Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wait, I Changed My Mind

NOTE: I was going to write about NaNoWriMo, but I got distracted. Again. I'll get back to it next week...I think. 

Last week, I wrote at length (of course) about my new idea. You should probably read that post, because otherwise this isn't going to make a whole lot of sense. I titled that post "Let Me Inside Your Head", but I think I might want to take that back.

See, I'm still working on the gender-free first person narrative section of the book (I wasn't joking; go read it). I took the good advice you all gave me to heart, and just went for it. Dove head-first into my character and didn't look back.

Ok, that's not entirely true. Actually, I first tried writing a snippet of a scene (you know, brainstorming), proceeded to have a minor panic attack about my inability to write in the first person, and retreated to the relative safety of my character analysis instead.

Here's the thing, though: I usually write these analyses in the third person, like a psychoanalyst writing up a patient. And I did that for about two paragraphs before I got really fed up with not using any gender pronouns (no 'he', no 'she' - hello, stupid diction gymnastics!), and switched to the first person, anyway.

And then the most amazing thing happened: the words just started pouring out. It felt for all the world like my hands couldn't keep up with the words in my head; the story wanted to be told. Or maybe this character wanted to be heard. Either way, I couldn't stop the story. It was all back-story, all of the details that might never appear in the finished novel but that are essential in crafting a three-dimensional person: how this person grew up, why this person acts the way they do (Oh for God's sake, let's just use the character name - Sam - and dispense with the ridiculous maneuvering), what Sam is afraid of, and all of Elizabeth George's other character attributes.

This was amazing. This was inspiring. It keeps happening, too - every time I sit down to work on Sam, it's a flood of words.

And believe it or not, this is becoming a problem.

Now, this is going to sound crazy. I mean, I know I say that sort of thing a lot on this blog, and maybe it might have the 'boy who cried wolf' effect, but honestly, this is really going to sound crazy.

I can't get out of Sam's head.

I know, I know, you're thinking "Ok Liz, that's cute and dramatic and all, but come on now. Stop snorting the special blue fairy dust and tell us the truth."

This is the truth, though, melodrama and mind-altering substances notwithstanding. I start writing, and when it's time to stop, I can't. It takes me a long time to move out of Sam's headspace. I quite honestly feel dazed, and - call the loony bin, because this is even crazier - I feel submerged in whatever emotion Sam was feeling. Sadness, loss, fear, joy; whatever I was writing about, I'm still feeling it when I get up from the computer. And God forbid I should be interrupted while I'm writing, because then I'm pretty sure there's a non-gender-specified Australian sheep farmer (yes, Sam is an Australian sheep farmer; don't ask) walking around in my body, talking to my wife, giving massages, texting my friends, and sleeping in my bed.

Which is weird.

This has never happened to me before. Sure, I get engrossed in my stories; sure, it's hard for me to be interrupted; and yes, of course I'm often still thinking about what I was writing when I get up and move about the rest of my day. But I don't usually feel like I'm stuck in another person's brain. A FICTIONAL person's brain, which I myself MADE UP.

I'm telling myself this is a good thing. I'm telling myself that I'm really getting to know my character, that I'm really digging down into my, like, writer's soul, man, and that's, like, deep and stuff.

Needless to say, I'm not sure I believe myself. Maybe this is one of the perils of writing in the first person, or maybe I am snorting special blue fairy dust. The thing is, I don't even know if I really have Sam's voice down yet. I don't think I do. I think I don't have a tone yet, or a set style, or Sam's real, true voice, and I think I'm still having Sam say and think things that aren't accurate. And yet, I can't get out of Sam's head. It's confusing and unnerving and for the first time in my life, I'm having to come up with ways to transition out of writing and into the rest of my day, and put Sam away.

So yes, I think I might change my mind. It's not "Let Me Inside Your Head", it's "Let Me OUT". At least, let me out when it's time to get out. Please?

32 comments:

  1. Well...I have no advice for you- except...maybe you could get a little boy doll and when you're done, put him up on a shelf somewhere? Like, there, you stay there until I'm ready for you again type thing? =) Hope that helps! I write before going to bed, so even though I'm tired when I do get to bed, sometimes my mind is whirling w/scenes and problems that need fixing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, ok, that suggestion is hilarious, and perfectly matches my crazy problem. Thanks :)

      Delete
  2. Honestly, Liz, I think that's a good sign...a sign that you've immersed yourself in your character so much you actually feel their pain, joy, sadness, etc.

    I was talking about dreams with someone a long time ago, telling her about the one I had, and found in the analysis of it all that we are every person in our dreams. Some aspect of ourselves is represented by each person in our dreams.

    For instance, let's say you dreamt of you and your friend buying some special blue fairy dust and getting pulled over by a cop. There you are, in the passenger seat, blue dust crusted on your nares, vehemently denying you were doing anything, although your kaleidoscope eyes tell an entirely different story.

    He takes you in and you sit your happy arse in jail. The you in your dream represents you in your entirety. Your friend is your reckless side; the cop is your logical and lawful side. Make sense?

    Same with characters, at least in my opinion. Each is a part of you to some degree. Maybe you can relate to Sam so much because, as Dr. Seuss puts it, "Sam I am."

    Just something to chew on.

    Oh...one other thing. Jane Austen used "their" when referring to people whose genders were unknown or that she wanted to keep unknown. This practice has become perfectly acceptable to most in the biz. I read that somewhere, not my own deduction. But I did it before I read it, so...just call me Mike Austen. :)

    Great post.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, thanks so much for the thoughtful reply. I have heard the same about dreams, but I never thought to apply the theory to writing. I'm not sure if that's what's happening here, but it's definitely something to think about.

      I do think we put ourselves into our writing, but I also think we stretch outside of ourselves, and make imaginative and empathetic leaps to bring people to life. I know I might have to work hard sometimes to relate to a character I'm writing, and maybe there is a piece of me that understands them (good point about 'their' and 'them', BTW), but I really do believe that we are able to write about much more than what we, ourselves, know.

      I'll take the hope that this is good thing, though. Thank you always for your thoughts and help and support!

      Delete
  3. I say go with it. Best to make use of the muse when s/he/it speaks. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your passion for your character and project is inspiring. Now I want to go work on my WIP.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This actually happens to me from time to time when I'm in the throes of writing. I get some of my best work that way. I live as Peter Stoller any time I'm writing one of his stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's actually comforting to hear. Maybe it IS a good thing, then. Thanks :)

      Delete
  6. Ca-RA-Zeee! lol. Maybe you're actually channeling Sam like a medium. That would be so coooool. . . to witness. Sorry it's not so cool to experience. But still a good way to get words on a page! Good luck. I still think it's a phenomenal concept!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah, it's not that bad. It's weird, and a little disconcerting, but then writing is a weird thing sometimes. Thank you - I'm excited about the concept, too!

      Delete
  7. Ha! Yep, I've been writing the same character in first person for three years now. I very much feel what she's feeling. In fact, I had to write the very-bad-no-good-black-moment scene a few weeks ago and was so hesitant to go there that I cleaned every closet and cupboard in my house first as a way of avoiding it. Oh, and I also talk in a British accent whenever I'm writing. All my characters sound that way (with a few Scots and Irish thrown in). But yeah, I think it's a good thing to be immersed. Makes it easier to visualize scenes and squeeze the emotion out of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. I wish I cleaned when I was trying to avoid writing!!! I love that you talk in a British accent :) Sam is Australian, so yes, I've got an Australian accent in my head. I can relate!!

      Delete
  8. Obviously, Sam is screaming at you. I'm not always in the groove [that's what I call it] that deeply. I say go with it while you are, because I spend a lot of time fighting to get back into it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think this sounds like perfectly healthy NaNo behavior...if it carries into December, maybe then we'll need to call someone---or get off the blue dust, hehe.

    Hmm, I might plan a very-bad-no-good-black moment for one of my characters like L.G. did just so I can get some cleaning done around here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But the blue dust is making me feel magical... ;)

      Haha, thanks! I know, I wish I used cleaning as an avoidance tactic. Really, i just avoid cleaning, too.

      Delete
  10. Don't fight the head trip. ^_^ I think it's one of the greatest things to have a character speaking directly through you, so writing them becomes almost effortless. I'm only lucky enough to have that with a few of my characters; fortunately, one of them is my novel's protagonist, and it's weird when I get too into her head (or vice versa) because I start to ramble at length. But it's fun, and worth it when it all works, so I hope it continues to work for you.

    And all things considered, it's probably safer to share your headspace with an Australian sheep farmer than someone who could be the magical equivalent of an EMP. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, excellent point!! And you're right, it IS fun when it works.

      Delete
  11. Enjoy the character speaking to/through you. That doesn't happen very often and will probably make them that much easier for the reader to connect to.
    Plus, I just nominated you for the Sweetest Blogger Award!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right - I will!!

      Hey, thanks so much! :)

      Delete
  12. That's great that you were able to pour out the story! Maybe you should go read a compelling book to get the voice out of your head!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that is a good idea!! I'll distract Sam... ;)

      Delete
  13. I agree with Mary; go with it while you can. The words don't always come pouring out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too true. I'm enjoying the pouring, very much. Just not sure I like the aftermath - but it's worth it!

      Delete
  14. Sounds like you're possessed -- in a good way! I'm sure once you finish the first draft and set it aside, you'll be yourself again. For now, let those words pour out.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You know, it will probably end up being a good thing that you can't get out of Sam's head. If she's than enticing to you, the rest of us will love her. :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. That is amazing! You know, when you're in acting, that's the kind of immersion you strive for. I think if writers were actors, their words would often be much more potent. I've also heard that the key to truly powerful writing is deep POV, so if you're there, you've got magic in your hands. WRITE LIKE A MANIAC!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a great connection, and it's true. I remember it well from acting - and I also remember the slight freak-out if I had trouble emerging from a character. It's a skill you learn like any other :) But, yes, in the meantime, I'l WRITE LIKE MANIAC!! ;)

      Delete