Few things stimulate creativity like speaking with a fellow writer. Recently, I had the privilege of spending time with a dear friend and fellow writer. She lives far from me, so even though we communicate regularly on the internet, it was a rare treat to get to see her in person. As you might imagine, a large portion of our time was spent talking about our writing. Throughout our short time together, I never stopped being amazed at how similar our processes were, and how we shared much of the same strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and insecurities. But, I will get back to that in a moment.
In addition to writing, we both dearly love the theater. We went and saw a play during her visit. The production was beautiful, and the cast was stellar. It was a production of a classic musical, that I’m sure most people have seen at one time or another. So, naturally the after-show-conversation turned to the actors and their interpretation of the respective characters, and other performers we had seen play the same characters. Subtle acting choices can completely change a scene. But, the conversation on actors and characters brought us back to one of our writing quirks.
We both “cast” our works of fiction. It is my understanding that this is not uncommon. Still, trading information on which actors “played” the characters in our imaginations made for very fun conversation. It’s also a very fun creative exercise. Beyond that, however, it made me think about the play, and how an actor’s interpretation of a line can change a character, and even a story.
The obvious reason for an author to have an imaginary cast for a work of fiction is to have a clear mental image of the character. That being said, I believe it is more than that. I know that I always have a mental image of my characters that frequently differs from the actor I use as my model. Perhaps it is to borrow a voice, a gesture, a quirk of an eyebrow or a wide smile from that person that I can give to my creation. To imagine who would read my dialogue and how can contribute an added breath of life that wasn’t there before. Whether this is a tool or a crutch, I couldn’t say. I like to think it’s the former. But, it is a habit that I am not likely to give up.
So, readers, I ask you; do you do have a “cast” for your works of fiction? I know that I have some favorites that I have used more than once. Do you? Who do you like to “play” your characters and why? I’m interested in hearing more on this subject. I look forward to your comments.
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Muses are stubborn. Muses are taskmasters. Muses are responsible for those moments when we realize we must take all of our carefully crafted notes and abandoned them, because the story has taken on a life of its own, and has done something we have never planned. It is that moment when we feel like we are not in control at all, and merely writing down something that is being given to us by someone, or something else. They are the stubborn characters who will not conform to our plans, and they are the inspiring darlings that we both curse and adore in turn. It is when our characters have their own lives, ambitions, and wills that we do not control.
Of course, not all of us create this way. If this is not how your creative mind works, don’t worry. I’ve known many wonderful writers who do not experience “muses” like this. Additionally, I’ve known many poor ones who do. So, it is no indicator of talent or creativity, in my opinion. It just so happens I do write this way, however, and it is something that gives me a lot of enjoyment.
I dearly love it when I can feel as though thoughts or actions come from characters themselves and not from me. Many times I have met writers who believed that their characters really did exist on a spiritual plane, and spoke to them through some kind of magical means. I think that it is a beautiful belief, but it is not one I personally share. My own belief is that it is an illusion, but it indicates I know my characters so intimately, that their personalities become second nature. Knowledge of how they would respond becomes reflexive and instinctual and can take over my creative process without my needing to will it.
The exercise I am going to offer here will work with whatever your beliefs on muses are. If you are not a writer who works with muses, and are interested in learning more about the process, this will work for you, too. This is a meditation exercise. The first three steps are a very basic meditation technique that works for me, and are intended to help introduce people to the practice. If you have your own meditation technique that works for you, skip the first three steps.
1. Find a comfortable position in a safe and comfortable place: This can be a bed, a favorite chair, or anywhere else you are free from interruptions.
2. Focus on your breath: Count to five slowly while you inhale, hold your breath for another count of five, then exhale slowly on the same five count. If your thoughts distract you, bring your mind back to your breath and the counting.
3. Relax: Be aware of your body as well as your breathing. Relax any part that feels tense. You may want to start a progression, from your toes, to your feet, to your ankles, legs, etc., consciously relaxing each part of your body in progression. Or, you can pick a method that feels comfortable and natural to you.
4. Visualize: Meditation can take years to learn, and a lifetime to master. Many people find the first three steps difficult to maintain. Do not worry if your mind is restless; that is common among creative people. Once you feel ready, stop the counting of your breaths and visualize a place in which you would like to meet your muse. This could be any meeting place that has significance to you, your character, and your story. I would recommend it be a place where you and your muse can meet in private, though. Other characters can be distracting.
5. Meet: Visualize the character you are wishing to “meet” coming into this space. Do not speak to them right away. Just picture them. Picture what they are wearing, how they enter, how they stand in front of you. Focus on that. When you are comfortable, greet them. Measure how they respond. If you need to pause and consider how they will respond to your greeting, or explore different variations on how you will greet them and how they will respond, take the time to do so. Immediacy is a goal for some, but is not always the way it starts. Enjoy trying on different variations and seeing which ones feel right, if you need to. Welcome them as a friend. Invite them to join your story, even ask their opinions. Take your time.
Obviously, this is all very generic. Each meditation experience will be a unique and personal one. You may not be able to clear your head of the groceries you need to buy, or the phone calls you need to make. It’s very easy to think of what you need to get done when you are trying to think of nothing at all. But, keep trying. And remember, getting frustrated in itself can be distracting.
If you do have a good experience, I would love to hear about it. I dearly love reading about people’s emotional journeys with their characters. And, I hope to post some of my own in the future as I start a new draft of my novel.
Also, if you would like to read more metaphysical articles for writers, please let me know that too. Happy writing, everyone!
Read more at http://www.georgettegraham.com
To my American readers, have a wonderful 4th of July! And, to people who protect and serve their country all over the world, thank you.
May we all enjoy peace, freedom, and togetherness. Best wishes to all.
And please, excuse the reminder that you can read more of my blog at http://www.georgettegraham.com.
You can follow me on twitter at @wordsofggraham, and you can also like me on facebook on the link provided on this page.
I hope to have more content here soon. Best wishes to all, and have a wonderful day!
Hello everyone! I’m just dropping in with a quick note. I know it’s been a long time since I posted here. The good news is that I have my own domain. You can visit me at http://www.georgettegraham.com now! However, I’ve realized that I love my followers here, and I do not wish to leave it. I should have been double-posting my links here the whole time, but I’ve neglected it. I am going to fix that now.
Here are some posts I’ve posted on my main page recently.
Spinning in Space: A short fiction portraying Earth, as seen by an alien race.
Act Like a Writer?: Character creation in the action process vs. the writing process.
Make the Quirk Work: Using personality quirks to make an interesting character.
Please enjoy, and everyone have a wonderful writing weekend! All my new posts at my domain will be double-posted here from now on!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone! Irish Blessings all around!