Monday, March 02, 2009

Hearing voices

This thinking stuff can't be good for me.

On the Shooting People screenwriters bulletin recently there has been discussion of where ideas, characters and dialogue come from. Popular options are the personal subconscious and some big superconscious.

I have no objection to people feeling like they've been given inspiration by their favourite divine entity (I am not an atheist) but personally I doubt it.

I know where my ideas, characters and dialogue come from: me.

But let's look at this: I do hear voices. I do hear my characters talking, and sometimes they'll do something that surprises me. But that doesn't make me think they're being powered by something other than me.

But it does means I understand why some writers may feel that their characters and their art are generated by something outside themselves. The characters very often seem to have a life of their own.

And I say, well, why shouldn't they have a life of their own?

When you were young did you ever play will dolls/teddy bears/toy soldiers? Did they talk to each other? Did they take actions? Were they naughty and have to be punished? Did they fight and die in a war? Did you not confide in your favourite soft toy as to how the world was just so unfair, and your soft toy agreed and you felt comforted?

When you see an expert ventriloquist, the dummy is effectively alive, isn't it? What about the greatest ever chat show host, Michael Parkinson? When he interviewed Miss Piggy and Kermit, the puppeteers were sitting there, visible, but he talked to the puppets - because, to all intents and purposes, they were alive.

People have, effectively, the ability to give life to other things.

So why shouldn't you be able to create a cast of characters in your head that have their own life, within the framework you've given them? It's still you.

Using Occam's Razor, it's the logical option because it doesn't require the addition of another unproven component to work (the subconscious is still a theory, never objectively proven).

So the radical idea that writers just invent characters and situations then write about them, is the most reasonable.

To be honest I do have a more personal reason for objecting to the "art from somewhere else" concept (regardless of whether the "somewhere else" is inside or outside): Responsibility and ownership. I never want to be in the position where either the blame or the credit for my work isn't mine.

What's on the turntable? "Hard to Make a Stand" by Sheryl Crow from "Sheryl Crow"

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