|picture courtesy of yeslioness.com|
*Note – I really wanted the title of this post to read “Be Authentic, Write Authentic.” However, the grammarian in me just couldn't deal with the lack of an adverb. Write is a verb after all, no matter how many minute I may sit in front of a blank screen.
I may not know a lot of things, but I do know this – if as a writer you’re asking too many questions about your characters or about your writing, then you need to put down the pen or get up from the computer and go out and get another job because you’ll never be a successful writer.
Successful writer (def) –one who enjoys the process of writing, enjoys what they written. (note, not necessarily a commercial success)
I do a LOT of skimming forums, blogs and groups. I am a nosy so and so, really I am. I’ve seen these questions about characters “Should my character do XYZ? Should s/he be ABC? Do you think…do you think…doyouthink DO YOUTHINK?”
I'm not talking about structure or events. It's natural to ask "should I jump into the action or give a bit of the 'ordinary world' first so readers can get an idea of 'what had been'" This, is a totally understandable questions.
But the questions that I've seen, "do you think she should kiss him first?"
I had one writer person ask me "what do you think she should do to turn off her boyfriend and make him break up with her?"
In the role of trying to be helpful, I asked, naturally, "What is the thing that he dislikes about her? What sets him off?"
Apparently, I set THEM off with that question because I was told how much research they had done in the characters, how they had pictures of their characters, their astrology sign, their Chinese horoscope and their Myers-Briggs profile.
The natural next question that came out of my mouth was "if you have all that information, then you should be able to figure it out for yourself."
Note: I am a short-tempered person, yes, I admit to that. But seriously, if you know so damn much, then you should know what will set another character off. I know exactly what to do to tick my husband off. If you know a character THAT WELL, then you should too
Stop asking people what they think. Focus on what you think. Better yet, focus on your character and what they think. They're the ones in the story.
Story Break: I had a reader read my story who then told me not what she thought about the story itself but that she didn't like the characters NAME. She thought it should be something else. Additionally, she didn't think that my male character should be sexually inexperienced. And she didn't like his profession either.
Suffice to say, I didn’t give a sh*t what she thought about the characters. They were who they were and that’s how they sprang from my head. Okay, yes, my female character is a pot smoker who’s deathly afraid of the dark and talks too much on the phone with her mother. By the way? There’s no cell/phone service and her mother’s dead. Overblown? Maybe. But who cares? Isn't fiction supposed to be larger than life? Plus, why write if you're not having fun doing it.
Now, if I had been a different person, I might have said “okay, so, I should change her name, move her to another state and make her a barista in a cafeteria in a car factory? Done!”
Um, no. If you have a character driven story….that changes the whole story, does it not?
Point is, you’ve got to be true to yourself. If your story “tanks” so be it. Don’t write for the masses. Don’t jump on the hot new “thing” in whatever genre. You like writing steampunk romance? Do it. You like writing about an overly made-up female hairdresser finding love with her shampoo gal? Write it.
Because if you start writing for others, you cease writing for yourself. I bet that’s a quotation, isn’t it? Let me go find it…
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.– Cyril Connolly
Enjoy your writing. Write what YOU like to write. It’s the only way that your authentic voice will shine through.
Final note: Please check out Yes, Lioness. I "ran into" her on tumblr and am taken by her illustrations. Give another artist a look.