Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing: the one profession/ hobby where it's totally okay to still have imaginary friends

I can't explain it, honestly. I don't really go through any particular processes to get to know my characters, like writing down their hobbies, or what they would wear. I just... know all that stuff. I pull it out when I need it for my story, and put it away when I don't. They come to me as fully-formed people, and just as deep as they need to be.

I know every writer is different. I know some who have this same sort of instant character birth, and others who have to stop and really get to know their characters before they can write them. And just like any other aspect of writing, I can't really say that one way works better than the other.

I know that regardless, our characters won't leave us alone. It makes us sound crazy, the way we talk about them sometimes. "I had to tell her story, she wouldn't shut up about it!" My second novel was this way. James, the protagonist, sprung into my head one day and just started narrating. I couldn't stop writing until I'd gotten down everything he had to say. The novels that followed haven't been quite as compulsory, but close enough. I think the only reason they haven't been that way is that I've learned to temper that obsession, so I can have a life, still.

And I wonder-- is the obsession writing, or the story? Do I go on relentlessly because I love my hobby, or because I can't wait to find out what happens to these people? People I've just met, but feel like I've known for years?

Let's be honest-- the answer is always the latter, even when I know the ending first (and I always know the ending first). I wouldn't want to write my characters if they weren't interesting people. And when I'm done with a manuscript and ready to send it off, I feel like a proud parent watching their child graduate college. Time to send them into the world, and see how they do. Sink or swim.

Of course I hope they swim. They're my newest oldest friends, and the children of my mind.

Does anyone else ever wonder if being a writer is just a socially-acceptable label for crazy?


C. N. Nevets said...

Writing is all about the voice that's born in my head. Everything else builds from that point. So yeah, it's legit imaginary friend play.

Nancy Kelley said...

What do you mean, "imaginary?" My characters are completely real... at least to me.

My current set of characters formed a relationship I wasn't intending, that led to a sequel I didn't plan. He's a spy (didn't see that coming) and she was his ward. That all came out in one 30 minute writing session, without any conscious thought from me.

I suppose I might be crazy...

Unknown said...

Any form of crazy is good enough for me :P I actually argue with my characters. "Come on, really, THAT'S what you're going to do in this situation? You know that's not going to end nicely and it won't be my fault." "Yes it will. What do you know? You're only my writer." And then when I'm not paying enough attention and write them a way they don't like they sulk and won't do anything at all for weeks on end until I finally throw up my hands and change it. They also like to not tell me important things until the last minute and then act like it was so obviious they didn't think they needed to tell me.

Yeah. I'm not sure how socially acceptable that is even for a writer.