Novel Writers are Actors Playing Every Role in a Story
I have always considered the novel-writing process a mysterious and unnatural enterprise being only one person with one set of feelings and experience to draw from. Actors, at least, are only required to dive into the feelings and experiences of one character at a time generally speaking while the novel writer doesn’t have the luxury of remaining for any length of time in one body or mind. We are the lone travelers who must be willing to jump like a honeybee from one mindset to another in the space of one scene. We have no choice if we want to make our characters real, believable and three-dimensional. It really is like being a honeybee or butterfly due to the necessity of jumping from character to character without interruption, hiccup or fail.
Not only is it necessary to jump from one conscious framework to another in a single scene but to deal effectively with the complex interplay of emotions, connections, personalities, clashes, understandings and influences of situations and circumstances upon the characters themselves. It’s also often necessary to come to some sort of conclusion or resolution pertaining to this interaction between characters that is real, believable, imaginative or meaningful. Basic psychological understanding of human nature is necessary. This can put a lot of strain and pressure on the writer to produce “realistic” material that is compelling, consistent and sensible but also entertaining for the reader. Needless to say, the fiction-writing process is a complex one and one shouldn’t enter the arena without understanding exactly what’s required to complete the creative process. The end product relies on his/ her talent, tenacity and mastery of the entire process.
Shifting headspace from one character to another and placing oneself in each individual’s shoes and situation is the best way to make scenes interesting and impactful to the reader. In my view, this means abandoning and losing yourself in the characters as much as possible. Your own emotions, ideas, principles, values and perspectives are better left behind during the process for your novel to be memorable and also for breathing life into characters. Thinking of yourself as a shell or portal for your characters to communicate their own thoughts and emotions through helps in the effort and is one major way to tackle the creative process. Let your characters speak through you and express their voices through you, in a sense letting the universal mind or consciousness flow through your veins. Avoid applying what you personally want or your own character traits or values to your characters. This is important to the process. This lets your characters be who they are not what you are. They are “people” separate from you and that, I believe, is the best way to think of them which avoids suffocating your characters under a tyrannical “God-like” creative process. Your characters shouldn’t be slaves or necessarily reflect your own values and ideas and, in fact, it stretches the author’s abilities to occasionally develop characters that are opposite to his/ her own values and ideas, even characters he/ she doesn’t like. Characters that you despise are really a fun way to challenge yourself as a writer. You get to put yourself in your worst enemy’s shoes and explore that side or yourself or side of someone else. Think of it as a chance to explore the universe of possible personality types different from your own. If you can get your head around that and master it at the same time, your writing will likely improve, become more vibrant and lively, making your stories more enjoyable and your characters more endearing to read and take to heart by sympathetic readers.