Last week (yeah, I’m waaay behind on my blog reading) Nathan Bransford raised an interesting question, talking about writing characters and the claim that some authors make that characters come to life and take over the story. Between Gaiman’s talk a few weeks ago, the workshop I was preparing for, and the books I’ve been writing, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially as I hanker after those writing sweet spots where the characters DO come alive and write themselves.
Because for me, there absolutely are moments when they do. (And I don’t even have to entreat them to write faster!) And when that happens, it is so much more than having my characters react and behave in a logical manner that is true to themselves.
So I’ve been trying to analyze that and pay attention when it does happen, and what I’ve come up with is this:
When we experience those moments when characters write themselves, what’s happening is that we’re circumventing our conscious, thinking brain and tapping directly into our subconscious, intuitive brain and bypassing our own circuitry to create something we haven’t consciously thought about yet.
The truth is, most of my great ideas come from that place, and I have been known to look at these ideas in surprise and think they’re awesome, NOT because I’m patting myself on the back. It’s exactly the opposite. It’s because I feel like I’ve had absolutely zero part in creating them. I feel like the girl in the fairy tale who opened her mouth and was unbelievably lucky (not to mention thunderstruck) when diamonds and pearls fell out, rather than the mundane, everyday toads. It is also why I loved Liz Gilbert’s talk about genius and and the Greek concept of daemons so much. It completely resonated with me. Some of this stuff just feels like it comes out of nowhere.
Now if only I could figure out a way to get diamonds and pearls on purpose (instead of by accident) when I opened my mouth, I’d be happy. ☺