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IWSG: My Merry Character-Chatting Way

March 5, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support GroupThis month had me wondering if there are emergency meetings for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. No?! What if I can’t wait until the first Wednesday of the month to get support and encouragement from fellow writers?

Fortunately, my Muse and I survived until our normal posting day at Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group but I’m faced with a dilemma …

I’ve always been a writer who listens to advice.

Kill adverbs? I’ve got my red pen ready.

End each scene right after the twist? I’m on it, slicing away needless meandering.

Blog once a week in a while? Sure I can do that.

This time, however, I may have come upon some advice that I can’t stomach.

A few weeks ago one of my favorite blogging gurus, Kristen Lamb, wrote a post about appropriate blog techniques and topics. I happily read through her list, congratulating myself that I never lack for subject matter, until I came upon a line that made my heart stutter in my chest:

Talk to your characters. NOOOOOO! (*hint* Anyone who knows the characters already bought the book. To anyone else? Seriously creepy.) ~Kristen Lamb, How to Write a Great Author Blog AND Avoid Huge Ships

Oops.

I do that.

All the time.

So what do I do now? I feel as if part of my voice has been silenced and I’ve been told to sit in the corner for bad behavior.

My first impulse, as a writer who listens to advice, is to take heed and start writing about other things on my blog. I think I have plenty of other topics to fill out my glacial posting schedule. I can write about software I use, where I find royalty free pictures, some sources of inspirations, and there’s always playlists.

But then I thought about it some more.mage courtesy of louise Docker @ stock.xchng

Is it right for me to stuff my characters back into their stories, never to speak with them again, after all they’ve done for me? Can I at least telephone them once in a while? Write them letters? Send them a message in a bottle?

Conversations with my characters are an essential part of my novel-writing process, and sure, I could keep my conversations with them private because I certainly don’t want to come off as creepy. But this blog is about my journey. My characters are the lens through which I view my world. They say things I can’t find any other way to say. If I’m to be honest about the treasures I find on the road to a published novel, conversations with my characters would be part of the collection.

Image courtesy of denz zani @ stock.xchngI think it’s great fun to play with what my characters might do in my world, or explore what they might think of me, their writer. And isn’t that the essence of what fiction is? We know  stories are merely ways of processing the world around us and making sense of our place in it. How is having the characters stomp and saunter across my blog any different from telling a story? Is a character sitting next to me as I type any weirder or creepier than having him appear in an imaginary setting? Both are made up scenarios to explore a conflict and come up with a conclusion. Other than convention, is there really a difference?

Still, I’m hesitant. This might be one of those moments where I have to evaluate how strong a stomach I have for my convictions. Do I continue on my merry character-chatting way? Or is it time to stop goofing around, take up the mantle of a Serious Writer– and march all my characters back into their respective stories and leave them there?

Want to join the Insecure Writer’s Support Group? Click on the linky, and add your name to the list of some of the nicest writers on the world-wide web!

Images courtesy of Louise Docker and Denz Aani @ stock.xchng

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38 Comments
  1. March 5, 2014 6:05 am

    You know what I think! I love your chats with characters – as you say, they are just mini pieces of fiction. Stick to your guns – all advice has to be tempered through your own experience.

    • March 7, 2014 1:50 pm

      Thanks, Amanda! Your unwavering support of my nutty blog means so much to me. 🙂

      I try to keep the interviews and chats I post focused, so that they mimic a story as much as possible, but having someone I respect point out that character interviews might be a mistake gave me pause for a bit there.

  2. March 5, 2014 6:15 am

    I love Kristen’s blog too. I even weighed in with a comment. I talk to my characters, and new fictional characters, on my blog. It’s my way of having some original fun, and not posting chapters that are hit and miss unless you read all of them.

    • March 7, 2014 1:54 pm

      Hi coldhandboyack
      Welcome to A Scenic Route. 🙂
      What Kristen Lamb says makes sense to me, but meeting characters outside of the story feels so natural to me that I was surprised it turned out to be a blogging ‘Don’t’.
      And I was happy to see your comment on her blog and meet a fellow character chatter. 😉

      • March 7, 2014 2:02 pm

        I just do what I want anyway. I’m a firm believer in the old writing advice, “take what works and leave the rest.”

  3. March 5, 2014 6:29 am

    I know just enough about the author-world to realize that Ms. Lamb is a big deal. I don’t believe I’ve read anything of hers, either book or blog, but yeah, it’s probably intimidating to go up against a big name. I can think of parallels in my own experience.

    Having said that- you know you’re fighting this one. If this advice was written on a stone tablet and the guy holding it looked like Charlton Heston, you’d still reach up and break it yourself. So damn the torpedoes, or blog flame, or whatever.

    I can empathize to an extent- a lot has to do with tone. The only advice I would have about publishing your yak with a character is to make it move, let it have the same kind of conflict and tension that the writing itself needs. One recent example- over on my shared blog The Independent Bookworm, a colleague of ours Louise Blankenship put up a dandy Character Interview and it crackles because she’s challenging him like a reporter, poking at areas he’s a bit embarrassed about. Creepy? The hell, it’s great stuff, certainly draws my interest. But when the character declares something and the writer’s response is “wow, I never knew that”… yeah, it can get a little Justin-Bieber-and-screaming-teens-ish.

    ANYTHING you put in a blog-post is writing, your writing. If you work on it as hard as your novel, I see no reason why you can’t be just as proud of it.

    • March 7, 2014 1:59 pm

      Thanks for the great comment, Will.
      You’re right; I’m pretty sure that no matter what anybody says I will continue to talk to my characters. I like your idea of making sure I have a strong conflict in place for the dialog, otherwise, like weak fiction, it could deteriorate into ‘As you know, Bob’ prose rather quickly.

      I’ll be checking out that Louise Blankenship interview for sure! Sounds like my kind of writing. 🙂

  4. March 5, 2014 6:55 am

    I don’t think the idea’s creepy at all – the only concern I’d have is that it may leave a character too bare and open to put that kind of thing up on your blog.

    We (as a reader) should learn more about the character the more time we spend with them, how they rise up or crumble under pressure, any secrets they have… or just things they’d never realised about themselves. I’d be reluctant to do that kind of thing in public, as it might take away their power in the story.

    Having said that, I definitely don’t think it’s creepy to write that kind of thing, and if done well, it could make the character seem more intriguing at the end of the interview – provided you preserve some of whatever ambiguities make them interesting.

    I’m not sure if that makes sense?

    • March 8, 2014 9:38 am

      Hi David,
      Yes, this makes sense to me. I have often pondered where in the their growth arc my characters are when they converse with me, and how much of their story status I reveal here. Believe me, there are interviews that I’ve kept private for that very reason!
      I’m glad to see that others like you think about characters similar to the way I do. 🙂

  5. March 5, 2014 7:29 am

    M.C.A. Hogarth who is making a living writing fiction vs. Lamb, who makes a living by telling writers how to social network. Guess which one I’ll take hands down?

    Micah. She writes meta all the time and her readers, including me, LOVE it. We can barely get enough of talking to the Jokka and Ai-Naidari, etc. So mcahogarth.org / haikujaguar.livejournal.com (the latter being where all the commenting occurs) if you want a real life example of a pro author who talks to her characters.

    Writing meta doesn’t work for me, but I tried it specifically because it DOES work for fiction readers.

    • March 8, 2014 9:53 am

      Thank you for the link, Liana. I’m back from my foray into her website and thoroughly hooked! Maybe because as much as I feel certain of my vision, once in a while it’s nice to find someone who thinks like I do. 🙂 (And she’s an artist too, which is way cool.) Very inspiring.
      Meta just kind of happened for me, and I find it really fun to do. Deep down, I must really want to break rules, not follow them. 🙂

  6. March 5, 2014 8:10 am

    I love how you talk to your characters. Those are my favorite posts. In fact, I’m a little jealous that you have such an awesome relationship to your characters and it inspires me to work on character development. I’m all for mixing it up on a blog, not doing the same kind of post all the time, but I’d be sad to not see your characters around anymore. Not all writing advice is good advice.

    • March 8, 2014 9:59 am

      I’m so glad you like those posts. 🙂
      I’ve made it a point to mix things up because I want to feature a variety of writing here (lots of different scenery on the writing journey 😉 ), but the character chats are close to my heart, and great fun to do.
      Based on the feedback I’m getting here, it looks like you’ll be seeing lots more of my fiction family soon!

  7. melissamaygrove permalink
    March 5, 2014 10:52 am

    You already know what I think. Do what works for you. And writing conversations with your muse and your characters works for you. *pointed stare* Don’t you dare change a thing.

    IWSG #268 (until Alex culls the list again or I goof and get myself deleted. :P)

    • March 8, 2014 10:02 am

      Thanks Melissa!
      The Muse is quite pleased with the feedback I’m getting here. In fact, I think he’s feeling rather smug about the whole thing, muttering, “I told you so,” as he paces back and forth in the back of my mind! 😉

  8. March 5, 2014 10:55 am

    I like Lamb’s blog, and I love the WANA philosophy. I find myself agreeing with like 80% of her advice, and I find her posts funny and interesting.

    I also totally understand the desire to follow rules. Rules are comforting. Especially when they echo the instincts we already had. Only sometimes, we come across a rule that goes against our instincts.

    I think the important thing when that happens is to acknowledge the validity of the rule, find a way to see the benefit of following it, and then just go ahead and ignore it. You don’t need to stop doing something that feels right, or start doing something that feels wrong, just because some ‘expert’ told you to.

    Good luck, and keep talking to whoever you want. It’s your blog!

    • March 8, 2014 10:08 am

      Hi Amelia 🙂
      You’re right, rules are comfortable but I also have to respect the part of me that knows exactly what I want to write.
      Maybe I hesitated on this precisely because I like Kristen Lamb a lot, and she hit upon something that I do all the time. I know the reason why she believes characters belong in stories, not on blogs, and will try to keep that in mind as I post my character interviews in the future.
      Thanks for stopping by A Scenic Route!

  9. March 5, 2014 12:46 pm

    Do what works for you! No advice is universal for all writers. Besides, this is YOUR blog.

    • March 8, 2014 10:12 am

      This is so true. Not only is this my blog, but compromising here might be the beginning of a pattern that leads to compromise in my stories as well. I have to remember that I had a vision when I started writing, and stay true to that.
      Thanks for reminding me of that, Alex!

  10. March 5, 2014 5:19 pm

    I have to put my vote in strongly in the Ninja Captain Camp. You have to do what is right for you. No one can tell you what to do with your blog. That’s why it’s yours.

    • March 8, 2014 10:14 am

      I sometimes think I might be too open to advice, letting my ego be battered by every passing writer’s whimsy. Thanks for chiming in, Rena!

  11. March 5, 2014 5:35 pm

    I feel like the thing here is just to take the time to stop and think about what fictional characters are and how they work on as deep a level as possible. This sort of thing is probably trying to make the point that they aren’t real people, and actually, they don’t work quite the same ways. Also, there is one danger in giving them an ‘existence’ outside the story, which is that they start to develop in ways that don’t have anything to do with the story, or maybe even don’t make sense in it.

    • March 8, 2014 10:21 am

      Hi Stusharp,
      Wise words here, and I will think about this for some time to come. Do characters exist to serve only the story? Do their ‘lives’ outside the story contribute to the depth of the story? Are the dialogues that feel natural to me an indication that I’ve missed something in my telling of the story?
      I think I’ve been careful not to give the characters motivations outside the story in my conversations with them, but it is definitely something to pay attention to!
      Thanks for stopping by A Scenic Route. 🙂

  12. March 5, 2014 8:57 pm

    Don’t you DARE stop Character Chatting! I’ve read Ms. Lamb’s blog in the past. A great blog full of info – but, seriously? Character chatting is fun, it’s lively, and sometimes it’s the best writing of the day, at least in my case:) It’s a wonderful way to learn more about your characters, and it’s a great way to show us how your creative mind works. I’m sure a lot of bloggers use their character conversations as a kind of weird personal fan-fiction but yours are wonderful, beautifully written, and always fascinating. Do what you want and what you love! Otherwise, why bother write at all?

    • March 8, 2014 10:27 am

      Thanks Nancy!
      I agree with you that character chats are a great way to get some words out, and if nothing else, good practice for dialogue and fleshing out characters. They’ve become an integral part of my process, and I do love them.
      Which is of course, what this blog is about. 🙂

  13. March 5, 2014 10:23 pm

    So funny, Kirsten . . . I also read that blog post from Lamb and freaked out just like you! I’d just done 4 character interviews on my 18 Truths blog tour, all requested from hosts. As a writer and a reader, I LOVE them!I usually agree with Lamb, but not on this one . . . keep your muse out there for all of us to admire 🙂

    • March 8, 2014 10:32 am

      Yeah, I enjoy character interviews on other blogs all the time, (yours especially!) so I was surprised to see Kristen Lamb diss them like that.
      I’m starting to think that what she might have meant is that relying exclusively on character interviews to fill out a posting schedule might be creepy, but showcasing them as part of a variety of posts might work just fine.
      Either way, my fictional crew will continue to stalk the posts of my blog. 🙂

  14. March 5, 2014 11:27 pm

    I love it when you talk with your characters – it reminds me of myself. I don’t know how you can get into the character, to bring them to life, if you don’t get to know them — and how do you get to know someone if you don’t talk with them?

    • March 8, 2014 10:36 am

      Exactly–in order to create a stronger illusion, I need to feel that the character is accessible to me, even if it’s only in the sense that he is an actor with my Muse lurking behind the mask. I see nothing wrong with sharing those moments, since this is where I chronicle my writing milestones. 🙂

  15. March 6, 2014 9:20 am

    Kirsten, if you stop talking to your characters and letting us eavesdrop, I’m gonna throw a fit.
    There. That decides it, doesn’t it? 🙂

    • March 6, 2014 9:47 am

      🙂 Thank you, Wendy! I’m so glad the posts that lie closest to my heart are the ones that resonate so well with some of my favorite blog friends.
      It scares me a little that I couldn’t stop talking to my characters even if I tried, so it’s good to know that people enjoy my little character chats as much as I do!

  16. March 9, 2014 9:39 pm

    I could have sworn I left a comment already, but maybe not. I talk to my characters too, and I interview them, especially when creating character profile. And my characters feel like old friends. I am using 2 old star war role play characters in one story that I have played since 2000. They are revamp for my new story world, but I don’t want to let them go. So I get it, and what you meant about feeling like they are accessible as well.

    • March 10, 2014 7:20 pm

      There is usually a point in my story creation process when the characters take the reins and start showing ME the story! And for me, interviews and random encounters are a good way to get to that place.
      It’s such a great way to work, and I can see I’m in good company with other writers who share a similar process. 🙂

  17. March 14, 2014 12:40 pm

    Hi Kirsten! This made me laugh because I can totally relate. I may not write my conversations down – scratch that – I have written my conversations down on my blog. Sometimes they are just too much fun not to share. I don’t think it’s creepy at all!

    I love your comments above the A-Z Challenge badge. I’m insane too but it’s going to be a ton o’ fun!

    Elsie
    AJ’s wHooligan in the A-Z Challenge

    • March 15, 2014 1:02 pm

      Hi Elsie,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!
      Exactly. 🙂 I sometimes laugh, even cry a little, when I read the ‘talks’ I have with my characters, and can’t resist sharing those moments on my story creation journey. I’m so happy to have a found a great community to share them with. 🙂

      As for the A-Z Challenge, I’m both nervous and excited to see how it turns out. I love my theme idea and the pretty letters I have set up for my posts. But now I have to write them all–and keep them around a hundred words or so! I pretty sure that I’m going to have fun and meet some great people though.

  18. March 21, 2014 10:25 pm

    Though I don’t talk to my characters, some of my favorite entries on your blog are the conversations with your muse. Those conversations are where I hear your voice as a writer most clearly.

    • March 22, 2014 8:24 pm

      Interesting observation, armchairauthor, and I have to agree. The muse’s posts fly from my fingers as I write them, and I feel that I make my point so much more clearly in them than I do in plain vanilla prose.
      Best of all, they make me laugh out loud when I read them back. 🙂
      (And you should see the ones that don’t make the blog. 😉 )

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