In 2012 I was finishing up my undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in creative writing.
It was this year that I discovered I have an affinity for fiction writing.
I’m not saying I’m good at it or anything but I have the mechanics down to a science.
I know how to put together the 3 act structure with the inciting incident within the first few moments of the first act to draw the readers in.
I know how to transition from act to act with some event that pushes the story forward. I even know how to bang out a great resolution leading up to the end or whatever.
No problem right? Wrong.
Writing within a structure wasn’t the problem at all.
Oh, no. I actually enjoyed writing within a structure, piecing together a body of work that maybe some one can enjoy some day.
It was the fucking characters that drove me away from writing fiction.
If you’re a fiction writer, you know what the fuck I’m talking about.
How characters are born
“It was fun…Until I learned how to actually write characters.”
So back in 2012 I took a few writing classes to earn my minor in creative writing.
I thoroughly enjoyed these classes. I had a cool professor who made me feel as if I could actually write. I thought to myself:
“I think I can actually write!”
Either I am a decent writer or she, an adjunct professor, was gassing my head up in order to keep the student count in her class high enough to keep her job.
Initially this class was strictly prose, non-fiction stuff.
But these show-offs were pumping out fiction stories, good ones too.
I thought I could do it too, so I started writing short stories.
These short stories were dystopian in nature, Sci-fi stuff. It was fun.
Until I learned how to actually write characters.
Before I started writing characters, my stories were flat. They had no direction and it was just all plot.
The dialogue was trash because there were no characters behind it.
After writing a few short stories I started writing “screen plays.”
It was during hurricane sandy when I wrote my first screenplay. All I could remember thinking while writing was:
“ I hope the power doesn’t go out! The power better not go out!”
I was on a mission to write a bomb ass story for class.
Again, I had no fucking clue what I was doing so I read this book called: Screenplay by Syd Field.
It was from this book that I learned to write within the 3 act structure, with the inciting incident and all the jazz.
If my memory serves me well, I remember that book touting the movie and screen play Citizen Kane as if it were the best thing ever.
Anyway, that book did me well.
It was THIS book that I credit to turning me away from writing fiction
This book taught me how to write characters.
Real. Live. Characters.
Lajos Egri teaches us to write these characters through a 3-Dimensional formula.
It works like this.
Before you create a plot you create the characters because the characters are going to “tell you the story.”
You create these characters by first starting with their “Physicality,” such as their hair color, eye color, height, sex, race, etc.
Then you create their “sociology” which consists of their socioeconomic background, their parents occupations, their household income growing up(or current household income if they are a child), who their grandparents are, what their grandparents did for a living, what neighborhood they come from, etc.
Once you have both of those aspects accounted for, you suddenly have the “psychology” of the character.
This is where the character starts to come to life pretty much on their own.
Since the “psychology” of the character is predicated on the aforementioned aspects of physicality and sociology, the psychology writes itself.
It’s almost as if the character is telling you who they are.
Oh, it doesn’t stop here, buddy.
Once you have created your protagonist and antagonist and other characters essential to propagate your plot, that’s where things start to get hairy, or at least for me.
“I believe he started telling the other characters about his interaction between he and I because the OTHER characters started speaking to me as I was trying to sleep.”
One night I was wrapping up a story and getting ready for bed. The story was flowing. All the pieces were there and coming together nicely.
I decided to call it a night because I had work in the morning, 3am to be exact, then had class right after.
I brushed my teeth and took my ass to bed.
Then I started hearing one of my characters talking to me. Yearning to tell me more about this story.
I want to put a disclaimer here because I don’t want anyone thinking I actually have schizophrenia. The character wasn’t speaking with an audible voice. I didn’t actually hear anything.
It wasn’t an audible voice but it was this quasi-telepathic thing going on with this being that technically didn’t exist, or did it/he?
I got up out of bed to continue writing the story. This character was telling me all about how the plot ACTUALLY went as oppose to how I wrote it down in the “treatment.”(I think that’s what it’s called)
It was as if I took some sort of inaccurate report of an eye witness story but the character is setting the record straight and telling me how it ACTUALLY went down, I stood corrected.
The plot twisted and turned.
As the story progressed and this character interacted with other characters, I got suspicious of him.
I believe he started telling the other characters about his interaction between he and I because the OTHER characters started speaking to me as I was trying to sleep.
Needless to say, that shit got overwhelming.
At some point, I hit “save” on Montage, a screenwriting program, for the last time and never worked on another screenplay again.
From time to time I wonder how he’s doing and what’s going on in his life. I wonder about his character arc and how the plot progressed.
But my sanity is worth more than telling his story.
…I applaud all of you.
I’m not too sure if any of you go through what I went through over seven years ago while writing fiction but I take my hat off to you all.
You are some mentally strong people.
I’m not trying to come off ungrateful because many people have trouble getting their characters to speak to them. To tell them what the story is, how it unfolds, how it ends but I could not be a slave to some fictitious being.
In hindsight it was a gift and a curse-more so a curse.
I’ll stick to consuming fiction for now, not producing.
- Anthony Boyd
Originally published at https://www.badbuddhism.com on November 25, 2019.