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What would you do?

I've been fighting insomnia* for the last hour, to no avail. So instead of tossing and turning in frustration, let me ask you a question, O Great Hivemind of Fellow Writers!

When you've left a project fallow for an extended amount of time, how do you get back into it?

Do you dive in right where you left off, with no priming of the pump, working purely from memory with what and where you think you need to go?

Do you reread the prose you wrote and pick it up from there? All of it or just a scene or two?

Do you peruse notes and outlines first to get the juices flowing?

Something else entirely?

On another writing-related note, do those of you who are known for (or personally feel you have the knack of) writing relatable characters put yourselves in the characters' skin when writing? Do you visualize yourself as the character interacting with the story world? Can you put your finger on what you do?

This sort of roleplaying does not come naturally to me, and I constantly find myself distracted and pulled out of the "game" by my own wandering thoughts, leading me to the conclusion that this technique "just isn't me." I'd like to persist, though, and try to master it because I WANT to write characters that readers love to love and love to hate. Such roleplaying might be a good way to accomplish that.

I also wonder if I have a hard time doing it because I lack empathy on some level. Before I lead you to think I'm some kind of heartless monster, let me clarify by saying that I do feel for others and am able to understand their feelings. But it is easier when their situation is not connected to mine. When I'm involved, I'm too often concerned with and overwhelmed by Self. I usually have to have some distance before I can see the other side's point/feelings in a confrontation. especially when I myself have strong feelings or a sense of rightness. Are those of you who are better character writers, so to speak, more immediately empathic, perhaps?

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

And perhaps I should not be permitted to make blog posts when I'm sleep deprived. :P


____________
*This is the resulf of discomfort--it's too hot--but also of writing. When my brain starts playing with words, sleep becomes elusive...

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
aeriedraconia
Aug. 22nd, 2015 03:24 am (UTC)
Sorry about the insomnia, that stinks.

Getting back into a project after an extended period of writer avoidance. I go over my notes. I leave notes at the beginnings and ends of chapters to help guide myself along and to attempt to keep me on track...unless I decided to change tracks.

I'll also reread what I've done so far or skim it to pick up the flavor and to reacquaint myself with the personalities of the characters and remember where I was going.

As for characters, well, I used to play table top RPG games where you would sort of be in your character's head running him/her. When I write I think I'm riding inside the character's head or on their shoulder, I'm part of them to an extent but also an observer. It can help to imagine how you would feel or react to something and then test it out to see if you think your character would react the same way or would his/her culture/era etc. change their reaction.

I personally find characters come easier to me than plotting. Do you find plotting easier than characters?
mnfaure
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:46 am (UTC)
I like to invent and describe things. I want these things--world, people, situations--to be fascinating to others, but I don't know how successful I am at engendering that fascination in readers. However, I would say that situations (or activity, as I said in reply to khiemtran below) come more easily to me than believable characters. I spend time getting to know my characters, but some of them never quite "pop" for me. I think this is because I shy off before getting to the real essence of who they are versus who the story needs them to be. This ties in to what you say about his/her reactions in terms of culture/era/etc....
khiemtran
Aug. 22nd, 2015 09:38 am (UTC)
I tend to play things through in my head before I write, which causes problems the longer I leave things, because often what I'm playing through isn't actually what I wrote the first time.

I do find plotting easier than characters, but over the years I've tried to concentrate more on character and less on plot.
mnfaure
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:41 am (UTC)
Ha! I've done that before too, playing (or making notes) and then going back to find that I have a disconnect. Then I have to decide if I want to remain faithful to the old, embrace the new, or find a way to meld the two.

I, sadly, find activity easy. Not necessarily plot. :P
asakiyume
Aug. 23rd, 2015 07:27 pm (UTC)
I do this too--play with things in my head.

The writing is always so much harder than the imagining -_-
mnfaure
Aug. 24th, 2015 02:22 pm (UTC)
I know, right? It just flows in my head and is so vivid, makes so much sense, and carries so much weight. Then I write it and cue "Lost in Translation." :P
frigg
Aug. 22nd, 2015 02:04 pm (UTC)
Well, you know how I work, no notes, getting back into a project means skimming what I got and otherwise relying on memory.

... and for the characters, I am that character. I remember feeling nauseated for an entire day because a character had to do something that went against both of our natures (so yes, I become overwhelmed as well), but sounds to me like you don't lack empathy, but maybe you have too much of it?

Perhaps the solution is to dive into that character's mind just for brief moments, and only when necessary?



Edited at 2015-08-22 02:05 pm (UTC)
mnfaure
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:39 am (UTC)
I try to get into the character to "see what they see, feel what they feel," and can start off like that, but it very quickly seems to me that I start showing too much. Like every move becomes necessary to put on the page because it is what is naturally happening. I need to either write it all and cull later or learn the balance of staying in their head in an artificial way, if that makes sense.
xjenavivex
Aug. 22nd, 2015 08:04 pm (UTC)

I am sorry about the insomnia.

mnfaure
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:32 am (UTC)
I used to suffer from it a lot, but it had tapered off since having kids. Now that I have a combination of creative thoughts churning in my brain and the summer heat, the sleeplessness is ready to pounce.
asakiyume
Aug. 23rd, 2015 07:35 pm (UTC)
regarding empathy
What you say about feeling too full of Self in certain instances--I think it's what frigg suggests: you're maybe feeling things **too** intensely, and it's hard for you to get distance on it. I can imagine that very well...

Since I see from your most recent post that you **have** gotten back into the project, I know you've arrived at some method for plunging back in, but I'll add in my data point anyway: I read over what I've written, the whole thing if it's not too long, or the portions immediately preceding if it's too long to read the whole thing, so I can fall back into the mood of it. ... And I try not to think too much about how different my writing may have become in the meantime. There'll be time later to smooth stuff out, or so I tell myself.
mnfaure
Aug. 24th, 2015 02:45 pm (UTC)
Re: regarding empathy
Thanks for adding your data. All points are good and useful from where I'm sitting.

And I try not to think too much about how different my writing may have become in the meantime. There'll be time later to smooth stuff out, or so I tell myself.

Oh, yes! This is definitely me. Worrying about this is the way to madness...and interminable rewrites. :P

I'm looking at a completed book and 60k of book 2, so I'm going to try to just get back into it by rewriting the beginning, which I was working on before I stopped (you read some of this).

pjthompson
Aug. 23rd, 2015 09:26 pm (UTC)
I reread the entire ms. and review the notes. That gets me back in the world better than anything. I've been doing quite a lot of that lately. :-)

As to characters, I suppose I do a certain amount of "method acting" with them. Language seems to be a strong key here, or partly so. Certain characters are going to use language a certain way, sometimes quite differently from the way I do, and that helps get inside their minds. Also, even if the story is not going to be first person, I may write some practice scenes in the 1st person POV of the main character to get that feel. But often something just clicks into place and I can get into their heads without too much effort. I just know that a certain character would express themselves in a certain way, would see things in a certain way. I guess I'm not 100% sure how I do it after so many years of doing it, and maybe the "so many years of doing it" is the operative phrase here. Practice, practice, practice. :-D

Empathy? Hmm. I might say yes, and I might say no. Sometimes I'm so judgmental! Otoh, sometimes I slip beneath the skin of others quite easily. I might say more yes than no, but perhaps I don't really know.

I'm sorry about the insomnia. Hope you were able to rest.
mnfaure
Aug. 24th, 2015 02:53 pm (UTC)
I'm going to reread, too, but only after fixing the first 6 chapters or so. I already know they need going over and what I need to do (setting up characters, motivations, and status quo) to bring them up to snuff.

Mirco is a character in this book who is relatively easy for me to access. The other ones, not so much. I should do more of what you say and write things from 1st person POV. Too many of the characters have indistinguishable voices, and that is not good when one has 5 POVs. So, off to practice, practice, practice!
pjthompson
Aug. 24th, 2015 06:38 pm (UTC)
Yes. I rarely use first person when it comes to the finished product, but it is a helpful character technique.
mnfaure
Aug. 24th, 2015 08:19 pm (UTC)
I actually have two 1st POV books in draft stage. :P
pjthompson
Aug. 25th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
The only first person completed novel I have is Night Warrior/The Making Blood. I don't think I even have any partials that are first person. A few stories. Oh wait, I forgot about Carmilla, the carnival story. Hmm. I need to write that one. :-D
sunflower_sky
Aug. 24th, 2015 06:09 am (UTC)
I see you've already gotten started but I'm throwing my two cents in. I have never been able to rewrite a full novel that's already been written. I've had some starts, and I'm not saying it'll never happen, but somehow I find it impossible to rebuild an entire story from scratch when I've already processed it. :-/

I have, however, gotten back to projects that I began long ago. An Ancient Whisper is a prime example. It sat on the back burner--as a 10-page-or-so draft and a file of notes--for six years... and the process of it getting written is pretty well documented on my LJ from August 2013-February 2014. Pretty much, I reread what I had and waited to see what would happen. (And then stuff happened. Only some of which was only in my head. o.O Maybe I'll write you a private message about that...) Same thing happened with that short story I finished a few months ago; it was an idea (and a page-and-a-half draft) I had years ago. I reread it again several months before getting back to it, and it sat there for a while until it started "taking on skin and muscle" in my head, and then there was no stopping it...

As for this: "On another writing-related note, do those of you who are known for (or personally feel you have the knack of) writing relatable characters put yourselves in the characters' skin when writing? Do you visualize yourself as the character interacting with the story world? Can you put your finger on what you do?"

Yes. For me, writing a story is just a grown-up version of the kind of imaginary play I played as a child. I play pretend. I pretend I'm in the situation my characters are in and see what happens. Some of my best dialogue pieces were conceived through imaginary conversations I had with my characters in the shower. :P
mnfaure
Aug. 24th, 2015 02:17 pm (UTC)
edited to fix italics
I have never been able to rewrite a full novel that's already been written. I've had some starts, and I'm not saying it'll never happen, but somehow I find it impossible to rebuild an entire story from scratch when I've already processed it

This is very similar to the way I feel and operate. For me, a story only really exists after I write it. And after it exists it has its own terms. I can't just go back in and change everything. Even though I am the writer and that is within my power. It won't be the same story. Which is the point in a way, but I have to have some core that remains (or I might as well write a new book). And the core always feels large and immutable.

Pretty much, I reread what I had and waited to see what would happen.

I do this, too. When a project is ripe for working on, it starts whispering and nudging if I sit back in readiness.

(And then stuff happened. Only some of which was only in my head. o.O Maybe I'll write you a private message about that...)

If you have the time and inclination, I'd be interested in reading what you have to say. :)

And the shower (or bath) and the kitchen sink are a rocking place for me, idea-wise. :D




Edited at 2015-08-24 02:46 pm (UTC)
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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