I’m not one of them, because I already know I’m nuts. In the best possible way, of course.
But seriously, there are times when some of the stuff that goes through my head makes even my own psyche jump back a bit and go, “Whoa, WTF was that?”
(Then I think about Stephen King and the kind of stuff he comes up with, and I feel pretty normal by comparison.)
All kidding aside, I often wonder if I’m the only one who gets sudden – for lack of a better word – ‘visions’ of scenes, or characters, or events that wind up pointing me in the direction of writing it down. My first screenplay, ‘The Healer,’ started with precisely that.
Now, the ‘movie’ that I saw inside my head did not actually feature the characters I wound up writing into the script. What I saw included very real people, but the scenes were so vivid, so detailed, that I just had to write it down. Yeah, that’s the one where I got halfway through writing it as a novel before the muses kicked my tailbone (very hard, I might add) and said, “No! This is supposed to be a movie, not a book!”
My muses tend to be mighty pushy, and because of it, I embarked upon the adventure that was writing my very first movie screenplay. Go figure.
With “TAKERS,” it was a little different.
I’ve heard some writers talk about (under an umbrella of secrecy – Cone of Silence? – lest they be labeled ‘lunatic’) the fact that they see and hear their characters. I must admit, that’s been a staple method for me for years in my writing. I can hear you now, crying, “Oh, my God, do you mean you hallucinate?”
People don’t like to talk openly about stuff like this, but I’m not ‘people.’ I’m the one who’s perfectly happy to stand up and admit to what I know for a fact is true about many writers (because some of them have actually talked openly about it), and that is the audio/visual connection we get to or with our characters.
The lead character in “TAKERS,” Detective Kel Langston, materialized in the exact way he’s shown on the cover of the book…the exact way I describe him within its pages. I could see him standing there with his black clothes, arms folded defensively over his chest, fedora hat lowered over his eyes, one hand shading the rest of his face from me.
And he dared me to tell his story. Well, I took him up on it because hey, no cop with fangs and a penchant for drinking blood and consuming souls is going to intimidate me, right? Right.
Now, when you say things like this…when you describe what I just described…the tendency is for other people to want to call you crazy and shy away from having anything to do with you. But you know, if more writers were open and honest about where the hell everything they write comes from, I can guarantee you there wouldn’t be as much of a stigma attached to the truth.
When I write fanfic for Hawaii Five-0, I can see and hear the characters – helped enormously, of course, by the fact that they’re on my television screen each week – and I just know when I write a piece of dialogue, or describe what one of the characters is doing, that it truly is them and not just me putting words in their mouths that don’t fit who they are. I seem to be pretty good at it, too, if the reviews of my work are any indication.
I’m generally not one of those people who uses something I see in a news story, or gets triggered by something that happens in a TV show or movie. Those types of things don’t tend to inspire me, normally…with one notable exception which I might share one day, depending. *grin*
What does inspire me are the stories that seem to pop into my head from nowhere, fed to me by the Universe, if you will. Either it comes as a movie-type thing that I dream about or see in my mind, or it feels like I’m being ‘visited’ by a character who wants something. I’d like to think writers tap into the collective consciousness of the Universe – every dimension, every possible way that everything exists – and feed off the stories that are out there, the characters that are waiting for their voices to be heard.
That may not be the case for all writers. There may be former lawyers or doctors who are using their real-life experiences to write thrilling novels because they’ve got a fantastic imagination and the know-how to back it up. There may be screenwriters who come up with movie ideas solely because they have a deep-seated need to explore the human condition, perhaps due to their own personal challenges, and writing a screenplay is the best way for them to dig into whatever that challenge is.
But for me, it’s my imagination letting loose and running wild, showing me things that turn into viable stories. Showing me characters that I will never believe I could invent on my own without some sort of Universal input. Showing me ways to get what’s inside of me out, to share it, hopefully to entertain others and definitely with the high hopes that it may even help others somehow – even if it’s only helping them realize they’re not alone.
I’m not sure how telling readers in my novel “TAKERS” that criminals are the result of having part of their souls sucked out helps, but hey, it’s a lot gentler of a reason for criminal behavior than having to face the fact that human beings are seriously effed up in so many ways, right? Basically it makes people who do bad things victims themselves, an idea which I find intriguing!
What I would love to do one day is sit down with twenty writers – whether of screenplays or novels, or both – and point-blank ask them how they come up with their stories, their ideas, their characters…and then see how truthful I think they’re being when they answer.
It’s rather akin to something I said in a previous post, about how we all think we’re the only ones who could possibly be fantasizing about X, or dreaming about Y, or thinking this way about Z. How each and every one of us has something inside us we think other people would run screaming from, or at least would label us as ‘strange’ for.
I think the quote my mind keeps coming back to here, is one from actor Alex O’Loughlin during an interview he was doing for his movie Feed (you can find my review of that movie by clicking Movie Reviews up top in the menu there or by clicking here). Of the relationships between Feeders and Gainers which he studied as he was working with his friend Patrick Thompson on the idea for the movie, Mr. O’Loughlin said:
“And kinky stuff, sexy stuff, some hot stuff, but that’s no different to anything in my life or anyone I know’s life.”
I think that’s the crux of things, is that we all have ‘kinky stuff’ and ‘sexy stuff’ and ‘hot stuff’ – in our own lives and in the lives of people we know, as Mr. O. stated – but rather than unapologetically acknowledging it like he did, in most cases we think we’re the only ones who have this stuff inside of us, so we keep mum.
The same can be said for the less-steamy side of ourselves, though, whether we’re talking about likes and dislikes, what attracts us to friends and lovers, or how it is writers come up with what they write. (I mean, wouldn’t you just love to crawl inside the mind of Stephen King for ten minutes? Can you imagine?)
So, yeah, I’m willing to step up and admit that sometimes I see and hear my characters, and that sometimes my story ideas come to me like pre-packaged movies someone else has already made that I’m just watching on a screen. That I draw upon secrets hidden deep inside to write some of what I write. It doesn’t make me insane, loony, crazy, in need of psychiatric help, off my rocker, on drugs or weird.
It makes me a writer.