Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Where am I?

Funny how just after I finished writing a post on voice, I should flip to my dashboard and read this awesome post.

Go, read it.


Are you back?

Here's the part I especially wanted to highlight:

One thing I need to understand in order to make my characters breathe on the page is what piece of me is in that character. What of my own core emotional truths does this character have? This is usually the key for me to an authentic character voice.

The truth is, pieces of ourselves show up in all our work. I have been surprised many times by unplanned pieces of me that show up on the page, usually spotted long after the book went to print and I acquired some distance from the story. Since this happens even when we don’t intend it to, we might as well consciously choose which parts we include and let them do some of the heavy lifting for us.

But how do we consciously develop our characters’ voice?

Well, if voice is an author’s core emotional truths and personal wisdom, combined with their use of language, then to evoke a real-seeming, authentic character we need to understand their emotional truths, personal wisdom, and use of language. And while some of ourselves will be in them, they will in large part be wildly different from us, not unlike how kids have some of their parents in them, but are also their own unique selves.

This is something I've *known*, but not known. It's great to have other voices, other writers out there to translate a vague feeling in your head/heart into something concrete.

If you've beta-read for any first-time-writers before, you're probably familiar with authors who write themselves into their story as the main character. Usually it's a wish-fulfilment sort of book where everything turns out alright in the end.

I've been asked before which character is *me* in my first book (Project #1), and I've always felt like I was lying when I would say none of them are. Because parts of them are me. Even the most ruthless, obsessive and abusive characters. I wouldn't have been able to write any of them unless I understood them, or at least understood the jumping-off-point from which their characters/personalities suddenly boomed out of control. I can look at every character, even the small, side ones who never get a name or a line of dialogue, and *know* them. I can slip into their skins when they throw other nameless characters off a roof, when they devour their classmates, or when they light someone on fire... just for the fun of it.

But none of them are me.

...did you just breathe a little sigh of relief? I swear, I'm not a cannibal. I don't even like pork.

So how much of yourself goes into your characters? Do you agree with the linked post, or not? What are your thoughts on slipping into a character's skin?

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