On the Subject of: Introducing The Characters In My Head

A Detective's Office, image found through visualize.us, here.

A Detective’s Office, image found through visualize.us, here.

I’ve written before about Ben my inner critic and what a wanker he is. I’ve mentioned writer’s block as a beast like creature and my inner editor as an old school teacher. Well, these characters I’ve created over the years have helped me make light of some very real fears when it comes to my work.

Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about writing has freely admitted to hearing those little cutting voices in their head, whatever stage they’re at in their projects. Poets, lyricists, journalists, novelists all think it routine to have half of their brain running on overdrive, excited about the new ideas and concepts running around their mind; while the other is poking them with a big negative stick of doubt.

My inner critic’s name is Ben, and we don’t get on. Mainly because he’s a prat who loves nothing more than watching me hit the backspace button. I see him as this tall weaselly sort of bloke, blond hair all slicked back, fashion sense like a 50s noir detective. Thing is he makes a lot of very good points most of the time and that makes him hard to ignore. I have to make peace with him, because like any critic real or imaginary, confronting them and being honest about your work will make you a better writer.

Writer’s block is this kind of black wolf looking creature that growls a lot. Luckily, I don’t see him all that often but when I do he likes to sit himself quite firmly in the space between me and all the good ideas for stories I think I’ve ever had. Then he yawns and goes to sleep, sometimes for weeks. I can nudge him with my foot all I like, it won’t make any difference until I’ve worked through whatever it is causing the block.

Finally, my inner editor is one fierce older woman who looks like she stepped out of the headteacher’s office at a London Comprehensive. She has this narrowing look about her that makes me want to tuck my shirt in. She never says much but likes to point at the words in front of me with a wooden ruler and then look at me expectantly. She doesn’t have to say things like ‘This should be better’ or ‘Cut this, it’s tripe’, but she does tut when I consider ignoring her. Not something that happens all that often.

I don’t know if other writers see these problems as vividly in their minds as I do, or if that makes them easier to ignore but it’s a coping mechanism that’s been working rather well for me so far. How about you? Do you have any characters like this, if you do what are they like? I bet Ben’s worse.

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