February 24, 2009

Writing and Talking to Yourself. I do. Do you?

I realized that most of the time I probably look crazy. Why? I talk to myself. A lot.

Hey, you know you get the best answers that way, right? (Or at least the ones you want!)

But talking to myself is not a sign of mental instability. It's more an occupational hazard.

You see, when I'm talking to myself, it's not really me. (Uh-oh) It's really my characters speaking through, and to me.

No, I'm not talking possession or multiple personalities, though I do hear a lot of voices in my head. The voices I hear don't tell me crazy things, though. (Thank goodness I don't write about serial killers).

As I'm writing, my characters tell me what they think. They tell me if what I'm putting on paper sounds like them - or should be attributed to someone else.

Writing is more than just putting words down on paper. It evokes the senses.

If you're in tune with your writing, you should see the action in your head. You should see it unfold in your imagination. You should see a character doing things that only he or she would do.

You should hear the lilt of a character's voice, or the gruffness of a crabby old neighbor, or hear the fear in your character's voice. You should hear the way that character speaks.

You should smell their surroundings, or the musky scent of their sweat, or the slightly cloying smell of an older lady's favorite perfume. You should smell the sweetness of fresh-baked cookies. Your mouth should water as you see those still warm cookies get taken out of the oven.

All it takes is a few words, the right words, for you - and your reader - to experience all those things and get into the story.

All it takes is sitting down and letting your characters talk to you. And don't be afraid to have a conversation with them. Hearing your characters speak, and getting to know them, is what makes them come alive and seem real.

If you can't hear them or know who they are, will they be real enough for anyone else to want to read about them - or really care? If not, you need to start letting them talk - and start talking back.

** Your Turn: How do you get to know your characters?


  1. I dream up characters but once they are on paper, I lose control. They take over and are very insistent about what they will and will not do!

    Jane Kennedy Sutton
    Author of The Ride

  2. Oh, thank God I'm NOT alone!!! LOL

    Over the last few months I've actually found myself talking to characters who flit around at the periphery of my field of sight, and have been known to approach and give me a 'big cuddle' from behind ... particularly in those last few drowsy moments when I'm just about to let go and srop off the edge of the precipice and sleep .....

    I have to be VERY strict with my characters, though. As soon as I have them half-pinned to the page they seem to wriggle away from the threat of incarceration and run off to create havoc with my plotlines......

  3. See Paul? You are not crazy. No, not really. No he isn't. Yes. No... Sorry got carried away. Interfering voices. ha!

  4. Definitely, if you're not in your characters' heads, no one else will be here.

    Love the new look of your blog!

    Morgan Mandel

  5. I'm with Jane. My characters seem ti dictate where they go and what they say.

    I've even had characters pop onto the page without my knowing!


  6. Yep, yep, gotta hear those characters, and see them (at least in your head). I do tend to dream about them more than see them in the waking hours, though.

    Helen Ginger


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