Talk to yourself. It’s okay.
If I were not a writer, but say, a normal person, trying to write a clever guest post about writing, I’d start with this: Writers are weird. Everyone knows that. So, it must come as no surprise that we tend to talk to ourselves. I don’t mean while walking down the street or while doing dishes. I mean in front of our computers and in different voices. If you want to blackmail me, forget the sex tape. Record me writing.
Hardy har har.
I can do better than that.
What the hell are ya talking to yourself for? Losing your marbles? You didn’t even eat lunch yet. Why don’t you stop acting crazing in front that, what is that thing? That thing! That weird looking typewriter? They don’t make typewriters like they used to. Not like they made ‘em back in my day. I typed eighty-eight words a minute. Did you know that? Eighty-eight words a minute. Isn’t that something else? A what? A lap-what? Oh it’s a computer? A computer, ya don’t say. Hmm. It’s so small. Well, anyhow, now go eat. Then you can go back to typing and talking in strange voices in front of that, what do you call it, lapbottom. Oh laptop. Yeah yeah, your laptop. Go. Eat.
That’s Grandma Ant. She’s a character in Better in the Morning. And, yes, she’s a character. She’s also dead. She died at a ripe old age and still talks and walks and acts like she did when the protagonist Veronica knew her when she was still alive: old and funny in the way old people are so adorably funny sometimes.
She doesn’t talk like me, the author, a young (relatively!) educated lawyer from the east coast now living in Los Angeles. She talks like Grandma Ant. So, I have to talk like Grandma Ant. Yes, I have to get into character. Yes, I would have said that even if I weren’t living in La La Land. I’m not that affected!
When the voices have gone silent
Every writer fears the blank page but what if your character who won’t talk to you? You’re staring at a blank page in silence, which can feel awfully lonely. Hey, that may be the best time to be caught on tape ‘writing,’ not such a great time for writing itself. In these situations, I sometimes turn to YouTube and search a character’s attributes: Old Italian lady (for grandparents) or lawyer explains judgment process (bitchy coworker) or Kathy Bates (who I picture as the snarky boss). You can’t and would never take direct quotes but it’s not even about the words they’re using. It’s about getting an essence and running with it. I mean, writing with it. It’s okay to imitate that person (by yourself in front of your computer like the weirdo you are) enough to start talking like them and then getting it all on the page as quickly as possible.
When the voices won’t shut up
The flip side of course is this.
Husband’s friend: My daughter just turned two. Here, look, this was her at her party yesterday.
Me: Aw! She’s so beautiful. Gah bless her.
Husband: Did you just say “God bless her?”
Me: I actually said “Gah bless her” but yes, it’s a side effect of the book I’m writing. What’d ya want from me?
Some of the vernacular of your characters may slip into yours. It happens. It’ll go away. Eventually. I’m told.
If your loved ones think you’ve gone mad, it’s okay. If your YouTube search history is rather suspect, it’s okay. If you start talking like an old person, it’s okay. As long as you get out on paper the book you were meant to write, it’s okay.
Now, go eat something.
Get your copy of Fern Ronay’s book, Better in the Morning here: