Monday, 25 August 2014

Are Your Characters Making You Insane or Inventive?

Two articles in the Guardian this week about voices and creativity, and the recent death of Robin Williams, made me think of the worlds inside my head. (If you want, you can read the articles yourself, here and here.) 

The first article discussed the voices Virginia Woolf heard and how it made her feel:

"I feel I have gone too far this time to come back again. It is just as it was the first time, I am always hearing voices, and I know I shant get over it now … I have fought against it, but I can't any longer, Virginia."

That was something she wrote to her sister just before she killed herself. She would write a novel to quell the voices and as soon as she was finished, a new set a voices came. She couldn't deal with it anymore. 

The woman was a literary genius but the voices made her insane.

The second article talked about the characters and voices heard by the great Charles Dickens. For him, the characters were so real, it was as if he was just overhearing what the characters were saying and writing it down.

Dickens wrote to his friend John Forster: "when I sit down to my book, some beneficent power shows it all to me, and tempts me to be interested, and I don't invent it – really do not – but see it, and write it down".

Dickens took those voices, accepted them and created like mad. His novels are proof that the characters inside the writer's head are sometimes so real we just stand back, watch and record.

Not every writer deals with the characters or voices in the same way. Perhaps some writers don't hear the characters speak to them at all. But, it should make us think. 

How do the voices come to you? Do they sometimes make you insane or foster your creativity?


Sources: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/21/hilary-mantel-virginia-woolf-inner-voices?CMP=twt_gu

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/22/charles-dickens-hearing-voices-created-his-novels?CMP=twt_gu

Photo credit: pvillarrubia / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

21 comments:

  1. The ones that make me insane are the ones who need to be told 'right now', while I'm already working on another project. Other than that, for me, my characters can't talk to me enough. I'll definitely check out those links. Thx!

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    1. Yeah, sometimes the ones that aren't being heard shout the loudest.

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  2. Clarissa - You raise such an interesting question!! For me, the characters only nag at me like that if I haven't yet started writing about them. Once I start telling their stories, the noise, if you will, quiets down. I'm only driven a little crazy if I ignore the characters...

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    1. It's true. Once were writing the voices become quieter.

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  3. I don't think I really hear voices. I'm more visual, so I see them instead.
    Interesting the different reactions of the two authors to the voices in their heads.

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    1. In a way they hear similar things and yet so different.

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  4. I think we all hear voices in our head to some extent. It's a shame that for those like Virginia Woolfe, some can't learn to control or turn the voices down a bit. Definitely something to think about.

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    1. It's was that a great mind like hers was cut short. Who knows what she would have accomplished if she hadn't killed herself.

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  5. I hear and see the characters, which usually begin speaking to me in a dream.

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  6. Hi Clarissa - I don't see or hear characters, then I'm not writing a novel - but your post is fascinating that it draws on both Woolf and Dickens - I enjoyed this and learnt about voices ... cheers Hilary

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    1. It fascinated me what I learned about them too.

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  7. I never knew this about Dickens, so thanks for the trivia Clarissa. I imagine a little a little bit of insanity helped many artists.

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  8. I hear and see book people. Usually It's all in my head while I'm awake, but from time to time they invade my dreams. I hate it when they lie to me in the beginning, or are too tight-lipped.

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    1. Hey, they have to keep things interesting!

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  9. I know my husband says I get irritable and testy when I'm not writing. That is a direct and provable response to not living at least a part of my mental time with my characters.

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    1. I'm not fun to be around when I'm not creating either.

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  10. Clarissa, this is a very interesting post. Voices come to me in particular places, like when I am taking a bus home in the evening. The voices in my head tell me a story replete with plot and characters. However, by the time I alight I have forgotten everything. Sometimes I feel like talking into a recorder but I run the risk of being thrown out of the bus by the conductor.

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  11. hmm...I think I talk to my characters more than they do to me! I do have a sense of not wanting to let them down, to do them justice, no matter what their foibles might be. And they do give me grief before they are properly named. Very tetchy about that.

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  12. The ones that make me insane are the one that won't define themselves!

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  13. When I put all my craziness into my characters, it keeps me from going insane >:)

    Cold As Heaven

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