a little crazy

From Stranger Than Fiction:

Dr. Mittag-Leffler: I’m afraid what you’re describing is schizophrenia.
Harold Crick: No, no. It’s not schizophrenia. It’s just a voice in my head. I mean, the voice isn’t telling me to do anything. It’s telling me what I’ve already done… accurately, and with a better vocabulary.
Dr. Mittag-Leffler: Mr. Crick, you have a voice speaking to you.
Harold Crick: No, not TO me. ABOUT me. I’m somehow involved in some sort of story. Like I’m a character in my own life. But the problem is that the voice comes and goes…
Dr. Mittag-Leffler: Mr. Crick, I hate to sound like a broken record, but that’s schizophrenia.

First, as an aside, Stranger Than Fiction is a great movie. That’s true whether you’re a writer or not. I highly recommend it.

Now, about the quote above. Being a writer, particularly one who believes in character-driven stories, makes me at least a little crazy. I explain the process to people sometimes, but always with reservation. If they are writers, or even if they just have a free-spirited way of thinking, they get it, but a lot of very pragmatic people don’t. Those people, the proper ones, try to subtly take a step back from me with this look on their faces like crazy might be contagious–it is–and they don’t want to catch it.

Here’s the process I explain: when I’m creating a story, the characters become alive to me. They develop beyond what I’ve created, growing in my mind into real people. They make their own choices, and sometimes I’m as surprised as anyone else by what they choose. I’m not the god of my little fictional world. I’m more like a mad scientist. I’ve thrown a few ingredients into play and now there’s nothing more for me to do than to sit back, watch the reactions and try to keep an accurate record of things.

Non-writers think this makes me nuts.

But I’m fine with that. I’m even fine with a few writers looking at that and thinking, “Um, yeah. Nuts.”  Everyone’s process is different. My point is not that my process should be your process. My point is that you should know your process and be comfortable with it. Don’t shy away from it because someone else thinks it’s weird or improper. If you write your best fiction between 2 and 5 in the morning sitting in front of your computer naked with a bag of cheese puffs, by all means, use that knowledge. The rest of us might think it a little strange, but what do you care? You’re writing literary gold…and those cheese powder stains will almost certainly come off the keyboard.

Do what works for you. If it’s quirky or if everyone doesn’t get it, no worries. As long as it works. That’s what matters.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

3 Responses to a little crazy

  1. Zen says:

    Oh I know what you mean about characters getting a mind of their own. I feel that that especially happens if you’re a pantser, don’t you agree?


    • dex says:

      I totally agree. That’s how I typically write just about all my flash fiction and a fair amount of the longer stuff. Even if I have a loose concept of the framework, I never know all the details of what will happen.


  2. Grahame says:

    Reblogged this on The Pilgrim and commented:
    I’ve never reblogged anything before, so I thought this great post would be a good place to start. It’s a well-articulated bit on the crafting process, and it involves Stranger Than Fiction, which is a fantastic movie with Emma Thompson and Will Ferrell, that if you haven’t seen it you need to. Enough said.


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