Talking to Myself

>> Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You know how many people say talking to yourself is the first sign of senility? Well, I've been doing it since I was four. Others say talking to yourself is okay as long as you don't argue with yourself. Well, shoot, I do that, too. I've often practiced upcoming difficult conversations from both sides ahead of time or, if it went badly, afterward to figure out how I could have handled it better.

Now that I'm older and need to hold a job, I've learned to do my talking to myself mostly inside my head (though I still do the other once in a while. Since my daughter is named Stephanie, too, she's been caught thinking I'm chastising her when I'm really railing at myself.)

However, I've channeled much of that in my writing. I'm a very dialog-heavy writer.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, I had an interesting conversation today with my husband. As I've mentioned, I'm writing a novel. In this case, I'd put off this novel for a long time because I didn't have a handle on the hero of the story. Then I read a manga that involved a character who was almost dead on to my husband in many ways and it sparked a way to write my character, like my husband if he were hundreds of years old instead of desperately young. It's fantasy, bear with me.

One reason it's flowed so well for me is that my heroine (like usual) has many facets I myself have so I identify with her very much. What this has enabled me to do is communicate, via the novel, many of my own rationales that I have so much trouble communicating to my husband directly for some reason. But it also allows me also to explore his viewpoint, his reasons and rationales, without some of the angst and oversensitivity someone still very young and someone with as much baggage as I have bring to the discussion. It's been very therapeutic. Plus, as always with sword and sorcery story, I get to kill people. :)

My husband has been less involved with this one. I wasn't sure why, but I've had a hard time getting him willing to let me read it to him. Today, I found out why. He said he didn't like my main hero, but, when I asked why, he told me it was because the character (Dante) was husband he wanted to be to me, the way he wanted to treat me, the hero he wanted to be for me. Except (he said) he didn't quite pull it off.


That tells me a couple of things. One is that Lee is a keeper. I actually am more fond of Lee than Dante but they're almost interchangable in my mind. I know Lee is growing and has already grown a great deal from when I first met him. That he recognizes where he still wants to improve (and that they jibe with what I see in him) says a great deal about him, all good.

But that also argues that my characterizations are good and strong because his reaction to my heroine matches the way he reacts to me when I don't do what he tells me to (to the letter). And Dante is speaking to him, too.

So, I might be talking to myself, but I'm doing a good job of it.

Lee's mother and friend apparently are really enjoying it, too.


  • Jeff King

    Keep up the good work on your novel.
    I find myself doing the same thing, maybe that’s a trait of a writer.

    It is hard to write a char when a person knows they are that chars inspiration.

    I find it helps a great deal to have an idea of a person in your head when forming characters. That way the dialog rings true between chars. once I start the conversation the chars finish it and actually carry on without my interruption. I find myself discovering the story as I go. I find that part so enthralling its scary sometimes.

  • Project Savior

    At least you realize before hand that you are basing your characters on real people.
    I have always loved characters that "think different" So for "Project Spare-Rib" I needed a main character that was a math genius and researched Aspergers Syndrome (people with 160 IQ's in math but can't read basic facial expressions).
    My wife got halfway through the rough draft and stopped reading it because she said I was writing about her, and didn't like how deep I got into her mind. I hadn't even realized it, I was just trying to make an interesting character.

  • Stephanie B

    My characters are frequently "triggered" by something. Often, they fit into a series of "general stereotypes" - i.e. "character types I like." (I described characters I like here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here as well as characters I don't like)

    One reason is that I often find aspects of myself in all my favorite character types and/or traits I love in the people I care about. Even Dante though more mature than my husband in some ways, he's also less engaged emotionally with the rest of the world. He's more high-handed, less forgiving.

    Saying a character is a type is one thing. Putting in all the little details that make them seem real is where the key is, in my opinion. Dante is hilarious ("Cold and cruel" - in that way, more me than my husband) to me. I find his knows everything charm appealing, but not as appealing as having him deal with a character considerably less experienced and less knowledgeable, but with an innate sense of what's right.

    That's what makes it interesting for me. I finished reading it to Lee last "night" (until 3 am). I guess he was becoming resigned to it. I think he likes that I can express his side of the story sometimes even better than he does himself.

  • Jeff King

    A sign of true companionship, I hope your success together continues.

    Sounds like you have what it takes to do so.
    And I agree every chars have part of the writer in them, hence talking to yourself discussion. I think it helps a writer cope with chars coming to life. And carrying on conversations for hours with yourself.

  • The Mother

    I think most writers spend a lot of time talking to themselves, whether it's in their heads or out loud.

    I think most creative people (including scientifically creative people) keep a dialog going all the time--that's what makes them creative.

    In short, I think only vapid people fail to talk to themselves.

  • Phyl

    I talk to myself constantly. The cats are used to it, and I live alone otherwise, so I get away with it. I do at least manage not to do it when I'm out in public. So far. :-)

    How cool that you got Dante so right. That's obviously both great writing and great insight.

    I once wrote my brother as a character in a novel, and then when he read it I lived in terror that he'd recognize himself. As far as I know, he didn't. Or at most, he recognized someone he agreed with, perhaps.

    I don't do that very often, but it can be a bit nerve-wracking when you do.

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