THE BEST ADVICE I’VE HAD ABOUT PEOPLE (WHICH YOU CAN RARELY FOLLOW IN A FEW SECONDS UNLESS THEY ARE TRYING TO KILL YOU)
“WATCH WHAT THEY DO—NOT WHAT THEY SAY.”
Theoretically, a writer is god as far as his or her invented characters are concerned—in that the writer/creator can make his characters do or say anything.
In practice, it is not that simple, because apart from the limits of the context and credibility of the story, one is also limited by the personalities of the characters involved. Although it is certainly the case that the reader likes to be intrigued and surprised, it is also true that one’s protagonists are expected to behave in character—true to their innate natures. You can stretch this only up to a point. Beyond that, the reader switches off.
People like their fiction to be real! That makes no sense at all—except that it does.
Such limitations may sound somewhat daunting, but they are actually of considerable help. They limit your options so make it somewhat easier to make decisions.
Writing, strangely enough, is hugely about making decisions—a facet that arguably doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Temporary Writer’s Block often occurs because the writer cannot decide what to write.
Serious Writer’s Block is a manifestation of having nothing to write about in the first place. If that is the situation, then you are in the wrong line of work. A writer can lack all kinds of desirable qualities, but if you haven’t got an active mind, you shouldn’t be a writer.
Writing is the conversion of thought into the written word—which requires the existence of thought in the first place.
The solution to Temporary Writer’s Block is very simple. Write anything—even a shopping list—as long as you get writing. Better a bad decision than no decision. The words tend to sort them selves out after a while. They seem to have their own quirky sense of self-discipline—and although they are entirely capable of spreading chaos—they like to line up in a fairly orderly fashion to do the job.
In fact, words are downright military in style. Sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, columns—the things mass themselves like Caesar’s legions. And the writer is Caesar (or god).
Successful politicians, businessmen and soldiers, for instances, are seen as decisive by most of us, but I doubt very much that most writers are perceived in a similar way.
Yet, writers of fiction, in particular, spend their professional lives doing little else but deciding. Writing, arguably much more than we creative-types like to admit (because it doesn’t sound as appealing or romantic), is a highly disciplined decision-making process—that works around the clock.
No wonder writers drink. We are desperate to relax. We work too hard.
Writing isn’t just a conscious process. In fact, a great deal of the work seems to be done by one’s subconscious.
Just as well. The process is arduous enough as it is.
One aspect that I particularly enjoy is the way a story grows on the page. At a certain point, one’s characters seem to take over as if they are real, and had minds of their own.
Or are they real—and is what we tend to think of as ‘real life’ the fiction? Given how little we understand our existence, virtually anything is possible.
Maybe not anything.
Whatever about fiction, I doubt that the existence of a real, completely normal, rational human being is possible.
To be human, by definition, is to be flaky.
The infographic below helps to illustrate that point. Are we really that shallow?