My mother has a very specific pear-canning-season activity: She sits on the couch with her little knife that she only uses to peel, half, core, and remove bad parts of the pears. then she sits surrounded by the pears from the backyard, puts out the tub she collects the bits that will be tossed, a pie pan that the bits go into before being put in the tub, and the mason jars she cans the pears in. Then she turns on the television and watches the same show for hours on end: Murder, She Wrote.
It’s a great show, I confess, and I’ve gotten to the point throughout my life where I’ve started recognizing most of the episodes between pear canning season and the regular weekend marathons of it on the Hallmark Channel. I’m not a mystery writer, but there’s something appealing about watching a writer go through her life, whether in her home environment or dealing with editors, publishers, promotional tours, and even doing ‘research’ in fancy places like Martinique. Obviously the likelihood of becoming a best-selling author over night and never writing a flop are pretty unrealistic, but it makes for good television and allows her to accomplish things other characters might not.
The other day, the main character, J. B. Fletcher, played by the fabulous Angela Lansbury, was working out the last bits of who the killer was and means and motive and all that, and she was saying it out loud to herself in a room full of people. One of them asks what she was saying, and she apologizes for talking to herself, says that it’s a writer’s habit.
My mother looked at me and said, “that explains so much.”
I admit it. I talk to myself.
Every night before I go to bed, I talk out the dialogue, even block some of the actions, of various scenes. Lately it’s been the scenes I’m picturing for my A Song of Ice and Fire fan fiction. It’s usually a scene that’s been plaguing my brain all day. The scenes in my fan fiction It’s For You of Sirius and Olivia walking the streets of Muggle London on their mission were talked out as I walked to and from work a couple of years ago.
I adamantly refuse to believe that this makes me crazy. The best way to get natural dialogue and movement is to act it out, to say the words out loud. If they don’t feel natural and friendly on my tongue, they get changed, twisted, or tossed altogether. It’s so much easier to feel comfortable about dialogue (which I have a lot of) if I’ve had that same dialogue, worked through the nuances, and still like it. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, long before I was ever really doing my own creative writing, when it was all in my brain, but it was very well-developed for things that were never written down, just a lovely oral tradition of my own.
If this is how you write, you’re not crazy (probably)! How many of you do this talking to yourself? What other methods do you use that make you a writer?