Who Goes There

Sometimes I would think I am insane, except that I don’t think I am.

Okay, so that statement was clear as mud. Blame it on my blazing sinus headache.

What I mean is, sometimes I worry that I’m insane, then I read something written by my fellow authors and I realize that for my class and type of – admittedly – unusual critter, I am actually… well… no one would call us sane, but I’m probably normal.

Why would Pratchett say that the most important thing is to know which voice is yours, if his skull weren’t stuffed to the breaking point with voices that weren’t his?

Why would Nero Wolfe be to Rex Stout somewhat like a friend he hasn’t seen in a while but with whom he’s keeping in touch, so that years after the last book came out, Rex could answer with certainty what Nero was doing and what was fascinating him?

Why would Heinlein fight to kill a character?

Because they’re real – duh.

Oh, wait. Please, don’t dial the men in white coats. What I meant is, they’re real to us, authors.

What mechanism is it that makes it so? Is it a sort of playing a chess game with your own subconscious? Or is it a craft, a learning to suspend disbelief, so the readers can in turn ride on your certainty these people exist?
Who knows? No real studies have been done on this.

Is it perhaps a mental illness that has useful side effects? (Not that unusual.) A genetic tendency to an odd form of schizophrenia which, by making it possible for the sufferer to subsist as a story teller (or in the older days, shaman) can and does pass on by conferring an advantage on the victim.

Or is it “real” – do some of us have some sort of weird transmitter/receiver at the back of our brain and do we capture stories that are events/potentialities in other time lines?

And what do you make of pen names? You know the Pratchett thing, that once you name something it acquires a life of its own? There are six people living in my head. Sometimes the babble is deafening. Recently a scientist friend wanted to hook me up to apparatus and see if the brain signals read as different persons while writing pen names.
I’m a little scared to find out.

The one thing I know for sure is that writing is not a cold, calculating, fully controlled enterprise. Most of it feels like a journey of discovery to find out what the story REALLY is beyond the layers of nonsense it accretes on the way to my brain.

Yes, I’ve had characters talk to me. I’ve also had characters lie to me. I’ve had people I wanted to be villains turn good, and vice versa.

And now I’ve had a decent Urban Fantasy, wot had never done any harm to anyone turn into a … uh… weird science fiction.

It’s not the other people in my head I mind so much. It’s the fact they won’t talk to me, one on one, adult to adult.
And I’m not crazy at all. Most writers are like this. Some just lie better.

One comment

  1. Is it that we’re tapping into something, someone, else? Or are we making ourselves into someone else? Or just really good at empathizing and mental play acting?

    So many writers, including myself, start out “writing” and then end up feeling like we’re “just the conduit” for the story, that I tend to think this is a learned ability, rather than a pathological state.

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