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January 31, 2012

Multiple Personality Disorder? No, I’m a Writer

Stick figure drawings of crazy faces

This is an updated version of one of my favorite posts, the first of many to receive the “Jami is insane” tag.  It’s okay if you laugh with me or at me.  Either way, I’ll understand.  *smile*

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(No disrespect to anyone—crazy, insane, loony, committed, batty, bizarre, eccentric, daft, demented, deranged, or otherwise—is intended by this post.)

When is a crazy person not a crazy person?  When they’re a writer.

  • Writers can have hundreds of imaginary friends.  No, I’m not crazy.  I’m just talking to my characters.
  • Writers can talk about their subconscious as a separate person.  I thought the story would go one way, but my muse argued with me until I agreed to do it his way.
  • Writers can talk back to the voices in their head.  Of course I’m talking to the voices.  How else could I find out whether the butler did it? 
  • Writers can allow their characters to possess them, like multiple personality disorder.  I’m just getting into my character’s head so I know what they’re thinking.
  • Writers can have a god-complex, thinking they control the universe.  I do control the universe…in my stories.

We get to do all that—without being committed.  (Why do I have a jingle playing in my head?  *Wouldn’t you like to be a writer too?*)

In fact, the more in tune we are with our imaginary-friends-slash-characters, the better we are at making the world of their story believable for the reader.  And I don’t think that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

After all, how can a we make a reader believe in a character, setting, or situation, if we don’t believe it ourselves?  Even my villains become some of my imaginary friends, because if I have a good, well-rounded villain, I can sympathize with what drove them to their decisions.

I have to make my characters real in my head before they can become real on the page.  If I can’t figure out where to take a scene, it’s because I’m not listening to my characters.  Just as much as actors have “method acting”, becoming the character they’re playing, writers do the same thing.

When I listen to my characters, I discover things about the story I’d never think of on my own.  For one, they’re much funnier than I am.  And sarcastic.  And noble.  And generous.  Don’t those sound like the kind of people we’d like to have as friends?

So forgive me if I sound like a crazy person when I talk about how I know that so-and-so would never do such a thing because they told me.  When I listen to those voices in my head, I’m just trying to be a better writer.

Visit Kristen Lamb’s blog for more Top 10 Reasons to Become a Writer, as she gave me the idea for this post.  Thanks, Kristen!

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Have you ever read a book and felt like the characters were your friends?  What made them come alive for you?  How much do your characters or your muse talk to you?  Are you laughing with me or at me?  *smile*

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Angela Quarles

Of course I’m chuckling WITH you– so true! And what makes writing so much fun! This is only my second novel (first is banished to the nether regions under my bed) and so I was surprised when characters started telling me what would happen next as this was all such a new experience for me. One time I was completely blocked and I realized I was forcing a scene (I wanted the heroine upstairs with the hero for their first kiss) when I just couldn’t get past the footman coming to tell her she was wanted upstairs (I think I was going to have him wounded or something). Finally I realized she was being too passive/reactive and so I deleted the footman and had her go looking for him. Boom, right when I did that, the hero spoke to me and completely spelled out what he was going to do when she came into the room. It was very weird but a much more tension filled and exciting scene than I had planned for them.

Susan Sipal

Fun post, Jami! And it’s not just the characters, the world building can come to life too. I’ve started defining people in the “real” world according to the beings in my created one. And it seems so real to me. I once caught myself telling a friend that my daughter was such a Jinn, then realized she thought I meant gin and had no idea what I was saying.

Tell me I’m not the only one who’s done something like this…please. 🙂

M. Howalt

With you – all the way!
My muse says hello. He thinks it’s great to hear that his typist isn’t the only one taking his kind seriously. 😉

Melinda Collins

Great post, Jami! So much fun and I am totally laughing *with* you! I was just telling Lisa yesterday that while we were away this weekend my Muse awakened and all these ideas and characters started flowing in and out of my head. The best part was that my hubby didn’t exactly think I was crazy or insane… he may have used the word ‘wierd’ or something along those lines, but still…I’m not crazy! 😉

My Muse would probably say hello right about now as well becuase he loves to relish with others who know he exists but unfortunately, I think I misplaced him somewhere between Beaufort and home on Sunday. I’m still looking for him and hoping he’ll be at home waiting for me when I get off work with a big fat mischeivous grin on his face and a large vodka soda in his hand. 🙂

Nancy S. Thompson

I’m laughing with you, Jami, and I totally get where you’re coming from. I went so far as to fall in love with my own MC. How crazy is THAT? Luckily for me (and my sanity), we’re just friends now. *grins*

Kathrine Roid

Erm. *points* Meet my muse.

*muse waves* Hi! I help keep Kat sane – or insane, whichever keeps her alive, the latter of which is more likely. My partners in crime are Kat’s kitty, and Kat’s bestest writer friend, Cat.

Welcome to my mind. 🙂

Heather
Heather

Oh, I agree so completely! Yes, often those characters do things we didn’t think they’d do…or say the most outrageous things. I often think that if the government is somehow keeping tabs on what I google, they must wonder about me (poisonous mushrooms? knife handling techniques? effects of hanging on the body?). Yeah. Thankfully, my husband hasn’t yet caught me on my elliptical machine, convulsed in diabolical laughter, as I’m hit with a fresh burst of direction for my character!

Sonia Lal

True! So true! LOL I do all those things, but not in front of people for fear I might come off a little batty.

Buffy Armstrong

I just came back from grabbing my lunch. I got almost to my building when this woman I was approaching started giving me a strange look. You know, the look you give people on the bus that are wearing an aluminum foil cap. I realized that I had been involved in a very animated conversation about the motivation of one of the characters with MYSELF. I’m sure this conversation was complete with hand gestures and eye rolling. So, Jami, I am well versed in crazy!

Amanda

My characters talk to me ALL THE TIME. Seriously, sometimes I have to tell them to shut up so I can do other stuff. The one time I couldn’t hear my characters…well, the writing was good. The story was not. Sigh. Back to the drawing board…

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

I think it’s unfortunate that the psychiatric world has classified imagination as a mental disorder :/

My mom’s a pshrink. If I’d not learned to keep my mouth shut when having conversations with my imaginary friends, well, I’d be wearing one of those hug-me jackets in a soft-walled room.
Then again, she’s also an artist, so I probably got some leeway there, artists being just as bat-sh*t crazy as writers.

David Nevin

All the voices in my head agree with you.

Kate Newburg

In order to get into their heads, we have to let them take over ours. I guess that’s fair play. 😉

Robert Datson

Jami,
Sometimes I worry that people will think I’m insane, as they read my stories and realise the things on the paper have come from my head. This is not helped by my chosen genre, Horror, which therefore entails crazy things happening, evil characters, and nasty intentions.
Oh well, I’ll just blame it on my childhood.
Thanks for the thought – you have me thinking more about my lead character and what he is thinking in the middle of a tense scene.
Robert.

Amber

WITH you. Always with you. 😉
You nailed it! What an aqesome post! I liken my experience to watching a movie in my head that I can pause, rewind, and even change sometimes. I admit that it took me some time before I was brave enough to ask another writer if this was “normal”, if this is how they did it.
And if you ask me, being allowed to be nutters is one heck of a job description! 🙂 This is definitely my brand of crazy.

Gene Lempp

Tell her. No, can’t. Seriously just say it. It. No, tell her the thing about…

No one crazy here at all. Nope *grins*

Fun post, Jami 😀

Annalise Green

I write because I love my characters and I want to share them with the world. Sort of like I’m inviting the world to a party. Where I made up all the dinner guests…

Yeah…sure I can’t be BOTH crazy and a writer? ;p

Sarah
Sarah

I am laughing with you as I often wonder if i’m crazy for many of the reasons listed here. My question is what happens when this “writers insanity” interferes with and even inhibits your daily life. My own sister asked my father why I was talking to myself this was when I was in my teens. I’m a lot older an non the better off now. I am actually faced with a doctors appoint tomorrow and the task of trying to explain this to my doctor and how it contributes to my utter lack of focus on things like laundry, homework and various other required daily activities of a functioning person.

Lora Rivera
Lora Rivera

Yes. Absolutely. My MC from current WIP actually told me the other day that she was busy and didn’t want to talk to me so much because, and get this, she didn’t think it was healthy for ME. Erm. Okay, I said, and left it that.

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[…] Jami Gold made me laugh with her post Multiple Personality Disorder? No, I’m a Writer. […]

Serena
Serena

Two of my characters (both male) are permanent residents in my head. Occasionally, I will invite a “guest speaker” i.e. another character, to come talk to me to help me with his or her story. I have to say, my two “permanent residents” are not just helpful in my story writing, they are also helpful in my everyday life. They comfort me when I’m sad, bolster me when my self esteem is being threatened, and join in my delight when something good happens to me. Put short, they are more than just muses, they are friends! In fact, I have a fellow writer friend who confessed to me that it was talking to her characters that got her through high school—she wouldn’t have survived that phase of her life without them. I find these story character–writer friendships very intriguing. They are not exactly imaginary friends either….it’s a more special kind of relationship. Also, I’m not sure if anyone else has experienced something similar, but my two permanent resident characters very often get jealous of each other, as they both want me all to themselves. They love me so much and I love them too, but this rivalry between them is pretty amusing. In the past, I only had one of these characters in my head, but now this second character came so my first character is annoyed that he doesn’t get to reign supreme in my mind anymore, lol. All of this sounds very strange indeed, but I’ve gathered that…  — Read More »

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[…] to pretend that everything was normal, that I was okay.  I reposted an old blog last Tuesday, a funny one no less.  I responded to comments with good humor.  I concentrated on last Wednesday’s good news […]

Shadowkat678 (@Kat678Shadow)
Shadowkat678 (@Kat678Shadow)

I know this is old, but what worries me a bit is my villains. They say every character is actually the writer and every writer is their characters, so what happens when you have a villain so good at head games, completely without empathy, and a psychological genius who tries to stack as many layers on his mind games as he can? For him, there’s nothing personal behind what he does to the main character. No, it’s fun, entertaining. He likes making her feel trapped just for her reaction. How far can he go? How many layers can he stack on top of each other to mess around with this person’s head? It’s a game, and he plots everything so he’ll hold all the cards. The dice are loaded, and he has the mirrors just right so he can tell everything his opponent has in their hand? With my main character it shows the worst. I think he finds it funny how she acts, the way she still fights back. She’s not really willing to be against him, I’ll say it that way. I think I read something somewhere about how some people like him get drawn in by people they can’t solve, find them like a puzzle or a challenge. The hateful glares, the sarcastic responses, the metaphorical middle finger she puts up just makes it fun, it makes him laugh.Everything he does is psychological. Head games so multilayered I’m not sure how I’m coming up with them. He’s…  — Read More »

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