The Mask, Part 4: Wear Your Characters' Skins

In my recent posts I stated my belief that we all have multiple personalities inside us, and each personality has its own set of skills and talents. By wearing a Mask we can tap into our inner stockbroker, our inner rock star, our inner healer. And then we can USE their skills.

The principle applies universally, but for creative people, and more narrowly writers, it’s a boon to be able to tap into these different voices and people. If you’re a writer you can BECOME each different character in your novels, short stories, and scripts; and the character that you become then write the stories for you, by reacting, thinking, talking, and feeling each in his or her individual ways.

You need to draft a short story, screenplay scene, or novel chapter, and you can’t overcome the tyranny of the blank page? Put on the Mask of one of the characters involved in the action. This may be a T-shirt, a bonnet, an unlit cigarette dangling from your lips, a pair of oversized sunglasses. Or a posture: slouched, stiff, defensive, preening, slutty. Or a speech pattern or language tic: a few threatening words spoken slowly through clenched teeth, a fake-Serbian accent, or, like, a burst of Valley-Girl Speak.

By wearing their Masks you become Hannibal Lecter, Hamlet, Harry Potter, or Hermione. The characters have their own paradigm, their own agendas; they’ll act and react within the scene or chapter, doing and saying whatever is logical and organic to them. Then you won’t write the scene as much as you’ll take dictation from your characters.

After you finish writing, wear the Mask of the Literary Agent and sell your masterpiece for a million bucks. Just don’t forget to mention me when you give your Nobel Prize speech, all right?