The Voices in My Head

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Way back in October, I was a guest on Annette Rochelle Aben’s podcast called ‘Tell Me a Story‘.  During the fun and festivities, it was pointed out that I talk about my characters as if they can walk into a room any minute.  This got me thinking about me as an author.  I can’t say this category falls into my process because it isn’t something that always leads to writing.  All I can say is that this is me and always has been.

Explaining this is the hardest part because I always get people who jump in to interrupt for one reason or another.  Some try to logic it to the point where it doesn’t feel special and others try to turn the conversation to their own voices.  It kind of irks me because I really haven’t met anyone who fully captures what goes on in my head.  Then again, I can’t say that I can find the correct words to bring the proper life to the idea.  Saying that I have long conversations with my characters in my head, that I imagine being them, or they act up during writing isn’t unique.  All authors get that.  Yet, I feel that there is more to that like these beings are living in my mind and keep poking their head into my space to see if I need anything.  Every now and again, they’re a physical presence on my senses or an influence on my behavior.  Almost like there’s a symbiosis where I give them life and they give me comfort or strength?

This post isn’t going well at all because I can’t fully explain how I feel.  Part of it could stem from me being rather solitary when I was younger.  I had friends that I hung out with, but I spent a lot of time sitting in my room with my characters.  During the years that I was working non-writing jobs, I’d take every opportunity to outline or jot down ideas.  This might have caused me to maintain some connection to my imagination, which created an open channel to that part of my mind.  Still, it doesn’t really explain why I default to talking about Luke Callindor like he’s my trouble-making friend instead of a character in my stories.  Could it be that I’ve given him so many facets that he pretty much is alive to me?  Is it possible for an author to dream something up in such personal detail that they create a ‘ghost’ that haunts them to some extent?

Another reason for me wondering about this is because of my recent stress and life upheaval.  I’ve tried to talk about this before and got a lot of well wishes and support in that I’ll be back to writing.  Yet, one key point keeps getting missed.  I don’t really hear the voices like I used to.  It isn’t like a wall has come up because I can’t even sense that they are still in my head.  I’ve poked around to find specters and shadows, but it’s become rare that they turn up.  (Writing this in November, so maybe this will change by the time it goes live, but work with me.)  Cassidy and Lloyd became more vivid when I was editing Derailing Bedlam, but there was a sense that I was reading something written by someone else.  They would fade away almost as soon as I stopped instead of sticking around for an hour to chat.  It was like an automatic off switch that I never had before because I never feared having an imagination running wild until I needed it to become a honed tool.

Part of me fears that by packing away the notebooks, announcing a semi-retirement, and putting a stake in what little momentum I had has been perceived as betrayal.  My characters were always comfort zones, but some people have pointed at them as the causes of my life being ‘bad’.  Perhaps they’ve gone away out of guilt for causing me trouble even though they really didn’t do anything wrong.  It doesn’t help that very few people around this side of the computer really try to understand how I work.  Everyone thinks I can just turn the author side back on whenever I want or that I can hang out with my characters regardless of my mood.  Honestly, I’m getting really worn down trying to explain myself to people who don’t seem interested in understanding.  Unlike the voices in my head, they don’t really like what I am and work to make sure I never think I’m special or talented like I was beginning to feel a few years back.  Eh, this is getting off topic, but this is another reasons my internal friends might be silent.

I’m just going to open the floor with a few questions.  Do other authors talk about their characters like they’re physical beings?  What do you do when those close to you seem to minimize your identity as an author?  Have you ever had a time where the voices disappeared and you feared that they would never return?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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47 Responses to The Voices in My Head

  1. This is beautiful. If I knew you in real life and it wouldn’t make my husband concerned that I’m hugging strange men, I’d want to give you a hug.

    You’ve hit the nail right on the head: you’ve a connection to imagination that’s been injured by the harsh, rude, imposing interjection of real life.

    My five-year-old tells me he has three imaginary friends. Others say, “Oh, how cute!” But if he were to repeat that in his adult life, they’d put him on anti-psychotics.

    I’m not sure how you might balance so much real-worlding right now with imagination, but that seems the solution: that you need a re-connection.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Let Charles know your answers to one, or all three, of his questions, in the comments under his original blog post 😎

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  3. “Yet, I feel that there is more to that like these beings are living in my mind and keep poking their head into my space to see if I need anything. Every now and again, they’re a physical presence on my senses or an influence on my behavior.” As much as it’s possible for anyone to understand something said with only words, I understand this. I won’t go into detail — you expressed a dislike of anyone talking about their own “voices” in response — but much of what you said in this post could describe my experiences, too.

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    • Had to check what I said. I think I’m more irked in conversations that start specifically about my stories then another author tries to make it about them. So, it’s more the ‘theft’ of focus that you see a lot among authors. Feel free to share on this post since it’s an open floor. Sorry I wasn’t more specific there.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds like a bit of a crisis of confidence to me, Charles. Maybe with everything that you have gone through recently and going back into a paycheck job has knocked you and this is how it is manifesting. I am quite sure your creativity will return to you if you just give yourself a bit of a rest.

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    • It’s not really confidence from what I can tell. I think it’s more emotional stress that is overriding everything else. My mind drifts to the life upheaval instead of my writing once it’s unleashed. So resting hasn’t done much if anything. To be honest, I’ve been resting since August in this arena and nothing has improved.

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  5. janmalique says:

    Your post strikes a chord Charles. One’s characters do take on a life of their own, all part of the alchemy that’s writing. Significant ones seem to rise from the depths of the subconscious, and engage in dialogue that serves to teach us much.

    When they cease speaking to us, our Muse(s) see fit to plunge us into a desert wasteland to reassess our reasons for writing. Maybe the ‘seclusion’ serves to dissipate the emotional stress and initiate healing. Or so it seems. I’ve been through it many times and have despaired. Yet, light does break through.

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  6. Yes, I talk to my characters. I also allow my characters to input into the story. They usually have good ideas which I appreciate.

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  7. Adele Marie says:

    Yes, definitely, Charles. My characters have been with me the same as yours have been with you. I won’t try and explain it either, but I know exactly what you mean. I am lucky now that I’m with Becca, before, it was dreadful, my ex-husband would constantly berate me, my writing was rubbish, cook his tea instead of wasting time writing, etc. Now I get constant support from Becca and believe in my writing again. I’m also lucky in that the voices never disappear completely although yes, a few have gone silent over the years and I have been terrified. I am writing these responses with butterflies in my stomach just thinking of them disappearing. I don’t have answers for you, I’m sorry, wish I did, but I do wish with all my heart that your characters return to you. I’d be lost without mine. x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Charles, your post tugged at my heartstrings a touch. It’s such a shame that people connect with books, movies, TV shows, and the characters within them all but, then sometimes look at the people creating those characters and stories as if they are weird, silly, and wasting their time. Without us they’d have nothing to fill their downtime (sometimes their lives) and I suppose all we can do during the times when we feel rejected or mocked is to realize that we receive our thanks and admiration via those characters rather than to our faces.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said. Guess some people forget there are artists behind the works they enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • L. Marie says:

      Love what Chelsea said! Charles, I know what it’s like to have people put down what I do. I’ve been told, “Why don’t you do something useful?” As if writing a good story isn’t useful. Stories have helped me on many times when I was depressed. Stories are life savers. And yes, I think of my characters as real people. I interview them in my journal to see what they think. If someone thinks that’s weird, well, so be it!

      I have found that when I start to take on the mindset of others (that what I do isn’t useful), that’s when I find writing difficult. I can’t get into my characters’ skins the way I want to, because of the so-called “reality check” others impose on me.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Pingback: The Voices in My Head — Legends of Windemere | Scott MacLean Art

  10. I get it. My situation is different, but I understand. People don’t really like it when I talk about writing either. Thank God for our online community, because they understand. People in my world don’t want me to be “out there” talking about some fantasy world, planet, or magic system. They want me paying bills and such.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get that a lot. People are okay with writing as a hobby, but once you try to make money off it, they turn. At best, you get support for a year and then they figure you failed because you’re not bringing in Rowling money. Really makes me wonder if people even consider how long it took the big name authors to get where they are. It isn’t like they submitted once and struck gold. A lot of work and sacrifice went into their success.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I think you’ve put so much in to them that they feel like real people to you, which can happen, especially when you spend so long working with the same group of characters. Them being real to you only makes them come alive in your stories better. At least, that’s my opinion.

    Your problem is something like this: now, with everything going on, you’re pushing them away without meaning to, like people sometimes do with real friends. It’s like you’re torn between wanting to keep your friends close, hang out with them, have fun like you used to, etc. But at the same time you’re pushing them away, because you’re sort of scared doing so will bring up memories or subjects you don’t want to think about, which you promise yourself won’t happen, but somehow it always does. So, you invite them over, and they visit for a while with no problems, and everyone’s happy and having a great time. But then someone says, “Remember that time when…” and things get awkward, so everyone makes their excuses and leaves. You just have to figure out how to avoid that awkwardness when one of those things comes up, and then your characters will want to stick around like they used to. But I can’t tell you how you’re meant to do that, because it’s different for everyone.

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  12. Pingback: Distant Voices | Daily Inkling – Normal Happenings

  13. I wonder if this “radio silence” is part of the grieving process since you had to step back from your writing and grapple with things in Real Life?

    And I’m so sorry about all of that!

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  14. Charles, my characters are like friends to me. I hear them long before I picture them. I, too, spent a lot of time alone during my school years. They were my company. My relatives often looked at me as strange. Years later when I was diagnosed with bipolar, some said it was still me trying to be strange. They couldn’t understand that anymore than they could understand why I couldn’t wait to get back to my stories. As one of your above commentators, my abusive situation with my ex took it’s toll on me. It was either him or nothing. I’m not trying to make this about me. I’m just saying I understand. To be truthful, I don’t have friends outside the home. A lot of people think that’s unhealthy but my kids and my characters help me through each day, no matter how bad it gets.

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    • Sorry that people said being bipolar was just being strange. Far too many jump to that conclusion even in these days when we’re supposed to have a better understanding of mental health. With the friends, I know a few people like that. As long as you have someone, I think you’re doing good. Even if those people are online or family.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Charles. Some people just don’t try to understand. I do try and push myself to be social when I’m out and about. I smile a lot. It does exhaust me though. I don’t want to come off as pretending to be comfortable but I’m definitely more at ease, at home.

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  15. noelleg44 says:

    I’ve always had a rich imaginary life in my head – clearly you do, too. I think it’s a blessing. And yes I do talk about my characters as if they were real. Luckily the book I am writing now is about a real person, very strange. I’ve never lost the voices but it’s clear that as an author we see and hear things very differently, which is why some people, on hearing I’m an author, say “Oh, that’s nice,” and go off on another topic. Which is OK, because I’m different.
    You have your blogging family for support, and we do understand!

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