Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The IMAX experience, RE: Phoning It In Or Watching It All Unfold

Nikki posed a great discussion Monday, and as a writer on the opposite side as her experience, I thought I'd expand on it.

Unlike Nikki, who is a listener, I am one of the 'watching the action unfold' type of writers. (Which, considering I'm also a painter, probably isn't all that surprising.) I visualize my scenes, watch them play out, and then try to match words to what is there. When I'm lucky, these scenes take place on a full 3d IMAX screen in my brain. When I'm not so lucky, it's more like watching reflections in a recently churned mud puddle. My mind's camera pulls in and out (often discarding details I'm not paying attention to) and can jump right into the character's head and see the scene through her eyes (though in all honestly, even though I write first person, I usually see most scenes--especially action scenes--in 3rd.)

While I can push my camera into my characters' heads, and even hear their thoughts, I can't question them the way Nikki describes. A character interview is an exercise in futility for me. Imagine myself sitting across from a character and them answering questions? HA!

If I want to know anything about my characters beyond (or usually in the past) of the here and now, I have to crawl around the cutting room floor and watch the clips of forgotten footage detailing their pasts so I can understand their current motivations. While this can be highly entertaining, sometimes I do wish I could just scream "WHY??" and get an answer.

My characters are blithely ignorant of me (or perhaps they just ignore me.) When a new main character appears (not one who walks onto the screen of an already playing story, but a shiny new idea) it is often like being only half awake. Maybe I'll hear snatches of dialogue or get a couple second long images of something really cool, but everything is fuzzy around the edges, and it takes time to tune in. For me, there is never a grand entrance where a character walks into my mind and just tells me her story (though that sounds terribly nice). No, the characters move into my brain, paint their setting on the walls, and then act out their story without breaking the fourth wall.

I've said before that this or that character 'isn't talking to me', but after reading Nikki's post, I realize that means something slightly different to me from her definition (though the end result for both of us is the same.) What I mean is that the curtain call has gone out, but the character has not shown up on stage, or he does show up but has pulled a prima donna and is leaning against the backdrop, pouting. Nikki, I get the feeling, really does mean her character stopped talking. Again, same result, different experience.

I'll wrap up with that, but I also want to expand on Nikki's questions: When character's make a first appearance in your mind, how does that initial introduction tend to go? Do your characters talk to you? Or are you only an observer? Also, I'd love to hear more people chime in on if they are listeners or watchers. Anyone out there both? Maybe you see some scenes and are told others. Something else entirely?

Happy Hump day everyone!

1 comment:

Demon Hunter said...

I'm mostly a watcher, although my characters sometimes feed me their stories. :-D

I think I'm mostly a watcher because I love movies and know how things look in my mind. Plus, my WIP (dark urban fantasy) is going to be written in third person limited. I don't like to write in first person, so I stick with third person limited and third person omniscient.