The Journal: Respect the Characters

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Respect the Characters
* An Update
* Of Interest

Quote of the Day

“Sometimes you have to just slip on the thin leather gloves, pull out the sharp stiletto, and start slitting throats.” Anonymous author on how to deal with people who offer advice without the benefit of first-hand knowledge

Topic: Respect the Characters

I was fortunate to get a TalkWalker alert when a fellow writer tried to explain how I write to a group of writers.

His explanation of my process was compared and contrasted with the process of another writer in one of those carefully non-offending, “Hey, whatever works for you is best. Everybody wins and gets a participation trophy” comments. Which is fine if that’s the way your bow bends.

Frankly, as you’ve heard me say before, I don’t care how anyone else writes. Whatever method or process you choose is fine with me because it has no effect on me. So what do I care? But to make the leap and say that one process or method is just as good as another is not accurate.

You either have the confidence to trust your characters (and yourself and your creative subconscious) or you don’t: If you do, writing is all but effortless and fun, the writing actually flows, and the stories and novels are more authentic, meaning they are what your characters actually experienced.

If you don’t, writing is laborious work, the opposite of fun. Once the new has worn off, the story becomes something through which you have to trudge in order to finish it. (And once the outline is written, the story is no longer new, is it? You’ve already told it once in the outline.) You’ll construct and contrive the story one clunky block at a time: outlining, writing to the outline, revising, and rewriting all are functions of the conscious, critical mind. As are focusing on words and sentences and paragraphs instead of Story.

I actually just shuddered at the thought. I want to be a writer, not a concrete-block mason.

But I hasten to add, if you are unable to trust yourself, your creative subconscious, and your characters—or if you consciously choose not to try because you prefer the more laborious route—that’s fine with me. It won’t affect my own production or income in the slightest, so what do I care?

But back to my friend’s comment. As it regarded my process, it simply was not accurate. Here is my reply, expanded and edited a bit:

Actually, [name redacted], I simply trust and respect my characters. That’s all it is.

I don’t put words into their mouths or events into their reality. I don’t force them to live and act and react within the artificial structure of an ouline. I don’t thrust them into temse situations or “increase the stakes” or any of that.

I let them live their story as it unfolds, and I do my best to keep up and write it all down. I don’t make-up my own version of their story and superimpose it over what actually happened.

Come to think of it, I extend the same respect to other human beings, like my neighbors or the people across town. I’m a writer, so I might write their stories too someday, but I won’t presume to—ahem—enhance their story with something I made up.

Like Stephen King, DWS, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lee Child, a host of other novelists and even the creators of the television series Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad, I simply follow the characters around and write down what happens and what they say and do. I serve as the recorder of the characters’ stories. Stephen King calls himself the characters’ stenographer.

But whatever label anyone wants to slap on it, I’m just thrilled to be the first to witness the characters’ authentic stories—stories that were lived and recorded as they actually happened, not some boring contrivances of my own conscious, critical mind.

Because that would be “my” story, and nobody wants to see that. Especially considering how very drab my own story has become, sitting in a chair for hours on end tapping away on a laptop just as if it makes the slightest difference.

An Update

Thank you all for your patience with the web-host situation I’ve recently been through. This post is coming to your email in-boxes (and note the lack of “security warning”) from my new host, Hosting Matters.

I hope the other sites (still at the old host) will all be up later today. If they are, I can delay the headache of moving them all over to the new host for awhile. If they aren’t, I’ll email their tech section again to see what can be done. But if the answer isn’t satisfactory I’ll start the process of moving all of those over to the new host as well.

In other news, the boat’s still bucking in the swells, but at least now I know it isn’t going to capsize. Enough of the storm has passed that I can relax a little and go back to my writing today after a few days’ absence. I’m looking forward to visiting with the characters.

Talk with you again later.

Of Interest

See “25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites” at https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/57032/25-words-are-their-own-opposites.

See “30 Words That Are Their Own Opposites” at https://www.thoughtco.com/words-that-are-their-own-opposites-4864116. I thought I’d list both and let them fight it out.

See “Make More Than Coffee Money” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/make-more-than-coffee-money/.

See “The 14 Literary Newsletters You Need in Your Inbox” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-14-literary-newsletters-you-need-in-your-inbox/. My reaction was much the same as that of Mike Hall, the sole commenter.

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 950 words

Writing of Blackwell Ops 8 (tentative title, novel)

Day 11… 3134 words. Total words to date…… 23240
Day 12… 1257 words. Total words to date…… 24497
Day 13… 3078 words. Total words to date…… 27575
Day 14… 1597 words. Total words to date…… 29172
Day 15… 1901 words. Total words to date…… 31073
Day 16… 2569 words. Total words to date…… 33642
Day 17… 3741 words. Total words to date…… 37383
Day 18… 2229 words. Total words to date…… 39612

Total fiction words for June……… 33628
Total fiction words for the year………… 45405
Total nonfiction words for June… 11620
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 92230
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 137635

Calendar Year 2022 Novels to Date…………………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2021 Short Stories to Date… 0
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 66
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 217
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

Disclaimer: I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. I’ve never said WITD is “the only way” to write, nor will I ever. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among other topics.