Please welcome my guest blogger, author Meggan Conners.
I won’t lie to you. I sometimes hear voices in my head.
Now, before you start thinking I’m completely off my rocker, rest assured, I know these voices aren’t real.
These voices aren’t talking to me, and they don’t tell me to kill the fish. Maybe because I don’t own any fish, but that’s beside the point. No, these voices talk to one another, and they let me listen in as the ultimate voyeur, because I get to hear what’s going on in their heads.
They are the voices of my characters, and sometimes, they have some very interesting things to say. Sometimes, they surprise even me, and trust me, I know I made these people up.
Now, when I explain this—the voices in my head thing—to my writer friends, I, more often than not, get sage nods of understanding. Of course you hear voices, honey, my writer friends say. Doesn’t everybody?
Um . . . The answer to that is a resounding NO.
I once tried to explain this phenomenon to a friend of mine. Note the use of the word once. I haven’t attempted to do this with anyone else (Husband understands and accepts my crazy, so he doesn’t really count in this regard).
The conversation started innocently enough, with said friend asking me how I get my ideas. I gave her the usual answers: 1) From things I see or overhear, 2) From songs I hear, and then I let loose with this beauty:
“And sometimes, my characters talk to me.”
Now, the look on my friend’s face pretty much said, Holy Smokes, this chick is bananas! She nodded slowly, and asked, “Does this happen often?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “But I know they’re not real, so that makes me sane.” Right?
“Sure,” she said, with a definitive no in her voice. She glanced behind me, toward the exit. I’m sure looking for a way out in case I decided to suddenly go all Chuck Norris on her. Unfortunately, I was sitting between her and the only exit. Sorry, friend. “What precisely do these voices say?”
“Uh, stuff. They talk to one another. Dude, I know they’re not real.” I have a tendency to use the term ‘dude’ when I really want someone to take me seriously, which is, in itself, ironic. No one takes a person seriously who liberally peppers her speech with dude. I came late to the Valley Girl party, but I wear the San Fernando badge with pride. I have to fight my inner Valley Girl when I’m at work. I don’t think I’ve dropped the dude bomb there when I’m trying to be professional, though I suppose it would be funny if I were a lawyer. Your Honor, I object, dude!
I suspect I need to find another verbal crutch.
But I digress.
“Uh huh,” my friend agreed. “And what do these ‘not real’ people say?”
“They just chat. You know how you can see what wrought iron should look like once it’s done?” She’s a blacksmith, and I figured I would go with something she understood, because, clearly, someone hearing voices wasn’t something she got. “I can’t do that. Can’t see a darn thing. I hear people’s conversations instead. Oh, hey, dude, what do you think about Procedure 1104? I think we need to change line three. I don’t like the way it reads.”
Yeah, see what I did there? I’m super smooth like that.
In any case, since that day, I’ve avoided answering that question with my typical honesty. I never thought I had any secrets, but I rather like that most people view me as relatively sane, so I guess I’d better keep some things under wraps.
But I think the conversations I overhear in my head helps my characters become more real, and helps me to identify with them. I know what their voices sound like. I know the cadence and prosody of their speech. I know if they have an accent and how thick it is. Maybe it’s just a touch of an accent, like a long-forgotten memory that surfaces when he speaks, something in the way he rounds his vowels or truncates his syllables.
My being able to hear them makes them more human. To me it does, anyway.
What is it that makes you identify with a character as a reader? And if you’re a writer, what is it about them that humanizes them for you so you can put their stories on the page?
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