Friday, May 18, 2012

Turning Words into People

Writing people is really difficult.

I write descriptions really well. I like to think I have pretty good dialogue.

In fact, the writing bit is simple.

The hardest part?

"Who are these people?"

Creating unique individuals is the hardest part of writing, for me. Weirdly enough, I have always studied people and love to people-watch. I'm the person lots of friends go to for useful advice. I do generally understand people.

So why can't I write them?

When I envision my stories, everyone is unique, with their own minds, thoughts, opinions, and language-styles. Yet, when I put finger to keyboard, I can't seem to create those distinctions. It isn't the words that are difficult: it's as though once I make it to the keyboard, the part of them that is unique disappears. I forget it. They sort of all meld together, or become stick figures.

The break in my writing tends to be between the visions in my mind, and where ever the hell they go once I sit down in front of my computer.

I often think it has to do with the speed of writing. I type fast, but not fast enough to keep up with the visions in my head. So I begin to run out creative steam very quickly because the image is gone.

I've begun listening to music to help me out. I'm writing a contemporary military romance, right now, based loosely on my own experiences when I was in the Army. I've found that there are certain songs that really "fit" my characters and I tend to listen to them to help me keep the character unique. I can write down all the characteristics that I want, but in order to "feel" the individual, I use these songs. "Theme" songs, of a sort.

The song may not fit the scene, but that isn't the problem. I know what the landscape and scenery look like. It's what the characters will do that evades me. So I listen to the music to answer that question.

For my military romance, my heroine's song is the acoustic version of "This Is Me" by Demi Lovato. My hero's song is "I Hate Everything About You" by Three Days' Grace. The songs don't apply to the story. It's more how the songs apply to the character. The tune, combined with the lyrics, say something that is of prime importance to the psyche of the individual.

I was never able to listen to music and do ANYTHING but sing. I love to sing. I play piano and violin, too. I sing all the time. In fact, in another life where I didn't mind such public invasion into my private life, I'd be a singer. :) That's how much I love singing.

Somehow, though, I'm able to write and listen to music, at the same time. It's almost as though I finally get to "play the movie" that's been rolling in my head. I bring it to life. While most movie soundtracks are based more on the mood of the scene, however, mine is the characters. Who is speaking? What are they doing? Why would they do that?

I'm a hybrid pantser-storyliner. I have the story line generally written out, but the interactions of the characters is all fly-by-my-pants because I don't know them until the end of the story.

Then the stall comes. The point where I'm so bored I can barely stand it. But I have to get from the previous point to the next point. My characters refuse to tell me how to do it without making me go nuts.

Then their theme songs don't help. It's a matter of wrestling with the unruly people I've created until I can get them where they need to be so that I care to continue listening to them!

I change their music.

That's right.

"It's time to change the beat."

I hit that point, and I change their theme songs, even if temporarily. That kicks them into gear so I can get into gear, too.

Writer's block (after which this blog is so obviously named) is conquered because I make my characters dance to a different tune. They get feisty. They get mean. They get angry.

And I start to enjoy my story that much more.

What about ya'll? What do you do when you need to write your characters? How do you evolve them from the pictures in your head, to the words at your fingertips? And what do you do to keep them going when they refuse to cooperate?

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