From the wonderful guide Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin:
“One of the marvelous things about that marvelous thing the novel is its many-voicedness, its polyphony. All kinds of people get to think, feel, and talk in a novel, and that great psychological variety is a part of the beauty and vitality of the form.
“It might seem that the writer needs a gift of mimicry, like an impersonator, to achieve this variety of voices. But it isn’t that. It’s more like what a serious actor does, sinking self into character-self. It’s a willingness to be the characters, letting what they think and say rise from inside them. It’s a willingness to share control with one’s creation.
“Writers may need conscious practice in writing in voices that aren’t their own; they may, in fact, resist it.…
“What’s needed in this case is conscious and serious practice in hearing, and using, and being used by, other people’s voices.
“Instead of talking, let other people talk through you….
“If you’re a fiction writer, though, I can tell you how to let people talk through you. Listen. Just be quiet, and listen. Let the character talk. Don’t censor, don’t control. Listen, and write.
“Don’t be afraid of doing this. After all, you are in control. These characters are entirely dependent on you. You made them up. Let the poor fictive creatures have their say—you can hit delete any time you like.”
What marvelous advice from a master storyteller: “Listen, and write.”
How often do we simply quiet ourselves and let our characters speak through us and to us? Let’s ponder and practice this as we all write on!
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