Author of OUTBACK LOVE a contemporary romance novel set in Australia, JETTING AWAY a short story prequel to OUTBACK LOVE, MOON OVER MADNESS a paranormal romantic comedy and BAYOU BLUES AND OTHER SORROWS a collection of short stories and poems about life and love. All are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and Kobo. On Twitter @TeriHeyer

Friday, May 4, 2012

Do We Hear Voices?

"We hear you!"
Do I hear voices? Well, that is a touchy subject. The answer depends on who is asking the question. If it is a medical doctor, of course not. If a fellow writer, why yes, I do hear voices. More often than not, in fact. Though I have to admit that oftentimes those voices are not saying the things I need to hear. You know what I mean, when those voices go off on another tangent and are working on a book of their own which has nothing to do with my current work in progress.

Now I am pretty sure the rest of you writers hear voices too. If not, oops, I didn't say that. But if you know what I'm talking about, then you certainly understand. It's those voices that we hear that help us write those novels that plague our nighttime dreams ( or nightmares) and our daydreams. When we sit down to write, those little critters, writer-elves, whatever, start yammering big time. Sometimes they're all in agreement and the words flow so fast your fingers can barely keep up on the keyboard. Other times, they argue incessantly. "No, you can't kill her. Not in chapter three." "What about chapter five?" "No, no, no, you can't kill her off at all."  "Maybe just maim her a bit?" "Sheesh, scrap this book and write something else, anything else." "Hush, we're working here." "Yeah right, you call this work?" Do you all have those kind of voices?

Sometimes, maybe it's just a fluke, but I wake up and the whole story is right there in all its glory. Those writer-elves (yes, mine are writer-elves) dictate and my fingers fly across the keyboard. Then I read it back and go, "Wow! Where did that come from?" It always amazes me when that happens.

Other times, lately for example, those voices are mute. Where do they go at times like this? I swear they're in there somewhere? Is there a door I can knock on so we can have a talk? Is there some secret password or code that I have to give them before I can enter? Did I offend one or all of them? I swear I've been nothing but kind to those little elves. Hey, maybe I need to dedicate my current work in progress to them? Would that get them talking again?

If I described all this to a doctor I might have those men with white coats knocking on my door. So I'm very very careful to say, "Nope, no voices at all." Of course, I don't have a doctor these days so I needn't worry about that aspect.

As a child those voices were a bit worrisome. I'd be sitting in class listening to the teacher drone on and on about something boring, like algebra or geometry, and the next thing I'd know, wham, I'd be tuned into their conversation. Often it had to do with pioneers, covered wagons, cowboys and Indians, adventure, pretty much any subject other than what the teacher was discussing. The next thing I'd know, said teacher would be standing over me, glaring down and saying, "Teri, what is x minus y x 3 squared?" Honest, I remember zilch about algebra and geometry, so I don't even know if that's a real question. Anyway, I sure I'm not the only writer with those kind of memories.

My dream back then was to be an author and illustrator of children's books. If I wasn't daydreaming and listening to those voices in my head, I was doodling. In grammar school I was known for my "Wanted Dead of Alive" drawings of classmates and teachers. I'd doodle an incredible likeness and make it a part of a wanted poster. My classmates loved them. Well, one day in 6th grade, my teacher caught on and was standing over me as I finished his wanted poster. This guy had a great profile, a big nose, big lips, big ears. As I finished with a flourish the teacher reached out and snatched up my drawing. Oh my gosh, you can imagine my horror. I was certain I'd be sent to the office, my parents called and my report card would once again say, "Daydreamer." Only this time, my teacher said something like, "No more doodling in class, Teri." He tried to look very stern, but as he turned away I saw that smile on his face. To this day I wonder if he still has that wanted poster. I'd like to think that he does.

Now see what I mean about my voices going off on tangents? This post was supposed to be about voices and writing and somehow art popped into the picture. You see, I have absolutely no control over those little writer-elves.

I'm really looking forward to the rest of you readers/writers/authors adding your comments to this post. Come on, I need you all to kick in and say something. Don't let me be the only one admitting to hearing voices.


  1. teri, i think each of us, in our own pecular way, "hear" voices. in my case, the voices i hear are those of the characters i create. they talk to me in my sleep, they are constantly on my mind during the day, and when i sit down to write, they take over the key board. i have told people for years that i am dominated by the actions of my characters, and i truly feel that they have a voice and mind of their own. i am used as the vessel to give them life, then they are off on their own. but yes, i hear them, and its a constant thing. roger lawrence

    1. Roger, thanks so much for your comment! So true - "the vessel to give them life." The voices do speak through us and the result is very close to magic. I am always awed by the experience. And yes, it is "a constant thing," a major part of who we are as writers.

  2. I agree with Roger. My characters talk to me. In the early stages of a novel, it's a struggle for me to draw them out. We don't know one another yet. There are usually one or two who dominate at that point. They're the first ones at the party. As the others straggle in, my challenge is to draw them all out and make sure that everybody gets to participate in the conversation.

    Once all the characters are on the scene, they begin to interact with one another and take the story where they want it to go. Writing at this point has me on the sidelines, watching, listening, and trying to capture all of the action. It's a struggle to keep up, and I type madly, trying not to miss anything. It's when this happens that I know I have a story.

    We rock along with one another until one of them puts an arm around my shoulder, takes me aside, and starts pushing me to end this fracas. Usually there are a couple of these, wanting to finish the tale in radically different ways. Sometimes, there's a whole crowd, pushing and shoving like kids on the doorstep scrabbling for Halloween candy. Usually we negotiate an acceptable conclusion with something for everybody, but sometimes, one of them just brings things to an unforeseen conclusion while the rest of us are arguing. That's all part of the fun.

    Charles Dougherty

    1. Charles, thanks so much for your fun comment. I love that you equate the voices to a crowd at a party. So true! It's always interesting to see what characters show up and hear what they have to say. Sometimes all are in agreement, but most often it's a free for all with exciting results. As you said, "It's a struggle to keep up." Oh, but the end result is something of beauty.

  3. I typically tell people that CASTLES was written by someone else, by a voice in my head that was as clear as if she (Maggie, the main character) was sitting next to me. I couldn't have written it without her voice.

    I also listen to audiobooks on my way to work. It passes the hour and a half to and from pretty well. Because of this, I think some of my work is written in the voice of whoever is narrating the book I'm listening to at the moment. For example, The Retribution of Nathan James was narrated to me by Scott Brick. The Independence of Carolyn Woltkowski was narrated by John McDonough.

    Also in the fashion of Roger and Charles Doughtery, I listen to my characters, get to know them and hear them speak to me. I sleep with them, try to understand them and want to know what they're like. Because of this, they have a voice, they have inflection, they have tics. They are real.

    1. Ben, Wow! Thanks for your wonderful comment. Yes, the voices are there and they help us write. Sometimes I think they do all the writing. Interesting that you say the voices in the audiobooks play a part in your writing. We are, after all, a part of everything we take in, digest and then set free. I love that you said, "I sleep with them." That is oh so true.

  4. As I commented on Twitter, Teri, I don't just hear voices; I hear entire conversations. But I kind of set that up. When I do write, which is not as often as I'd like, it is usually in the morning. Then, I let it simmer throughout the day. About an hour before bedtime, I sit down, usually while everyone is watching TV, and read everything I wrote. My mind then works through it, and the characters play out the next scene. Even though this works for me, I'd never recommend this: I suffer with a terrible case of insomnia and usually will get back up and write down what the voices are saying. ;)

    1. Carmen, thanks for the nice comment. I think I write more like you do, with the voices/characters going scene by scene. Though I generally write late at night and then the voices keep talking while I try to sleep.

  5. Thanks Teri:
    It takes courage to openly admit that one hears voices.
    Perhaps I can give you some food for thought as I introduce you to the voice I hear. The voice I hear is a misnomer,its not a voice I hear but rather a voice I see..Let me explain. The voice that speaks to me is the same voice that spoke to me when I was a child.
    Many call this voice as an imaginary friend. That is good analogy,but not all voices are imaginary. As children we believed them to be imaginary because the adults told us they were not real. If we became to persistent about our little friend we would chastised, medicated or even worse isolated by the ones we loved.
    I was fortunate, I never told anyone about the voice that spoke to me. I had no reason too,it was friend that often comforted me and kept me safe.
    Years later...Many years later,the inner voice wanted to take me on a journey. These are the rules that were set forth by the inner voice before the journey could begin.
    “Doubt me but don't deny me” If you doubt what I tell you then you will seek the answer. If you deny me you will not seek answers.
    I will never ask you to harm yourself or others. I can only help, I cannot harm.
    You will never hear my voice from any physical entity outside your body .My voice will always be a voice inside of you. I am your vessel you are my host. There were other guidelines,but they were spoken for my personal growth so I will keep them private.

    I will give you an example of the voice I see.”Slave Codes”.Once the word is spoken to me,my inner voice begins a journey to help me see what the inner voice/vessel is searching for. “The Bible”
    “Cyrus” In the Bible King Cyrus a Gentile is God's anointed..”Cyrus Cylinder”
    I had never heard or read anything about the,Slave Codes or the Cyrus Cylinder before they were shown to me by my inner voice .”Human Rights” and “Freedom of Religion”.
    After the journey,these words that have been shown to me are pulled together to show my eyes what I needed to hear.
    Some who sought their religious freedom, quoted passages from their Bibles to justify their freedom and enforce their slave codes. Their eyes neglected to see King Cyrus as God' anointed or his Cylinder on Human Rights..They seen,they just didn't listen with their eyes..

    Thanks Teri,keep hearing with your eyes..

    1. Thanks for your interesting comment. I had friends with imaginary friends. Actually quite cool. It brings to mind one of my favorite movies, "Harvey" with Jimmy Stewart.

      Through the years I've rather enjoyed those "voices" in my head. They can tell the coolest stories if and when they've a mind to do so. Only it seems the older I get the less I hear, just when I need them the most.

    2. I love all Jimmy Stewart movies"Its a wonderful life" was my all time favorite."The older I get the more my voice speaks to me as it prepares me for what is to follow after I give up the ghost.. I had to find the meaning of many of the words given to me.Words like,cynobacteria, panspermia and Zygote.But some of the words like Kalidascope and cosmic particles are pretty simple to understand.My voice said we are packing my
      "Cosmic Suitcase."


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