Slave of the Subconscious

Rabbit - sockThe mind is a strange and wonderful thing.  Many a writer has struggled with a significant plot point, only to have their subconscious solve it after a long walk, a nap or a shower.  In fact, this is something I have learnt to actively use as a technique to solve problems.  Something that alludes me during the day, will often become apparent overnight.  If I have stumbled into a plot hole, a character inconsistency or an idea that just isn’t coming together, I simply make sure I’m thinking about the problem before I fall asleep that night and when I wake the solution is usually clear.  For those who haven’t experienced this, it might sound a tad strange, but as a writer who talks to her characters, I’m used to strange looks.

Today this phenomena shocked the breath from me, when I discovered my subconscious is working away on a story I hadn’t even realised was still in my head.  After completing the third draft of my mentorship ms nearly a week ago, I set it down to rest a while.  When I did I knew one character, Craikor, had disappeared for too long from the action in the middle of the story, but was content to tackle this in the next draft.  Meanwhile I began work on another novel of mine to gain distance from the mentorship novel.  However yesterday, Craikor piped up and began talking to me.  Just one sentence – a bold statement about another character (he’s quite feisty).  To be honest I sort of ignored him – firstly I wasn’t sure where his statement would fit into the current story, and secondly I was annoyed at him for intruding on my work on a different story (with very different characters).  However last night I moved in and out of dreams about Craikor, and woke with a clear image in my mind of a scene where he says the line he’d said to me.  It was the perfect way to introduce him into the middle of the story, and also revealed information about his motivations.  So I had to abandon my carefully laid plans to continue with the other story today, and sit down to write Craikor’s scene.

I was led astray by a feisty fire wight.  Characters can be pushy.  I’m learning to follow their whims and their voices more, however I still find myself fighting them occasionally.  It’s a losing battle.  So, is anyone else a slave to their subconscious?

4 Responses to “Slave of the Subconscious”

  1. 1 Lynn Priestley April 14, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    Oh – constantly. I can so relate to what you have written here. I am so often woken by my characters that I actually invested in a digital tape recorder that lives next to my bed. During the wee small hours of the night, when I wake with a solution riding full force through my head, I now tap my touch lamp – which illuminates the room with a low glow, then I reach for the tape and start blathering away. The low wattage of the lamp means I don’t fully wake up and the recorder lets me get all the good bits down before they have time to escape. Another tap and it’s lights off and back into slumber I slip. I tried waking fully and writing things down but I found myself up for hours then – unable to fall back to sleep by all the goings on in my head.

    I also started emailing my characters at the end of a session. My main characters, I have given email accounts to. I email them questions, wait a day or so and then get inside their heads and answer their mail for them. I also email them with questions to problems I am having about the plot, asking them why they are behaving the way they are. Same thing – by the time they write back – the solution is often apparent. You’d be surprised what comes out of those emails and I think only writers would understand this kind of insanity!

  2. 2 janebretl April 16, 2009 at 12:47 am

    I think both of these stories show how little of our mind’s potential most of us tap into each day. It is a miraculous machine we carry around between our ears!

  3. 3 Katherine Battersby April 16, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Lynn, I am fascinated by your e-mail technique! I have honestly never heard of this before – it will make a great story down the track for talking about how you developed your characters.

  4. 4 Sheryl Gwyther April 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Nobody knows the complete power of the human brain – I believe the sub-conscious is there to solve those testy, pesty problems if left in peace for a while. :)

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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