"The purpose of playing is, as 'twere, holding a mirror up to nature." - Hamlet
I hear voices.
I mimic what my characters do.
Alone, in my office, typing or writing, you would think you were in the presence of a madman. Facial expressions, tics, tilts of the head, hands to the face, widened eyes, all these are copies of what my characters are doing.
And what they say! They're so brilliant, so smart and witty. I can't come up with those things.
It must be multiple personality disorder.
It's not surprising. I've already been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. That means, in layman's terms, I can assume any character I want!
Music helps. Music, in the old days, would let me slip into that character, into that world, and this world, the real world, would disappear. It's getting so I can slip out of this world at any time of my choosing, and go into the world of the imagination.
But as I write, I react the same way the main character does, I become him - mostly it's a him. At first, I thought I was crazy.
Then I realize other writers do it too. It's the non-writers who don't understand.
I was brought up in a family of non-artists, never mind non-writers. They didn't - and still don't - understand what it's like to go off into that world to write effectively, to barely have one little toe in this world, to even respond to anything going on. You get up from the keyboard or the page, and you're still there for a few minutes. It's like going from bright light to darkness or from work to home. It takes a minute or two to adjust. Non-writers don't get that.
This is what happens to me:
I get a name.
Or a concept.
A woman is being beaten by her husband.
A rough-around the edges biker rides into town looking for sanctuary and peace
A young woman finds her way into a role-playing world to find that it's real.
Or I see an action happening and wonder, "What is that person doing and why?"
"Why are two old ladies, one with a cane and one without, going into that restaurant?"
"Why is that man going into church at seven in the morning?"
"That man painting the barber shop wall outside - does he own that or is he just sprucing up for the landlord?"
And then I set up the characters.
Tomcat Jack is a guy who has tons of cats, and it's so bad that he has to live in his trailer (true story).
Alicia Kenning goes to what she thinks is an annual renaissance faire, but people actually live like this beyond the walls where the tourists go in northern Maine. After waking up one morning with assorted tribal and symbol-laden tattoos, she is considered the reincarnation of the warrior king who united these lands into one kingdom. (Legend of the Taurin, a novel I wrote 20 years ago.)
Casey Donovan, an immortal, goes to church on mornings that he's needed at seven a.m. to go play organs for funerals. (A "Day Job" for one of my characters.)
Then, usually, a scene will pop up:
Casey entered the church and shivered. The sexton hadn't gotten in yet to put the heat on, so he did it himself, just to take the chill out of the air. His boots on the floor were the only noise in the Church of Our Holy Mother as he walked down the aisle, picking up missals that were in the seats and putting them in their places. He got to the end of the church and knelt before the altar.
"Nin Kittotagewinkaw, Nin Djoodjoo," he whispered. My music is for my Mother.
I stopped, because I knew I would get lost in the scene, and I have something more important to do right now. Like kill ants.