When writers say they ‘hear’ the voices of their characters, what do they mean?

Image credit: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Earlier this week we were delighted to see that the findings of our study of writers’ inner voices and literary creativity were covered in this article in The Guardian.

As part of a five year collaboration with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, our researchers interviewed 181 Festival authors in order to gather detailed descriptions of the way they experience the ‘voices’ of their characters, how some end up ‘acting for themselves’, and what role this plays in the creative writing process.

Most respondents (63%) said they could hear their characters’ voices, and most (61%) had characters who acted independently. The majority of respondents (56%) also reported visual or other sensory experiences of their characters when writing, with some reporting a sense that the character was occupying the same physical space (20%).

The full research paper is available to read freely at the link below:

John Foxwell, Ben Alderson-Day, Charles Fernyhough and Angela Woods. ‘“I’ve learned I need to treat my characters like people”: Varieties of agency and interaction in writers’ experiences of their characters’ voices’. Consciousness and Cognition, 2020.

Featuring an interview with lead researcher John Foxwell, the Guardian coverage has also prompted a lively discussion on the social media platform Reddit. Join the conversation here.

Weblinks:

Majority of authors “hear” their characters speak, finds study’, The Guardian, 27 August 2020

How do writers find their voices?’, The Guardian, 25 August 2014.

Writers’ Inner Voices

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