Un Essai

Getting intimate with my characters

May, 2016

They say, writing a book can be very therapeutic. And, in a way, it is.

I’m currently about to finish the first tome of my novel, and it wasn’t the easiest experience. It was very… uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to get to know each one of my characters, uncomfortable to be in their shoes, to feel their doubts, to reflect on their hopes, to not be judgmental about their behaviors, their intentions, their beliefs, and most of all, their differences.

Going deep into the range of human emotions is the hardest, yet the most fascinating thing to experience.

In the beginning of my writing, while I’d be working on a scene, I would shockingly forget one of my characters and hurry to bring, her or him, back again to the story. Or worse, I’d put someone to sleep just because I couldn’t handle her or his weakness, before assessing time and time again their role, the meaning of their presence in the story, and their potential reaction to the conflict of the scene I was working on. Those little incidents were rare, but they happened none the less.

We, my characters and I, used to work as separate organs, awkwardly struggling to dance on the same rhythm. We were divided, split into different independent parts, unable to work as one entity, one body. Not to mention the hard part of painfully working a muscle I rarely use: making conversation.

Thus, to be able to accomplish that, I had to dig deeper in each character’s mind.

It wasn’t easy to find unity. I had to thoroughly study each and every one of those strangers freshly landed from my imagination. I had to scrutinize their ways sharply, understand what was causing them pain, sadness, laughter or joy. I had to wrap my head around what would make them wrestle internally, what were the things they would obsess about, what were the aspirations they would hide from the impudent eye, and what would be the most ridiculous thing they would keep secret from the rest of the world.

I had to embrace a supreme gift and activate the ability to know their minds, their subtle singularities, their unique and sweet flaws, their own stories and backgrounds, resisting the urge to exposing it all to the reader.

And to bring enough depth to my characters and create consistency in each one of them, I had to work hard on dissecting their unspoken dreams and hopes, analyzing their own personal concealed inner struggle, peeling off layers of frustrations and disillusions, all for the purpose of finally reaching their little hearts.

And as I was going deeper in the process, I began to love them all equally.

But many of my characters reflected, with a great impact on my own soul, my own personality. They brutally revealed some of my own weaknesses, slowly reminding me of my errors, and made me dig ruthlessly through my imperfections.

The more I pushed through it, the more uncomfortable I got, until it strangely started to get scary. Until, I wasn’t sure anymore if I could hold the dark side of my characters without losing my own sanity in the process.

I strongly doubted myself to be able to handle, with enough maturity and enough wisdom, my own internal drama. And, as a writer, I wasn’t sure anymore if I had the ability to honor the complexity and the diversity of every human side of each character, because for that, my heart needed to grow wider, and I couldn’t find the strength to do that.

When my fictional story was starting to get painfully real, I kept a decent distance, and I started observing those people from afar, from a safe place, refusing to get involved more than necessary. But that attempt didn’t last very long.

Because the very essence of my book evolves around the idea of finding the courage to be one’s truest self, and because, as the very creator of this fictional world, I had to be the first one to set the tone to it, I tried to dedicate enough time and enough energy to truly listen.

Slowly, a gentle flow started appearing, while a soft music kept playing in the background of the story, graciously setting the rhythm of a synchronized and balanced choreography. Suddenly, writing, while feeling intensely, profoundly, vividly everything, good and bad, harsh and soft, profound and superficial, started to resemble to an exquisite adventure, because, my characters and I, we were finally able to dance in harmony, in unity.

In order to become a writer, I’ve realized that, there’s a lot of thoughtful investment of time, a firm self-discipline and a solid commitment in learning the craft. But most of all, to become a writer one should, by all means, accept to be always shifted from her/his comfort zone.

Consistency and unity come from a heart that is strong enough, complete enough, and willing enough to do the job to go on a, first personal, then a mutual undivided quest of finding the truth.

I’ve came to realize, undoubtedly, that if I wanted to reflect truth in my writings, I had to be true to myself. I had to write from the heart, from the ugly parts, the beautiful parts, the ridiculous parts and the scary parts. I wouldn’t dare calling myself a writer unless I was honest. Honest with myself, honest with my writing, honest with my readers.

I keep learning a lot from my characters. It still pleasantly surprises me how much I still learn from them, through them, with them. Writing their story definitely helped me find myself through them again. And I’m starting to get the feeling, that it is just the beginning.

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