On My Fiction Writing Process

When I meet other writers, it interests me on how my writing process differs from theirs. I have some friends who build characters around people they know and borrow characteristics and traits. I have a hard time with that. If I use traits from my friends, I feel like I’m using them. Sure, I use some stuff for descriptions, like my friend’s blonde hair or the way my sister’s eyes look in direct sunlight. I just have a hard time using actions and quirks.

For me, writing is an experience that requires all of my senses. I literally watch the scene unfolding in my head, trying to capture it exactly as it appears. I mentally rewind and fast forward and plug in different ending scenarios. It sounds so cliché, but my characters write themselves.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t get writer’s block. This probably sounds bad, but I’m usually working on two or three stories at a time. If I get blocked on one, I switch to the other for a few weeks or months until my characters start talking again. I suppose it is a slower way to work, but sometimes I need time off from a book.

Generally, the opposite happens. I work long hours and when I’m idle, I think my way through books. By the end of a shift, I’m usually bursting with ideas about a character or a scene or a plot change. I work about half an hour from home. I take this time to open the recorder on my phone and talk through everything that I’ve decided. When I get home, I listen to the recording and write a run-down.

Some people like to allow their stories to unfold spontaneously as they write the scenes. I can’t do this. When I read a book, I often start with the last page. I’m the same way with my writing. I like to know the end as I go into it and write a somewhat-detailed explanation of the characters and plots. The endings change throughout the process sometimes, but knowing the general goal helps through the planning process.

In all, my process leads to a deep emotional connection to my characters. That sounds really strange, I know, but I feel like I really know every thought and motivation that my character has by the end of the story. It’s kind of lovely, in a way, being so close to my own creations.

I hope that my extensive process (it takes about a year and a half to fully finish a book) comes in handy one day. Above all, I hope that someone has the connection to my characters that I have, and that they can love them like I do.

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