I was going through my writing class papers for a final portfolio and came across this. I wrote it as a humorous process essay in my writing class in September/October and figured some of you would get a kick out of it. Enjoy! ^_^
Back to work,
The Voices Told Me
When in a group of people, the best way for an author to get a weird look from someone is to start talking about an imaginary character as though he is real and alive in her thoughts. Those around her may smile, or laugh, but when that odd individual turns away, they exchange glances behind the author’s back. Did you hear what she just said? They question with their eyes. Did I hear her right, or am I insane? In some cases, their confusion is warranted: the author may just be joking around. But with a few select authors, his or her claims are true: the author does have characters in her head, and she deserves pity, not bewilderment. Oftentimes, the writer with a character ‘living’ in her mind has the most intriguing stories to tell. These characters are strong-willed and seem to have minds of their own. Once she finds one of these characters in her mind, it’s very hard for her to direct the storyline without unsolicited input from the character himself. Getting the characters and writer to cooperate while recording a story can be a difficult process.
Of course, in order for an author to have a character-driven story, a character must betake himself to fall upon the author. Characters rarely show up when the writer is looking for them. Instead, they pounce on her unawares and quickly take control of the creative district of her mind. This happens in a vast variety of ways: for example, this author has been drawing on her homework, and suddenly a character appears on the page who demands his story be told. More often than not, characters come alive when the author is exposed to other writers’ characters. Shortly after the author reads or hears of another character in a movie or a book, a character similar in appearance or personality introduces himself.
A character like this—the kind that is strong-willed enough to have a mind of his own—won’t let the author just write a story and put him in it. The character comes with a personality, history, and vivacity that the author can’t create; she can only record the story the character brings to her. It sounds easy to simply type out the story, but as it turns out, this can be more difficult than it sounds.
After characters make themselves at home in the poor, innocent author’s head, they do one of two things. The characters will start dictating their story, or they will simply enjoy that they found a host for a while. This author has had several characters invade the creative branch of her mind and sit there complaining about how she wasn’t typing out their respective stories like a good little writer. Of course, this is often because the character hasn’t dictated the whole tale yet. When characters are reminded of this, however, they are impassive. Though these characters are often very colorful and interesting, they can also be very stubborn.
This part of the story-writing process often takes the most time. Even the characters who regularly bestow parts of their story upon the author often take their sweet time about it. Sometimes a character gives the writer an erratic mish-mash of scenes and ideas he wants portrayed without providing an actual storyline. This provides the author some fuel for short stories and vignettes. This is fine if that’s all the character wants, but for a writer who feels she could make the story into a play or novel, the limited cooperation of the characters can be very irritating. It often takes a long, long time for the story to be pieced together.
Then there’s always writer’s block, which often comes right as the author finally gets that one part she was begging her character for— that she’s been pleading and wrestling her character for. Finally she gets it—and writer’s block happens. She can’t write another word. But after a while, the story comes together, like a beautiful masterpiece. The writer can work on it and refine it, all the while heeding the voices in her head that will make her life miserable if she doesn’t portray the characters just right. Then it is ready to be distributed, and those characters get what they’ve been vying for all along: readers. Hopefully, the characters will give the author blessed silence for a while.
Of course, that’s only for a while. After the story is over, the character still doesn’t leave the author. Sometimes he’ll come back and flaunt his popularity with readers, or he might complain about how people take him for granted. Sometimes a character gives the host a new plot or scene to be recorded and distributed. Maybe the character will just hang out in the author’s brain like another personality. For as many characters live in a writer’s head, however, it’s very likely that writer will lose a friend in the real world to an opinion of insanity. But, as the characters will assure her, they’re more interesting than anyone in real life. That’s what they say, anyway.
Some people who haven’t had any experience with author-types raise their eyebrows when confronted with the idea of head-dwelling characters who write their own stories. It is an interesting and abstract concept, but writers will tell you it can also be a very long and arduous process. Characters develop their own ideas and opinions of how the story should proceed, and they’d tell you the authors can be very stubborn when it comes to accepting them. They’d tell you it takes some time and some stretching of the writer’s patience for her to finally accept the story. Of course, they’re all biased, but nevertheless, their words ring true . . . and most of the time, the characters really do know best.