Good morning dear readers and writers. First, may I offer a huge thank you for all the comments and encouragement I received from the last post. Writer’s know what it is to get bogged down in the process, and no one is better at pulling you up from that dark, dusting off the weight of the little failures that cling to your shoulders, and giving you a gentle but determined shove back up on the road. So thank you for your advice and encouraging words. They mean a lot.
Between that last blog and this one, I was lucky enough to take Todd Mitchell’s workshop on Creativity. I’d been to a few of his classes but this one seemed serendipitous. I knew I needed to start writing again, a novel. A big project to immerse myself in, and I have a beautiful trio sort of dangling between first draft and not quite done currently on my computer. I love the second book, and that’s obvious by how close to done it is. The third, similarly has pulled me in and I’m enjoying working through the rough patches. But the first. Ah…the first. Kind of the keystone in a series…well…it’s a piece of shit.
And it took me a while to really figure out why during rewrites last year. The main character had somehow taken on the dreaded Susie Sunshine persona (probably because the concept of her was born many years ago.) So, I put her through a character-lift (like a facelift but for imaginary people without faces yet). She got a spanking new name and I roughed up her edges. But nothing in the story seemed to make sense and it felt like trying to force an incorrect puzzle piece into a million different holes that did not fit. What in the hell was wrong with her? I knew what she needed to do and the plot and arc of the book was solid.
But I didn’t believe she was the woman to live it. And I was stuck.
And then Todd said something about struggling with a novel for years until he finally sat down and wrote a letter to his main character and asked him “What is it you want me to know? What’s your story? What am I not seeing?”
For the average human reading this post, I’ve just solidified in your head what absolute insanity writers possess. What do you mean you ask your characters? You created them. You know them. That’s your brain.
But the brain is a tricky place, silly non-writer. It’s vast, and expansive and it has a million rooms we’ve never even found the doors to, let alone explored. And sometimes, characters and answers lay behind those doors. And the only way to access them is to stop trying to force the answer. (I’m planning a post on Alpha State writing so hanging in for that one). Answers com only when we calm the hell down, and sit quietly outside the door, letting go of our ego and our need to tell the story, and just listen to their story.
Sounds crazy. Absolutely, bat-shit, bonkers.
And it totally works.
I put on a meditative playlist, took some deep breaths and focused on her name. Her new name. Her newly rough edges. And I sat, with my back to her door and took some deep breaths. I closed my eyes and started typing. And I didn’t question or stop, or allow myself to think of what she was saying. I just listened to her.
Here’s what it looked like:
So, I’ve been struggling with you.
Yeah, I know.
I want to create you
You can’t create me. I just am.
So who are you?
What is it you want me to know? What am I missing about you?
You began so light and perfect
That’s not how the world works. Not for babies abandoned, babies with parents like mine.
What does that mean? Who are you?
I am Danika Brennen. I was left at a fire station as a baby. An orphan.
Who left you there?
A pregnant vagabond, disowned. My mom
Who was she?
An member of the High Guard,
Are you ***’s daughter?
No, I’m Loki’s.
Now, I’m not going to give everything away, but that last thing she said…that was an answer I didn’t know until I let her talk to me. And it’s an answer that I can write a book from. That will help me, help her navigate through this story…to a better place. To a life she deserves. As dark as she thinks she is.
It’s crazy right? But talk to any fiction writer and I guarantee they’ve had some kind of experience with their characters talking to them, to each other, offering unwanted suggestions or criticism along the way. And yes, they’re all in our heads. But I think as humans we underestimate the expansive reach of our brains and neural capacity.
I mean what if they’re not just our consciousness, what if they’re wavelengths in a much bigger plane of existence that we’ve only just started to understand. The wavelengths and dimensions that only open to us, When we listen.
One thought on “Listening to Our Characters”
Kind of spooky but I feel it! Good job Sarah!
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