Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From @LibbyDoyle9: Want to get to know your favorite writer? You already do.

By Libby Doyle

In Stephen King’s great series The Dark Tower, he famously introduced himself into the story, showing up in book six as an author telling the Gunslinger’s story, whom the Crimson King had marked for death.
Most don’t go to that extreme, of course, but I’m guessing few readers would be surprised to learn that writers put a lot of themselves into their characters. This is often true even if the story is light years from autobiographical, as the story must be in science fiction romance. After all, we’re not cavorting with hot alien warriors, as much as we may wish we were.
Inserting oneself into a character may not be intentional. Good writing reaches deep into the imagination and pulls out things the writer didn’t know were there. If you asked your favorite authors, I bet many would describe flowing into a mental space while they’re writing in which they don’t make conscious choices. The words come unbidden, and when they’re finished they think, “Oh, that’s good. Did that come out of me?”
Maybe the subconscious takes over. If so, the characters have to be serving up the writer’s own psychology. Can it be any other way?
Right now I’m reading 1984 by George Orwell. Yes, believe it or not, I’ve never read it. Early in the book, the protagonist performs the subversive act of making his first entry in a diary. Were anyone to discover he was keeping a diary, he would be “vaporized,” because it’s a “thoughtcrime,” as the world of 1984 puts it. Who else but a writer would have the first bold move towards freedom be putting pen to paper? If a soldier or a law enforcement officer was asked to think up some small act of rebellion, it might involve protecting someone from the authorities. A nurse might help an injured person. A teacher might give a lecture on a forbidden subject. But when telling stories is what you do, you believe in the power of stories.
As we should! Stories can elevate us, heal us, and teach us. They entertain us. Entertainment is more important than I think a lot of people give it credit for. Life is hard, right? People need to reduce their stress. The thing is, I don’t think writers will entertain anyone unless they entertain themselves. Writers won’t affect anyone emotionally unless they affect themselves. That’s why they have to draw from their own experiences to give their characters an authentic voice, even if the stories are sheer fantasy.
The experiences might be sliced and diced through the creative process until they’re barely recognizable. For example, the female protagonist of the Covalent Series, my epic science fantasy, isn’t me. Zan O’Gara is more who I wish I was: a badass FBI agent, strong and beautiful, who can play the guitar, has a great sense of humor and a killer left jab. She’s my notion of the ideal woman. But she’s got a ton of flaws and insecurities, as well. I didn’t know what they were when I started. To discover them I wrote scenes in which she reacted to events. Lo and behold, she’s got a bad temper. She second guesses herself. She holds onto a grudge like a pit bull onto a rawhide toy. She’s my ideal, but when the story calls for her to react in difficult situations, she messes up like I would mess up. I draw on my own emotional memory.
Of course, when she’s heroic, that’s not me. I’m a privileged person who’s never been called on to be heroic in my comfy life. So where does that come from? I suppose I rely on stories others have told me with so much skill I felt the emotions of the characters as my own. And it comes from real life in the larger sense, of course. On any given day the news is filled with enough drama to power a thousand stories.
All these tales, facts, emotions and eventualities go into my brain blender and out pours a story. Writers I know have described similar processes. We’re an odd bunch, but we sure do like to entertain.

Libby Doyle is the author of The Covalent Series, a sexy science fantasy in five parts. To learn more, visit libbydoyle.com. Be sure to check out her free short fiction.


  1. Thanks to the SFR Brigade for the opportunity.

  2. I agree with you points, especially that writers who fail to write to entertain themselves quite possibly won’t entertain their readers. Keep mental blender on crush, please.

  3. Such an interesting post - and it really resonates with me. Most of my female lead characters are me as I would like to be - not as I am really, of course, but their faults are certainly recognisable as my own, although of naturally they don't have all my faults by any means! :) (or they wouldn't be lead characters) Thanks for a very intersting and thought provoking post.


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