Sunday, 29 April 2012

The Real You

Despite what I said in my earlier post (I love Research), all writing is to some extent autobiographical in that whether you know about something first or second hand, it will still be influenced by you, the writer. Good writing always discovers something new; a new angle, a character, a plot point etc, but what you bring to it is your personal understanding.

There was something slightly
unnerving about Susan's therapist,
but she couldn't quite put her finger
on what it was.
Whilst opening up your inner life to a therapist, counsellor or psycho-analyst might well be too scary an option for many people, when you write (whether you like it or not) you are delving into the depths of your unconscious mind all the time. You don’t have to be writing about your traumas or struggling with your own problems in your writing but you will inevitably find that the more you write, the more you repeat themes time and again. Analysing these can be interesting, therapeutic and a great move towards better self understanding, (if you're that way inclined.)

Alternatively, you can consciously use yourself as a starting point for fiction

Therapeutically, the benefit of fictionalising your life is that it helps you to see events, people and experiences in a different light. Turning yourself into a work of fiction helps you to be objective, it helps you to see other points of view, it distances you from the immediacy of painful emotions and it broadens your outlook. You have a chance to rewrite your life and to some extent, experience the life of your dreams (and/or nightmares.) You can change the past, create the future and embellish the present and actually, it's quite good fun!

You don't need me to tell you how to do this, but if you do want a quick exercise to get you started, try this.

1. Write ten interesting things about you. (You can lie if you want to, nobody will know any different.)
2. Now turn these ten interesting things into a short character description. Remember you are not describing you - just someone who happens to share the same ten interesting things that you have.
3. Now think of ten out of the blue events which might happen to this character. (Maybe some or all are events which have happened to real life you.)
4. Choose one.
5. How will your character react?
6. What happens as a result of their reaction?
7. Choose another - at random... and so on.

This is an exercise in character building and is meant as a starting point only, but to develop this you might like to try:
  • Writing about the same event but from a different point of view
  • Changing the emotions involved, so that for example if your character found the event a scary thing, maybe you could write it again with them finding the same event thrilling and exciting.
  • Create a new character for your first character to interact with. (Maybe someone who the real life you knows.)
  • Move back or forward in time and discover what your character is doing then. How is it different?
This is just a bit of fun, but you may be surprised by what you learn about yourself, and it may help you to act or react differently in certain situations in the future. It might also give you a damn good starting point for a story, and who know where you'll go with yourself after that?

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