My first post on Writer Unboxed was eight years ago next month! In that post, I wrote about how I spy and snoop on people around me to get story ideas. Now, the long-awaited sequel.
In Part 1, I gave the basics: How to successfully gather information from people and things around you, and the tools you need to do so (iPhone or recording device, paper and pen, etc.). In this post, I’ll make it even simpler. I’ll help you spy on yourself and your nearest and dearest. In short, all you need is your family, yourself, and your inner thoughts!
Let me explain.
I’ve been going to a therapist to help me get back on track with my writing. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I’ve stumbled a bit and have had trouble finding my way with my writing. I’ve felt lost. One of the things my therapist has had me do is a kind of “expressive therapy.” She helped me identify “characters” inside of me—parts of my identity from now and when I was younger—then had me name them. And write about them. And imagine conversations between them. Her theory is that some of these parts of me that may have been useful in the past or even now are currently either holding me back or creating problems for me in my creative life.
The Characters Within
Using this method, I find myself with a small internal cast of characters about whom I can easily learn more (because they are all me!). They help me create characters for my stories. Here, without too much self-exposure, I’ll go through a few of them. (Names may have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Baby Julia. My father left when I was a toddler—I only saw him twice more before he died—and I have spent my life figuring out how to deal with his abandonment. Enter Baby Julia. She is someone who is always searching. Always wary. She is both afraid of being abandoned but also feels a need for reassurance and stability.
The Rebel. My mother remarried when I was five, and after that we moved a lot, for a while every year. When I was in fourth grade, we finally moved to our “permanent home,” but then my parents began to take us on multi-year research trips out of the country. While it was amazing to live in places like Belize and Kenya, it also took a toll. I felt disenfranchised from my friends and schoolmates. The Rebel ran away in Kenya. She almost made it home to California. She got in all kinds of other trouble, too. [Read more…]