The Voodoo Pen

The pen is a voodoo pin. It allows people to incant their fears and suffering into the world, unleashing their inner demons, binding them onto a page, and sending them off to bother other people.

That’s why we can read about so many older men suddenly throwing away their older lives for thrills and adventure (“can”, not “should”). So many writers writing about writers thinking about writing, living in worlds where exciting things come from the world into them instead of the other way round, so many badass unstoppable supercool rogues who were hated and feared instead of the truly terrifying fate of not being noticed.

Worries? Fears? Give them to someone else! Create a golem to fill with everything you don’t want in your own head and send them shambling off. The only difference is the amount of writing: not just a few symbols on their forehead, you have to write their forehead (furrowed), the rest of their head, their body, the lot.

Of course, voodoo and monsters are guaranteed to turn back on their creators. That’s what they do.

Using your own experience is a great way to give your characters depth, but you have to use the technique properly. You can’t just vomit your current thoughts directly onto the page. People don’t like picking through someone else’s vomit: it’s unpleasant, it’s mostly unprocessed, and most damningly of all it’s someone else’s problem. You have to choke down your own issues and process them. This process will reveal that the bulk of it turns to shit, but bits will be extracted, integrated, added to your sum total and become something you can usefully use.

At which point you could no more take them out of yourself than you could give your character your toes. Instead you have to climb into their head and steer them yourself.


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