What have your characters taught you?

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What have your characters taught you?

Postby sierramcconnell » 23 Feb 2011, 13:27

Surely I'm not the only one this has happened to.

Recently, I've been crawling out from under a slew of medical issues, one of which would be malnutrion because it's nigh impossible to get enough to eat when you're constantly losing the food you put in there in the first place. I'm on medication for that, which is sorta helping but not really. In turn, not being able to eat and losing a lot of blood and minerals and such can depress the heck out of your system, and basically make you feel like you're going to die and nothing is worth anything anymore.

Hence a lot of my issues. I apologize for that as well, I was a total ass, and I'm dealing with it. (I have an appointment with a cousellor and some medication that's cherry flavored, but I have to look out for the potentially fatal rash that could make me blind.)

...anyway. On to the point of the post.

I have been working on the book. Taking photographs, and working on things that I had been neglecting before because now I have some energy back. I'm not the lethargic death mole I was two weeks ago, and though still sick, I'm recovering a little. As I've been editing my books, I've come across a few things that hit me just right, right when I needed it, and now that I have a Twitter (darn my friend in Poland for addicting me to updating via txt) I post them there when I see them.

But it was like...I needed to hear them. When I stretched myself thin at work and felt like an utter floormat because I give and give and never seem to get recognized...Serenius came through again.

"Sacrifice is the biggest and best gift one can give." - Serenius, Chasing Miracles, Chapter Four.

Then today, as I was sitting in Barnes and Noble, editing on the other book, Azazel, my hot Watcher (XD), answered his son about the impending punishment he faces of being thrown in flames. His son fears for him, but he replies...

"You fear for something you cannot control." - Azazel, Eden Underground

Which is soothing in a way. Here's a guy who is chained in a cave for eternity and all he has to look forward to is a fiery death. But he's just as calm as can be as he stands there and paints, soothing his child and smiling beatifically.

So...surely I'm not the only person who has gotten advice from her own characters?
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Down the well » 24 Feb 2011, 10:17

sierramcconnell wrote:So...surely I'm not the only person who has gotten advice from her own characters?


Not advice exactly, but I know I'd be crazier than I am if I didn't write. We get to explore a lot of emotions on the page as writers, and if we're self-aware enough we might learn a thing or two about who we really are by the words we choose. If that makes sense.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 24 Feb 2011, 10:38

First - thanks for sharing how you're doing. I've been thinking about you and hoping you were doing better and I'm glad to see that there's been a little light at the end of your tunnel. It is good to see you back and feeling more in the spirit of writing. Also, yay for cherry flavored medicine :-)

It's the little things, right?

Second, your question - I don't think I've ever gotten advice from my characters exactly, but many of the most important themes in my writing are ones that are most important to me - like identity and the struggle between doing what you should do verse doing what you want to do with your life, and working through the idea that family isn't necessarily bound by blood, for good and for ill. Because I get to work through these themes and issues inside my writing, I tend to help myself deal with them in my real life.

Interesting though, is that if I'd just given myself the advice straight away, I'd probably ignored it. Having to work it out through these little intangible character lives makes it more meaningful and I'm more ready to believe it myself. It's like creating my own therapist.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Beethovenfan » 24 Feb 2011, 10:55

I have found that sometimes my characters are smarter than I am, and make better decisions than I do. Perhaps my unconscious is trying to tell me something? I have found myself thinking I should be more like some of my characters. If I had to pin down something that I have learned from my characters it would be to be more bold. I tend to stand back and let things happen rather than take the bull by the horns so to speak.

Also, I didn't comment on your thread "what about the losers" but I read through all of it. I just want to commend you on your bravery in speaking up when you were hurting. I too am glad you are back and feeling a bit better. :)
"Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine."
~ Ludwig van Beethoven
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby polymath » 24 Feb 2011, 11:22

The characters I write about are inventions. They don't teach me; they are learning tools. They're imitations of persons I've known, know, or myself, what they and I mean to me.

Writing, though, is not another story. Yes, I learn, I'm not taught, by writing, not just about writing, about myself, about my external real world, about my internal real world. By writing I explore the meanings of things to me and whatnot. Why am I in the straights I'm in? Why do I have such a hard time? Why do I self-sabotage what's good for me? Why is my plate so full of misery and longing and despair? And what does it all mean, mean to me?

I've gotten some brutal answers from writing about what's troubling me. Many tears. Lots of anger. Momentary joyful rewards from the epiphanies. It bites The Big Lebowski, life does, and it ain't gonna get any easier. Writing about it helps me find the meaning of it all, and helps me cope, be stronger for what's to come, manage negotiating another day without losing my recently hard-won optimistic outlook and keep a pleasant expression on my face, without the paralysis of despair.

"The Big Lebowski" is my everyday experience, the 1998 movie starrring Jeff Bridges that didn't do very well, a critical and marketplace failure with a cult following. Knowing why it didn't do so well, its too true-to-life in its truth is stranger than fiction way of weirdness, coincidence, and off kilter portrayal, and no consequential transformation of circumstances or characters, an incomplete dramatic action, and an unhappy and unfinalized outcome lacking mass culture popular appeal told me what I want to express with my writing the way I've tried to express it won't wash.

Misery loves company; company doesn't want misery. So I'm focusing on making believe my troubles are catalysts for change for the better. Whenever anymore I feel like lashing out, finding fault, defending the indefensible errors I make, I dig in and explore meaning so I can focus on the silver lining and express meanings without miring down in the misery. And that's what I'm striving for in my writing, expressing the harsh realities of existence yet finding the good in them, what little there may be.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 24 Feb 2011, 12:00

polymath wrote:Misery loves company; company doesn't want misery. So I'm focusing on making believe my troubles are catalysts for change for the better. Whenever anymore I feel like lashing out, finding fault, defending the indefensible errors I make, I dig in and explore meaning so I can focus on the silver lining and express meanings without miring down in the misery. And that's what I'm striving for in my writing, expressing the harsh realities of existence yet finding the good in them, what little there may be.


I think this paragraph is just lovely, Polymath. Well said. Well said.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby polymath » 24 Feb 2011, 13:51

Cool, Sommer Leigh.

I guess I've been there, just I'm in a different place in the cycle.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 24 Feb 2011, 14:21

polymath wrote:Cool, Sommer Leigh.

I guess I've been there, just I'm in a different place in the cycle.



Finding the good, no matter how small or trivial or hard to decipher, is the hardest part of troubled times. It is so much easier to allow a bad thing to drag you down and so much easier to focus on being dark and angry and defensive. To recognize this and work to overcome it, to not allow other people to fuel the misery, and to keep yourself from being your own worst enemey...that is a great skill and an admirable outlook. And your writing is a great place to find and explore the strength it requires.

I hope I don't sound too silly. You have great insight.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby polymath » 24 Feb 2011, 16:38

Sommer Leigh wrote:Finding the good, no matter how small or trivial or hard to decipher, is the hardest part of troubled times. It is so much easier to allow a bad thing to drag you down and so much easier to focus on being dark and angry and defensive. To recognize this and work to overcome it, to not allow other people to fuel the misery, and to keep yourself from being your own worst enemey...that is a great skill and an admirable outlook. And your writing is a great place to find and explore the strength it requires.

I hope I don't sound too silly. You have great insight.

No, not silly. Spot on, at least from hindsight, though I wouldn't hear of it when I was at my darkest. I wouldn't allow anyone to understand. Coincidentally, I got an invitation today to apply for an arts-inclusive graduate psychoanalysis study program, personalized form letter e-mail. Intriguing possibilities. Doesn't suit my long-term goals. It gave me pause nonetheless.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Sommer Leigh » 24 Feb 2011, 18:08

polymath wrote:No, not silly. Spot on, at least from hindsight, though I wouldn't hear of it when I was at my darkest. I wouldn't allow anyone to understand. Coincidentally, I got an invitation today to apply for an arts-inclusive graduate psychoanalysis study program, personalized form letter e-mail. Intriguing possibilities. Doesn't suit my long-term goals. It gave me pause nonetheless.


Wow, congrats Polymath!!!! That is very good news, even if it doesn't line up with your long term goals. That is something to brag about and belongs in the Squee Good News thread.

I think it is wonderful. I really do.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby polymath » 24 Feb 2011, 18:22

Sommer Leigh wrote:Wow, congrats Polymath!!!! That is very good news, even if it doesn't line up with your long term goals. That is something to brag about and belongs in the Squee Good News thread.

I think it is wonderful. I really do.

The invitation was well-disguised spam actually, which I replied to in the same formal-neutral voice as the letter. The good news will be when I'm accepted to a graduate creative writing program. If. MA or MFA. They're all highly competitive. If that doesn't pan out and I'm accepted into my preferred college's graduate school, I'll settle for literature concentration instead. Both a creative writing concentration and a literature concentration have the same number and types of literature course requirements, which I like anyway. Literature concentration has other linguistics and rhetoric requirements. Writing has workshop requirements. Twelve hours of one, a dozen hours of the other, literally, no great difference to me or my vocational outlook. Different thesis bases though.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby Cookie » 26 Feb 2011, 08:04

Sommer Leigh wrote:

Finding the good, no matter how small or trivial or hard to decipher, is the hardest part of troubled times. It is so much easier to allow a bad thing to drag you down and so much easier to focus on being dark and angry and defensive. To recognize this and work to overcome it, to not allow other people to fuel the misery, and to keep yourself from being your own worst enemey...that is a great skill and an admirable outlook. And your writing is a great place to find and explore the strength it requires.

I hope I don't sound too silly. You have great insight.


I am a master at finding the silver lining in any situation.
I'm like the black knight when I'm hit with a terrible situation--I get up, brush myself off and say "I've had worse!" Or the half naked man hanging on the cross singing "Always look on the bright side of life..."
Eternal optimist, that's me. Sometimes it comes off as apathy. Sometimes it is apathy.
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Re: What have your characters taught you?

Postby dios4vida » 09 Mar 2011, 09:18

Sierra, I've done that, too. I have the bare-bones outline of a plot that's near and dear to my heart (it's an analogy for my struggles against my own illnesses, though I didn't realize that when I set it up). I have a sentence that I just have to fit in there somewhere: "The longer you cling to a life you cannot have, the longer you'll miss out on the chances the life you do have has to offer."

It's something I need to hear every now and then. Who knew a traitor/assassin/secret good guy character was so smart? :)
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Inspiration isn't about the muse. Inspiration is working until something clicks. ~Brandon Sanderson
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