Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mumbling ... and Other Odd Behaviour

Back from a long weekend of unpacking and cat-cuddling in my new apartment. We now return to your regularly scheduled programme.

This long weekend, as I was unpacking boxes upon boxes of books, putting up pictures and my ginormous poster of the map of Middle Earth I own (yes, I am that much of a geek, I have a giant map of Middle Earth.), I caught myself doing this strange thing and I just had to laugh. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember, and I'm not sure if that is a worrisome thing.

I was talking to myself. But it wasn't 'regular' talking to myself like "where did I put that hammer" or "how is this supposed to be hung?" kind of talking to myself. This was full-blown, in character talking to invisible characters around me kind of talking to myself.

Now, again, I do not speak for all authors, but I personally have a tendency to talk to my characters... out loud... in public. I act out scenarios that are floating through my head, explore the emotions inherent in those scenarios and interactions between characters... out loud... in public.

I did it this very morning as I was walking to work. I've done it while waiting quietly for other members of our Lion Dance troupe to show up. I've done it lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling to pass the hours while pointlessly waiting for sleep to come. I do it everywhere, and it's odd!

The thing is, I don't really realise I'm doing it until I'm about half-way through any given scene. Then I laugh to myself and continue on in silence for a while before it all starts up again, unbidden and unnoticed until I realise, then I laugh to myself and carry on in silence until....

It struck me this weekend just how that might look to a stranger's eye.

I mean, what would you think if you saw a young woman talking to the empty air around her and then chuckling to herself as she walked passed you? Precisely!

I remember doing it in High School when I thought no one was around and they couldn't see. Apparently they were and they could, and I never lived it down, but that is another story completely.

Now I implore you, if you happen to see a young lady walking down the street who otherwise seems put-together and in possession of all her mental faculties, and she happens to be mumbling and giggling to herself, don't assume she's an escapee from the local psycho ward. Give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she's an author, working her way through a scene.

That or she has a blue-tooth.


whqttt said...

The only commercially successful author I can claim to know happily states on his website that he carries a notebook around everywhere, and notes down every idea or conversational fragment which appeals.

What he doesn't say is he actually keeps a diary of his main character whilst he is writing "their" book. Not so they can provide a behind the scenes account of the story as it unfolds, but like you or I would journal something.

Current events, the weather, something exciting being delivered by a biscuit company in a big wooden crate, it all gets written down from the characters perspective.

I imagine this is entirely invaluable for fleshing out those little traits that he might otherwise never think to include in a novel.

But is this useful, for example, for some other important, but not the main character?

We might never know that the main character's best friend is allergic to cheese, but it's quite possible that we'll find that out about the star of the show.

Personally, I can see many flaws in this, but it clearly works for him. He makes a living from committing this clear act of madness.

I think, however, you've given yourself a get-out clause. Wear a blue-tooth headset. When you catch yourself arguing with one of your characters, and realise someone else is present, simply point at it, and they'll think you aren't quite the loon....

S. M. Carrière said...

Thank Wqtt,

I think I just might!