Writing For Oneself

In the Great Practical World of the Almighty Dollar Sign, it might seem trite or tangential to discuss writing for oneself (unless one expects to pay oneself handsomely for the effort). In truth, the rewards of writing for oneself DO pay handsomely, and not just in personal satisfaction. By getting in touch with one’s own feelings, by discovering and mapping out one’s biases, an author can grow to appreciate his own impact on the work as being in addition to the structure of the work itself. An author can also become more objective about ways to approach his audience. (And yes, one can gain a lot of personal insight and satisfaction as well.)

The Author as Main Character

As an experiment, cast yourself in a story as the Main Character. Cast someone with whom you have a conflict as the Obstacle Character. Next, answer all the Dramatica questions and then go to the Story Points window. Fill in as many of the story points as seem appropriate to you. Print out the results and put them aside.

Now, go back and create the same story again — this time with your “opponent” as the Main Character and YOU as the Obstacle Character. Once again, fill in the story points and print them out. Compare them to the first results. You will likely find areas in which the story points are the same and other areas in which they are different.

These points of similarity and divergence will give you a whole new perspective on the conflicts between you and your adversary. Often, this is the purpose of an author when writing for himself. Thoughts and feelings can be looked at more objectively on paper than hidden inside your head. Just seeing them all jumbled up together rather than as a sequence goes a long way to uncovering meaning that was invisible by just trotting down the path. After all, how can we ever hope to understand the other person’s point of view while trying to see it from our perspective?

A wise woman once said, “Don’t tell me what you’d do if you were me. If you were me, you’d do the same thing because I AM ME and that’s what I’m doing! Tell me what you’d do if you were in my situation.”

Documenting Oneself

Another purpose in writing for oneself is simply to document what it was like to be in a particular state of mind. In a sense, we jot down the settings of our minds so that we can tune ourselves back into that state as needed at a later date. The images we use may have meaning for no one but ourselves, and therefore speak to us uniquely of all people. The ability to capture a mood is extremely useful when later trying to communicate that mood to others. To bring emotional realism to another requires being in the mood oneself. What better intuitive tool than emotional snapshots one can count on to regenerate just the feelings one wants to convey. To make an argument, accept the argument. To create a feeling, experience the feeling.

Who is “Me”?

A simple note is stuck to the refrigerator door: “Call me when you get home.” Who is “me?” It depends on who you are asking. Ask the author of the note and he would say it was “myself.” Ask the recipient of the note and they would say, “It’s him.” So the word “me” has different meanings depending upon who is looking at it. To the author, it means the same when they wrote it as when they read it as an audience. To the intended audience, however, it means something quite different.

In life, we assume one point of view at a time. In stories, however, we can juxtapose two points of view, much as we blend the images from two eyes. We can thus look AT a Main Character’s actions and responses even as we look through his eyes. This creates an interference pattern that provides much more depth and meaning than either view has separately.

My “Me” is Not Your “Me”

When writing for others, if we assume they share our point of view, it is likely that we will miss making half of our own point. Far better are our chances of successful communication if we not only see things from our side but theirs as well. Overlaying the two views can define areas of potential misunderstanding before damage is done. Still, “Call me when you get home” is usually a relatively low-risk communication and we suggest you just write the note without too much soul-searching.

From the Dramatica Theory Book

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