Friday, June 5, 2009

What if . . .

First, Elana and I, as normal, are somewhat in sync with our posts. For the last few days I've been tossing around ideas for my next in depth and totally brilliant post that will just WOW all my followers. Okay, I really didn't think those words, but I have been thinking about the post.

My main idea for the post was . . . how much of yourself do you put in your characters? Quite a few of the blogs lately have delved into this question. Personally, I put something of me in every character I write. Sometimes, the me I put into the characters is the me I might have been had I been more active in a situation, or done this instead of that or whatever! Sometimes the me is very close in nature as to who I've become throughout the years.

In my current WIP, I'm delving into the dysfunctional nature of my family. Say what??? Say what if . . . instead of remaining silent at the pivotal moment in time I (or rather my MC) voiced their opinions? What if . . . instead of turning left at the stop sign that day, my MC turned right? How different would his/her life have been? What if . . . said MC confronted all the people in his/her life who did him/her wrong? What if . . . the fateful night the MC met his current boyfriend/girlfriend never happened? What if . . . said MC followed his instinct and . . . ??

So, my current WIP deals with many of the issues that happened in my life, but on the what if premise, rather than the reality premise. I'm delving into deep,dark places that are emotionally draining (and yet somehow cathartic) to write. The endless conversations in my mind are pouring out onto the computer screen. The doubts and fears - EVERYTHING - are the basis for my current WIP.

Have you done something similiar? Have you taken an experience from your life and incorporated it into your writing, but changed it to have a different outcome? You see, that's the fun of writing. With fingers poised over the keyboard, my mind racing, I can explore the what ifs of every moment of my life, and perhaps - kudos to Elana for her post Thursday - the future moments as well.

I can invest as much or little of me as I want in the characters. I can dream up fantastic events that will - hopefully in some instances - never happen to me, but happen to my characters. I can alter the events of my life and provide a different outcome. I can - as I do when I read - live vicariously through my characters.

Lastly - do I wish for a different life than I have? Heck, no. I have a great life, good friends, and family, and a partner who loves to do yardwork, the laundry, and vacuum. Now, if I could just get him to do everything else, then I'd be a really happy camper. Still, life happens, as it happens, and if (as I stated on Elana's blog - in different words, btw) my future self came back and told me not to date so and so, well, then, this, that, never happened, well, I might have to do my own laundry and vacuum. I seriously prefer not to have to do those things. I'm just saying . . .

The above picture is of our former office cat Ghost (as in the Grey Ghost, The Phantom). He was a stray we slowly tamed (obviously) and had for a few years before we finally adopted out. As you can see, he was quite comfortable in the office. Many a day I had that cat curled up in my lap while I worked. Ah, such is life!


Angie Ledbetter said...

I have lots of similar life-to-fiction moments in my WIP too, which I think goes to the "write what you know" advice. All the digging, poking and prodding into the What Ifs will surely be interesting to ourselves and future readers, right?

Marybeth Poppins said...

I am with you...every character of mine has a small piece of me in them. Considering everyone wants to be like me, I let my characters live the dream...I's my Margarita again???

PJ Hoover said...

Some of my characters have a bunch of me. Others not so much. But I do think you nailed it when you mentioned living vicariously through our characters. I love doing this!

ElanaJ said...

Some of my characters have quite a bit of me in them. They're pretty easy to write--if not painful sometimes.

But it's the ones that aren't like me that fascinate me the most. It's like meeting someone new, someone who can do things you can't, say things you never would, and choose things that will lead them down a road you can never travel.

And that's why writing stories with characters that aren't like me are fun. That's also why I like to read. Sure, we need to be able to connect to a character, but once we have, we'll go anywhere with them. Right? I will, at least.

Great post Scott!

Scott said...

Elana - more often than not, the ones not like 'me' are the 'me' I sometimes wish I was. Go figure. I'm also exploring the more painful bits in this WIP rather than other projects. Perhaps I'm just at that 'point' in my life. : )

PJ - I'm all about the vicarious living part. I might have a character that loves to sky dive, but there's no way you're getting me to jump out of a plane. Well, if it's a life or death situation, maybe . . . maybe.

Marybeth - Is it possible not to invest something of us in our characters? Oh, and step away from the margaritas. Wait, never mind, it's Phriday and Margarita Night. Woo Hoo. Yes, I read your post this morning.

Angie - exploring the 'what ifs' is fun. I mean, seriously, I'd never do what my MC is doing, probably never have the guts to do what he (Seth, btw) is doing, but it sure is fun to write a character like that.

Tess said...

So much of my writing is me playing the 'what if' question with bits and pieces of my own life. It's the whole 'write what you know' concept, I guess.

And, I'm with you -- I'd turn down the crystal ball that let me avoid pain but also miss out on what I have right now. It's not a perfect life, but it's mine and it makes me happy.

And, my husband doesn't like housework -- we used to argue about it -- then he hired a cleaning service. On the days they are here, he comes home and says , "I see I cleaned the toilets today." and I say, "Yes you did, thank you."

It's WAY cheaper than marraige counseling - lol!

Makita Jazzqueen said...

I have quarrelled a lot with myself about that: I don't want so much of my life in my writing!
You see, I'm writing a novel, and most of the things that happen there could have happened in my life, and some characters could have been real (the main character, for example, has most of my characteristics)...
I just wanted to create new people, noot copy them...

Cool post, btw... Check on my blog, if you have time!=)

Scott said...

Makita - I create new characters all the time. I can't help but invest something of 'me' in each of them. For the most part, playing the 'what if . . .' game is a great way to expand on the characters and go into uncharted territory so that the real stuff is a very distant backdrop.

On my current WIP, I'm taking real life events that shaped my life and going to extremes with the decisions of the MC. So, instead of the MC remaining silent at a certain point, he speaks out. Or, instead of the MC choosing to stay home one night, he goes out . . . In other situations, the emotions of real life events are beneath the surface, but they are fictionalized to a very great extent.

I rarely copy people. Sometimes, I find the inspiration for characters comes from real people - someone I see while out drinking margaritas, someone in the grocery, a waiter, a friend of a friend of a friend. I don't know these real people most of the time - a glance, an impression, something that clicks in my mind - and BAM, they come to life through my often wicked imagination. Such is writing.

This is really the first time I've delved so deep into my personal life for my writing. Most times, I just wing it and let my imagination roam where it wants to roam.

Thanks for dropping by. I do drop by your blog every now and then. I just lurk in the background. : )

Tess - cleaning service? Oh, I am so dang jealous. I'd love a cleaning service. SIGH. Oh, and your husband is a bit snarky, don't you think?? ; )

Icy Roses said...

I think my characters are usually the kinds of people I would like to be. They say things I wouldn't dare say, and do things I would never dream of doing. I live vicariously though them.

Love your blog. :-)

Robyn said...

Me too. My girls in my MG novel have bits of me in them. Poor things! :) I'm living the dream through them. Yep!

Stacy Nyikos said...

My first novel was totally cathartic. I think lots of authors go through that. We pick and choose from our own lives, and others. Beware, friends! But it helps. I felt a lot better after that book was over. But became a better writer because I wrote it.

Scott said...

Stacy - thanks for dropping by. My current WIP is very cathartic, perhaps too much so. I got to one point last night where I had to stop writing - way, way, way too intense. I think it's a good thing, but I have a feeling the current chapter is going to take a while to write. : )

Oh, and my friends should worry about the current MS out to query . . . as should many people in Nashville since I used tidbits of real information and cleverly (at least I hope so) concealed it in fiction. : ) Ah, the joys of inputting real life into fiction.

Tess said...

I shouldn't make it sound fancier than it's just a lady from Argentina and she's pretty cheap.

And, yes, he is snarky. It's one of my favorite things about him. I love a good debate and a little snark ;)

And, I like your comment about living vicariously through our characters. You could do a whole post on is a great idea and a new way to look at our work.