. In order for a reader to be able to take that journey with you, the writer, you have to be able to put some human element into your character-even if he or she (or it) is not human.

Look at Anne Rice. In Interview with the Vampire, Lestat is this monster with no redeeming qualities. He steals life, and he uses people. A detestable, but more importantly, believable individual.  But behold the next book in the series, titled The Vampire Lestat. You see Lestat’s origins and begin to understand what makes the monster tick. Not far into that novel my heart was grieving for the character I was condemning one short book ago. I don’t know Anne Rice (how cool would it be if I did?) but I’d be willing to bet she had some idea of where Lestat came from when she was writing Interview with a Vampire. Without that depth, Lestat’s character would have been just a boring thing that went bump in the night, and nobody would have bothered to read it.

So my point is this: Let your characters talk to you. Listen to what they tell you. Understand where all of them are coming from. Tell the story they want to tell.

And if doing that makes us a little crazy, well, I’m okay with that.

 

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