Split Personality

I wrote a post a while ago called The Voices in My Head, about how characters are the heart of a story, and how to create characters that are truly alive.

Now the negative of that is if you bring characters to life, they stay that way. In your head. All the time.

Besides the obvious problem with your sanity, this can be a problem with your writing. As you know, I’ve been writing my WIP Nightfire. Meanwhile, I’ve been querying my MS Ember, but in the process have received feedback and started with some more edits and tweaks. Before, I’ve never had an issue with multiple characters, because I’ve only really worked on one manuscript at a time.

Now that’s changed, and I have two voices in my head–a split personality.

How do I navigate this, when characters are the heart of the story? It is hard not to lose the exact pitch of their voices, when they are both talking at once. Normally, I am engulfed in one world, one story, one voice. I know exactly how they think, how they would react, what they would do, because that is what I am surrounded by. I am lost in it. But how do I lose myself, in two places at once?

I have never seriously written two works at once, and have always heard of authors who can, and do. Some have written up to four books in a year! Maybe it is possible, but I am not sure how they stay true to each story, and distinct from the others.

When I go back for edits, I have to read through a scene or two, and re-ground myself in the world. Remember the exact tone of Falcon’s voice, the heartbeat of her world. Then when I reach a block in edits, I go back to Nightfire. I have to read through again, find Kera’s voice, the pulse of her story. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I get lost in between, or with both at once. Sometimes I think I’ve found it, and a trace of Falcon will slip through, or vice versa.

This is a problem because Kera and Falcon, though they are similar in many ways, are also very different. They have entirely different ways of reacting and dealing with situations. I’ve found that in some scenes, Kera will snap or lash out–when that is not her character, but Falcon’s. I have to step back and re-evaluate. Focus on her voice, and feel her emotions.

It’s not perfect, but neither is writing. I think the key is truly knowing both Kera and Falcon, and being able to recognize when one is not being true to her character.

Have you ever worked on two stories at once, maybe even more? How did you handle it, and keep them both separate and true? Even if you haven’t worked on more than one story, how do you separate voices when it comes to a new story?

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8 thoughts on “Split Personality

  1. I’ve never had two projects going, but I know that after leaving book one for a few months, I almost forgot something about it when asked. I guess I’d go for whoever is giving me the most grief lol

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  2. As a (admittedly, baby) writer who gives multiple characters voices through different projects, I’d say the key is Focus – which your post hints at, already. The faster you can sharpen focus onto a character’s intent/attitude (or ground yourself in their world), the faster it will be to write. The more major characters, the more points of focus required.

    From my own experience, dialogue is the hardest thing to maintain consistency and the best way to handle it is to just write, then return to the manuscript and do a Dialogue-Only edit fix, paying close attention to each character and what they say through-out (having a character sheet nearby with do’s and don’ts helps).

    Another way is having stories that are very different from each other. If the stories are too similar to one another, I usually merge them together or abandon one in respect to the other. The projects that I develop are so different from each other in genre, audience, theme and character that their worlds are distinct and there is minimal blurring on my part as the author when writing.

    Though, I will say, there’s been plenty of times I’ve been writing on a manuscript, only to realize that I was accidentally using the tense or style form of the last manuscript I was working on, or misplaced the occasional detail by starting it in one world and it leaping into another without notice. Constant vigilance (and notes), my friend.

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    • Yes! This is great, and very true. I think it comes out the most in their dialogue. Kera will say a very Falcon thing, and I’ll go wait no, that’s not her, and have to back up. I think it also comes from the fact that Falcon was the first true voice I had, and I worked with her story for two years, and have only been with this one for a few months. Getting her out of my head is sort of like getting over a bad ex haha, there’s always a piece of her there. I also notice tense issues too, though I think that’s just habit more than anything since I am more comfortable with past. Vigilance is the key! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

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      • You’re welcome. I’ve had characters like that before, and the best antidote I’ve found is to create a character that is their opposite in every way. You don’t have to use the character in a novel or anything, but just have the doppleganger also in your head to balance the previous character. This seems to settle the internal voice of a strong character. Then again, I think in-depth characters always have a piece of themselves remain because that is who they are, which is a good sign in its own way. 🙂

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  3. I have several projects going on at the moment, and keeping them separate is a bit tricky at times. I worry that the characters bleed into one another sometimes, and come off the same. It’s something I’m working on.

    I think what you said it right. The character has to be solidly created and you have to know them inside out.

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  4. Pingback: Resisting the Urge | Coffee. Write. Repeat.

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