Majority of writers hear voices

I’m not one for the more “spiritual” end of the writers’ self-aggrandizing spectrum — those who say things like “my poems or characters found me”, or that they were “channeling the work”, as “merely a conduit for the story”, etc. To me it’s all a little too crystals-and-energy silly. It smacks of self-mythologization and academia-like exclusion — trying to convince non-writers that we possess something more than what they do when in fact probably every one makes up stories and characters and has profound thoughts, with the main difference being that we’ve built a career around recognizing those and crafting them in to something more than mere passing fancies. We’re not wizards or shamans or priests, people. We’re mechanics mucking about under the hood of a machine called Imagination. That said, yes, I can also “hear” my characters speak, at least in the sense that I have simply created accents and vocal tones for them as part of their development into believable simulacra for real people. Doesn’t seem to need a more magical interpretation than that. Can you “hear” your characters?

The study, which appeared last month in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, also found that 56% of the writers surveyed reported visual or other sensory experiences of their characters when they were writing, while a fifth had the sense that their character was occupying the same physical space. Fifteen per cent of writers said they could even enter a dialogue with their creations.

“When I’m trying to ‘put words in their mouth’ instead of listening they often talk back. And then we discuss things until I find what they would say,” reported one anonymous respondent. Another revealed that their characters’ voices were distinct from their own inner speech: “When my characters are running dialogue in my head I feel like a spectator, but with my own inner speech I feel like the one speaking.”

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