Every year, The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student with the highest graded article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing Programme. This year’s winner is Nathalie Brundell who provides creative writers with some useful tips on the thorny issue of transferring fictional characters from one’s imagination to the page. Congratulations Nathalie!
Hearing Voices? Fear not, Writer
Like a search history filled with creative torture techniques, a writer with voices in their head is usually a good thing.
But sometimes, those voices can get a little too loud. We’ve all been there. Scented candles burning, movie scores playing softly, a steaming cup of your favourite drink – yeah, you’re ready. In fact, your fingers are itching, so you open the document and…
There it is. The dreaded, blank page. And that blinking cursor – the worst torture technique discovered yet. Well? Come on, then, it says. Show me what you got. I can do this aallll day.
As the seconds pass, your palms grow sweaty. Maybe… Maybe you’re not cut out for this, after all. You can’t even come up with one sentence that doesn’t sound like complete, utter garbage. And what if people hate it? Who could blame them – you have no clue what you’re doing! And…
Yeah – those voices.
Of course, none of the garbage they spew is actually true. It’s just fear, worry, perfectionism – whatever you want to call it. And while that ancient reptile brain of yours is just trying to protect you from excruciating, public shame… it’s also keeping you from actually writing.
In other words – you wanna finally finish a manuscript? Here’s how to beat those nasty voices in your head.
1. Create a Character
If there’s one thing we writers love, it’s a flawed character. So, get to it – give that shrill voice a name, a face, a personality. Who are they, and what are they afraid of?
Like that voice that just won’t stop criticizing you. Let’s call him Curt, shall we? Can you see those thin glasses he’s wearing, and that slick, villainous suit? Looking down at literally everyone?
Well, look closer. Maybe, someone told him long ago that the only way to make your way in the world is through perfection. Flaws and weaknesses? He sniffs them out like a trained dog, because if he can keep pointing out other people’s faults, maybe he doesn’t have to deal with his own.
A pure ray of sunshine.
But I’m sure you can do even better than that. So, crack open your notebook. You don’t have what it takes. People will hate it. Your dream is silly and embarrassing. Who are the people saying these things, and why?
Take your time with it, and make it good – after all, you’ll be seeing a lot of these guys in the future
2. Make Friends
Alright, so you’ve got your characters. Now what?
Curt, the haughty, judgy critic. Selma, the middle-aged woman with enough worries to give her a heart attack. Gordon, the “lazy” slug who would rather scroll social media, because if he actually tries something he might just fail at it.
Shake hands, acknowledge them. These people aren’t going anywhere, so there’s no point ignoring them anymore. Instead, get comfortable around them.
3. Take Back Authority
These flat, nasty characters – are they the ones writing the book, poem, script? No. You are.
So, establish your authority. They can stay, sure, but they better know their place.
They likely won’t back down at first. But in time, you’ll learn how to recognize who is speaking, and how to talk them off their ledge. Selma, for example, probably just needs someone to settle her nerves – some kindness and reassurance goes a long way.
Curt, on the other hand, just needs to be told to shut up every once in a while. And Gordon? No distractions for him. That comfort zone really is his kryptonite.
In other words, put them in their place. ‘Cause if you can learn how to take control over those inner voices?
You’ll finish that manuscript in no time.