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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Out of Body Experiences...With Characters?

I had the most bizarre experience the other day. While doing homework I found myself suddenly speaking as one of the characters in a new project I've been working on. I started walking around the house, talking as though I was telling the story, albeit rather quietly. Then, it stopped. There must have been five minutes of this, and when I tried to write it all down, I found that I couldn't, as if that part of me had simply been shut off.

I've never had that happen to me. I don't know if I'm insane or simply so fascinated by this character than talking as though I am that character is simply the way of the game.

So, to determine whether my sanity has been compromised, I'd like to ask all of you whether you've ever had this kind of experience. Let me know in the comments! You can also tell me I'm nuts and should seek medical attention, if you so desire.

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  1. I haven't had that exact experience, but I've had similar.

    Characters taking over and character "autonomy" are not new, and you are in good company. In 1986 Analytic Press published psychologist Mary Watkins' book Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogues. Watkins demonstrates the value of imaginal others in shamanism, various therapies, and conditions such as multiple personality disorder. Her chapter "The Characters Speak Because They Want to Speak": The Autonomy of the Imaginal Other explores the role of imaginal others in writing.

    Watkins quotes from poet Marina Tsvetaeva and authors Enid Blyton, Henry James, Flannery O'Connor, and Alice Walker. I've included excerpts here, along with a bit of my own process.

  2. This happens to me all the time - especially during my acting/actor days, I'd pace around the house ad-libbing lines "in character", but hell if I could recapture it on stage.

    And that's the thing, when that happens, when you're brain is free to wander and 100% naturally sift through the essences of any particular dialogue and/or character, it never looks or reads right when you try to write it down later, or remember the details. Like dreams, man: it's a one-time/this-very-moment thing. Traces remain and inspire, but you'd have to pull a Daniel Day Lewis style immersion to make it last.

  3. e_journeys: So...I may very well be insane?

    Dave: And you're saying I'm not insane...My solution will be to have my digital recorder by me at all times for just such occasions.