Voices, Words, Music

28 April 2012

I hear in my mind all of these voices
 I hear in my mind all of these words
I hear in my mind all of this music
And it breaks my heart . . . 
Fidelity by Regina Spektor

Becoming a writer is an interesting undertaking. There are certain discomforts with which we are forced to put up in order to improve our craft. We are the toughest self-critics you'll find because we can't help but compare our latest literary endeavours with those of Dickens and Shakespeare. We go about with shadows under our eyes because we woke up at 3 A.M. with an incredible idea for a short story or novel and couldn't bear waiting until morning to write it all down. We treat our thesauri like Bibles, never leave the house without a pen and paper, and can always be found with a cup of coffee or tea near at hand. To put it bluntly, yes, we can be perceived as strange.

Probably the most groundbreaking difference between "normal" people and those creatures known as wordsmiths is the matter of characters. Though some of the more "refined" writers would laugh at this notion, yes, we do have characters that live in our heads. And they are very much real.

Sometimes my characters remind me of the aunt everyone has in classic literature — the one who always comes and overstays her welcome, and you can't think of a single polite way to ask her to leave. The slightest thing can be perceived as an invitation to spend the summer holiday, and before you know it, there she is at your doorstep, boxes and bags spilling out of her arms, her tongue already running a mile a minute. A day in her company feels like a year.

Characters never have good timing for their visits. Whether you are in the midst of an especially harrowing Spanish exam or doing repeated échappés sur la pointe, they care not. They knock on your mental door when they feel you are not giving them enough attention and demand a stage on which to pour out their emotions. You try to tell them to be quiet, and they only snap back in a harsh tone, criticizing you for your lack of sympathy.

Then I won't write, you say. Unfortunately, that doesn't exactly solve the problem. True, your characters will not be quite as fluent if you have not written them yourself, but anyone who read prolificly can attest to the fact that the characters stick themselves in your head . . . and stay there. And do they ever come when they are in chipper, sunshine-y moods? Hardly. Instead, they choose to visit right after they have had the most harrowing experiences, the most romantic proposals, the most frightening injuries. The only true remedy is never reading, never writing, and never watching movies that possess the slightest value. But that sounds like a rather dull existence, does it not? ;)

The worst part about obstinate characters is you can't explain it to anyone. If I attempted to tell one of my friends about the things that go on in my head, she would think I had two heads. There is a barrier between the writer and the non-writer that can never be crossed, no matter how hard you try. The only remedy is either accepting the fact that there is one thing you will never share or convincing your friend to take up his cross and join you on this literary journey.

So the next time you find your friend weeping in a corner over a copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel, don't try to make factual sense of her garbled words about Sir Percy and Marguerite and something to do with the terrace steps. Pull out your pocket handkerchief, comfort her as best you can, and try to see the world through her eyes.

4 epistles:

  1. Amen! So true, and so beautifully put.

  2. This was a great post, Elizabeth... I really identify so much with what you're saying. Yes, those characters feel so real sometimes... like a different part of us, begging to be heard!

    It was really enjoyable to read.

    Blessings in Jesus,
    ~Joy @ joy-live4jesus.blogspot.com

  3. So true...so true, and well said. :)

  4. I know exactly what you mean. My characters are more than just ideas--they are like friends. I try not to say that to my non-writer friends, though, because they usually like I'm crazy :)

    I just found your blog and I love it. You write beautifully, and it always makes me happy to find another Christian sister's blog!

    In Christ, Emily


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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