Last night I had a dream. (Yes, I know posts on dreams are lame. But bear with me—it’s a great metaphor.) In my dream, I was sitting at a table and all my characters were in a queue waiting to talk to me. A man sat down opposite me and said, “Okay, I’m the guy who sells his coat. What is my motiviation?” All my characters wanted to chat with me about their hopes, history, etc. They all wanted to know their motivations.
I mused on that dream. I think writing is a lot like that. When I first start a novel, I become each of my characters—I’m the irritable, bitter teenage boy hoping to be brave, the villain trying to kill the protagonist, the girl searching for love, etc. In that way, it’s a lot like method acting. But, it doesn’t stay like that.
The longer my characters are around, the more they become “themselves.” They have secrets they don’t tell me (eventually I drag it out of them), they manipulate me, they refuse to do what I tell them—they take over. In fact, they take me over. Ask my kids. They see me gesticulating wildly, mumbling under my breath, and plotting demises—with an evil look in my eye.
It’s no wonder they call writing a special form of madness. My characters and I slip in and out of each other’s skin and mind like changing clothes.
Watch out—I’m becoming the villain later today and he’s intent on world domination.