I find a lot of things difficult to explain about my personal writing. Questions such as, where do you find the inspiration? What do you write about? Why is it always depressing topics? Sometimes I wonder whether my lacking ability to answer has lead most people to believe I can’t write at all. Recently I shared a piece of my writing with two family members – a rare occasion as usually I would be too self conscious – and the response I got was: ‘Wow, that was a bit deep… really professional!’.
On replying ‘thank you’, I received ‘oh, you wrote that?’. The disbelief honestly made my heart drop a little – and perhaps the faith in myself too.
There’s a conversation I remember having with my dad when I was ten years old, so I had known for a few years that I wanted to be an author. My dad, although he may not appear to be on the surface, is actually a profound reader and most importantly, really enjoys it. So I remember him telling me what makes a great book – the author’s knowledge of their own characters.
Anyone who has ever written a story, whether it be for a high school assignment or a published print, will know that it is impossible – not to mention very boring – to include every little detail about a character. But that’s not to say the detail isn’t needed to bring a character to life. We’ve all experienced a moment when we learn something new about someone, that changes our perception of them. Even if we don’t know something about someone, it does not change the fact that their own experiences, personalities and secrets – or ‘details’ as I have been referring to them – are influencing their actions and directions. People act through their own intentions rather than our perceptions in reality and so should characters in a story.
Now I come to the voices in my head. The way I create my characters is simple: I have conversations with them. Before anyone begins to think it’s a crazy idea I would just like to remind you, that as you are reading this my voice is in your head. And you are learning something about me now, because you are openly listening to that voice in your head.
So, when my little voice suddenly conjures, ‘Hey, what if?’ I give the time to listen to it. Then I’m listening to a story that belongs to a character just being born. To elaborate I must ask questions:
“Well, why would that happen to you?”
Because this happened when I was a child.
“Why would you be scared people would think that about you?”
Because I look a certain way.
Notice these questions are all personally directed to the character. It takes time but eventually I know this person so well I can take their name and walk down the street in their shoes. Of course the choice for me to write their story or scrap it is still down to whether I fall in love, but this is so much easier than trying to wedge them into a premade plan.
I’ve found this technique has helped me generate a lot more creativity and depth for my plots. While still finding my feet in the blogging and writing worlds I’m comforted in having accomplished my level of imagination and empathy. Next I hope to become as personal and open with my readers, as my characters are with me.