You, Not You [Hippie Squared]

Flannery O’Connor once said that the only way to write successful autobiographical fiction is if you are able to look at yourself as a fictional character.

In other words, if you can look at you as if you were not you.

Autobiographical or not, your fictional characters are not you. They’re never you. Of course, they’re also all you. They’re never not you. They come from your head.

Yet, if you want them to be real, you’ve got to give them their own head. Because they do come from you, they have their own integrity. An integrity that is of you. And sometimes, they know better than you. They know their little piece of you far better than you do.

For instance, have you noticed that when you dream of someone you know, they talk like themselves and not like you? They say things only they would say, things that you would never think to say–if you were awake and tried to write their dialogue.

Yet you did think to say those things. You did write that dialogue. With your dreaming brain. And you didn’t plan it. It was pure, real-time improv, made up on the fly. Genius improv. Buddha’s own improv.

Some piece of you knows those characters in your life better than you know you do.

I think about that sometimes when I’m writing fictional characters. How do I access that Buddha-genius dreaming brain when I’m awake and writing? With my fingers on the fly, writing dialogue for that integral little piece of me that I’ve set loose to try and run circles around the waking, dull, unimaginative and prosaic me that I am all too often.

Me, not me.