Whose Story Is It?

I was trying to explain to my co-worker today about the relationship I have with my characters.  It all started with a comment I made about the group of characters in my book being called by a nickname that they didn’t like.  She asked me if they didn’t like it then why’d I put it in there.  I told her I didn’t give them the nickname; some of the other characters did.  She began to look at me like I was a little crazy (which, I am).

“Now, wait a minute,” she said.  I rushed to try to make it clear.

“I don’t really make up the whole story; my characters do.  I just write it down.”  This led to several minutes of mocking, though all in good fun.  It’s not something I can completely explain, and it’s something only another writer would understand.

My characters “talk” to me.  Not in any traditional sense.  I don’t have conversations with them.  They just have a way of presenting themselves to me, along with ideas about who they are and what they should do.  And normally, this occurs during the most unwarranted moments, when I am not working on or even thinking about my book.  There are times when I sit down at the keyboard and I have no idea how a conversation or action is going to turn out until it’s on the page.  In my most recent novel, there was something I had been wondering about for a while, but until the heat of the moment, when the words were typed in the confrontation, I still wasn’t sure.  There is something about one of my characters that I still don’t know for certain: he never would reveal the true answer to me, although I have my suspicions.

The main character in my new novel is rather a closed-off, secretive individual.  He doesn’t reveal much, even to me.  It’s made it rather difficult to build a relationship with and bond with him.  There is a lot about his past that I still don’t know.  I guess I will learn it as I need.

Creative individuals often talk about their muses.  It’s a fun idea.  But I don’t have a muse; at least not one that I have ever been able to isolate.  Instead, I have my characters.  Realistically, yes, I know it’s my brain that is making all of this up.  But it’s the secret part of my brain.  The hidden part.  The part of which I am not constantly or consciously aware.  This is where my characters are born, where their lives, their actions, their fates are worked out.  Then it’s slowly leached into my consciousness where I am designated to record these lives, actions and fates. To record the story: but whose story is it? Theirs or mine?  Reality or imagination?  Sometimes, the line is blurred.  Sometimes, there is no line.


– S.D. Bullard


~ by sdbullard on April 26, 2012.

10 Responses to “Whose Story Is It?”

  1. I learned a while ago to quit telling non-writers these things – I don’t have time to be committed to a mental institution… 🙂 But I totally get you…

  2. Don’t worry, I’ve had characters living in my head for years now, so I know exactly what you mean. You word this strange thing our imaginations do pretty accurately–you just have to let them play things out themselves.

  3. This is an extremely natural process. It’s a subconscious way in which your brain starts presenting these characters as people. Instead of appearing as simple creations to you, they start getting mannerisms, accents and many other physical traits that you wouldn’t attribute to what’s supposed to be an abstract idea.

    It’s the same as if I asked you right now to envision someone like the perfect assassin, the most intense lover or the kindest friend. Starting from that idea, you’ll start to give them names, features and start turning them into “people”.

    After all, a writer’s goal is to narrate life itself, even if it’s from a hundred years ago or another hundred in the future.

  4. Ha, ha! I rarely tell anyone the sort of mayhem that characters create in my mind lest they think I’m crazy too. : ) I know precisely what you mean. It’s as though once you imagine characters into existence, they begin to develop personalities and make decisions of their own. You may have an idea of where you want a story to go, but once the story is populated, sometimes the characters begin taking control and directing their own paths. It truly is an incredible experience.

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