Your Characters Belong To Your Readers Too

This week I saw a rather good production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

Now, if you’ve never seen or read the original play, and only know it from the film, or My Fair Lady, be warned, there are spoilers ahead. I’ll leave a gap, so you don’t accidentally read them.

Now, the original play, much to my surprise, has a much more ambiguous ending than the film adaptations. You’re left unsure if Eliza goes back to Henry Higgins or not – and it’s probably not.

George Bernard Shaw himself insisted that Eliza married Freddie and even wrote a short story saying so. But almost everyone else – the original cast, the director, all future adaptations, almost everyone who’s ever seen it wanted Henry and Eliza to be in love. They wanted Eliza to come out on top, but they wanted the romantic ending.

This infuriated GBS. However, it’s a lesson for us writers. If you create real, complex, interesting characters, your readers/viewers will insist on seeing them their own way. You may have an strong idea about who they are, but once they have left your pen, they take on a life of their own, and the people reading the story will have their very own strong ideas about which way it goes.

That’s not to say they are right, or you are wrong. It just means you’ve created someone with a life that leaps off the page. You’ve created someone the readers care about, and identify with, and that is a compliment to you – just be aware that someone is going to disagree violently with what you do with them.

As for me – I choose to believe that Eliza goes back to Henry – eventually. After becoming an independent teacher of phonetics herself. I’m a romantic at heart, really.

Another Quality of Writers by Chrisitne Duncan

  I hit my foot on something the other week as I was rushing to find my ringing phone.  Before the darn foot even turned all purple and the little toe that had taken the brunt of the thing had straightened back out, I was working it into an intro for a story.  I think it’s a little goulish sometimes being a writer. 

    On the one hand, we’re supposed to write what we know, but on the other hand, most of life is routine, even mundane and I can’t think of any novel that succeeds with that.  It’s a cardinal sin to bore the reader.  

    But sometimes, when I catch myself doing something like cursing my foot and then wondering how I can use it, I can’t help but see how funny the whole thing is.

It’s All There

It’s all inside you. Everything you need to write is all there, in your mind, somewhere. It may be deeply hidden, you may have no idea you have it, but it’s there.

Every experience you’ve ever had, every person you’ve ever met, every story you’ve ever read, every conversation you’ve had is in there somewhere. It sits there, quiet and unobserved, until the day you need it.

Sometimes it feels like there’s nothing left. You’ve plumbed the depths of your knowledge and experience and come up empty. You sit in front of a blank page, and nothing comes to mind.

So you read a book, and it sparks a memory. You see a stranger on the street, and imagine where they will go next, and what they will do. You sit in the park and daydream until your story comes together beautifully.

It’s all there inside you. You just have to find it.

HootSuite, #RenewUI by Christine Duncan

    A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on Hootsuite, which a couple of writing groups that I’m in had raved about.  Hootsuite helps you put all your social media in one place where you can check Twitter, Facebook, and Linked and then compose (supposedly) one answer to all.

   I’m giving it a (reserved) thumbs up.  I do check Twitter and Facebook more easily this way, and it takes up much less room on my smart phone, partly because Hootsuite goes on the SD card and Twitter never would for some reason. That alone made it a big deal for me as my phone is always running out of room and  I’m more likely to do this stuff from the phone.  When I’m on the computer, I’m working and less likely to do social media.

   You can also compose one response and have it post everywhere.  That hasn’t worked so well for me, as I have different groups on each social media and one response definitely does not fit all.  

   I have not been able to figure out any use for hootsuite on the computer, nor do I use it to write this blog.  If anyone else has a tip, please tell me.

   Hashtags are another thing I’ve been thinking about on Twitter.  Author friends from various groups (Murder must advertise, Marketing for Romance Writers) tend to swear by hashtags.  So if they are going to promote their books, they include the hashtag and other authors from the group, when they get on Twitter look for the hashtag and retweet each others’ promo.  Uh yeah.  

    I like the idea in theory.  You get your stuff retweeted to each of their followers.  I find I still use hashtags to follow news I want to know about (like the long term unemployment extension hashtag in my post’s title here.,but I also use them to avoid the “ads” I don’t want.  As in, oh crap, there’s So and So’s post, and she’s using #romance I’m not even going to read that post, she’s just going to tell me about her latest book.

Listening to Read

I never used to be a fan of audio books. I thought the idea was brilliant, for visually impaired readers, but I didn’t like the idea of someone reading to me. I like to read fast, and being read to was just too slow.

However, about four or five years ago, on Boxing Day, Radio 4 played the audio book of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, read by Stephen Fry, and it was amazing. It wasn’t someone just reading, it was a performance. Every character unique, every emotion expressed. It wasn’t someone reading to me, it was someone reading with me.

Since then I’ve become a big fan of audio books. I like to listen to them when I’m walking, or curled up on the sofa on a rainy Sunday afternoon, or in bed when I’m unwell. They’re a whole new way for me to escape into another world.

I love reading, and now, it turns out, I love being read to, as well.

Dragon? by Christine Duncan

   Unlike Michelle, I’m still trying to addict myself to writing after all these years.  Apparently, despite all those Hershey bar wrappers in my trash to the contrary, I do not have an addictive personality.  But I’ve been seeing on social media, more than a few writers talking about dictating a scene.  

    I’ve never done that.  I’ve got an old version of dragon somewhere.  I have an MP3  and a cell phone I could dictate to also–it can’t be that hard to transcribe later.  I just have never done that. I suppose when the kids were younger, I felt a little weird about the whole deal, but now there is nobody home to hear me talk to myself.

     But here is the deal that I really need to know.  I don’t write with any kind of an outline.  And my stories all seem to just evolve that way.  I write, look at what I’ve written, scratch it out and write some more.  I think I’m more than a bit afraid that if I dictate the story to myself, that I will jump into something less than satisfying.  That in that search to keep myself talking, I might talk myself into a story that I won’t be able to write my way out of.

    Have  you tried dictating your writing?  How has that worked?

Addicted to Writing

I’ve been writing almost every day for about a year and a half now. Even when I missed a day, it was mostly because I was too unwell to write, not because I consciously chose not to. I even wrote when I was in hospital.

Well, after sending what I hope is the final final FINAL draft of the first book to my agent, and before starting on first re-write of my second book, I thought I’d have a break. Take two weeks off, catch up on reading that wasn’t research, watch some TV.

Well, the first thing that happened was that my health crashed. I’m not particularly healthy, but once I sat back to relax, I just became very ill. Then, once I got well again, and could get back to the reading and TV, I found I didn’t know how to relax. I didn’t know how to read without tying it to my book, or how to watch a film without feeling guilty I hadn’t written.

I appear to have become utterly addicted to writing. I crave it, as a drug, even when I have reason to leave it alone for a while. I’m longing for the feel of the pen in my hand again.

I’m going to persevere for the next two weeks though. I need the clarity of vision that stepping back from the page will give me. I need to let my head clear a little, not be quite so frenetically filled with my story. I need a rest, however difficult I find it.

But the day I start work again is a special day, marked with a gold star in my calendar.