I first talked about gastromancy back in April and how it was the beginning of ventriloquism. It was also the beginning of people using "the voice of god" as a way of manipulating people. "God has told me that you should all give me all of your sheep and do whatever I say!" Okay, well, that part probably went back before gastromancy, but gastromancy made it that much more believable since other people could hear the voice of god rumbling in the prophet's tummy.
The truth is that people throughout history have claimed to have heard "god" and used that as a means of making other people do what they say. "If you don't obey me, god will smite you! I know because god told me so!" And how do you deal with that? I mean, how do you know whether that person is hearing god or not, especially if you're not. And what do you do when different people are saying that god is saying things that conflict with each other? That's simple: more than one god.
That's one of the things I like about the Bible. Very often (more often than not), the people in the Bible demand proof that it is, actually, the voice of God they're hearing. Moses needed a burning bush, then the pharaoh, along with all of the Israelites, needed a bunch of plagues before they were convinced. And, even then, they didn't do such a great job of doing what they were told. Gideon had to play "wet my fleece" with the Lord before he'd do what he was told. And Jonah... well, he just disobeyed. But being puked up on the shore by a giant "fish" was pretty good evidence for the people of Nineveh that God was talking.
Things aren't so dramatic these days, though, and I have to doubt any time anyone ever tells me "well, God told me to do it." Why? Because 99% of the time, "God" just happens to be telling them to do the thing that they already want to do. Even if that thing is wrong. What amuses me most, though, is when, later, they quit doing that thing, or do the other thing that is opposed to the first thing, also because "God" told them so.
Personally, I don't ever want God to show up and actually talk to me. Seriously. Look in the Bible and give me one example where God shows up to tell anyone something good. You know, like the lottery numbers. No. God shows up and says things like, "Build a giant boat," or, "Surprise! You're gonna have a baby!" or, even worse, "Saul [before he was Paul], you've been bad. Stop it! Oh, and I'm gonna make you blind for a while just to prove my point." So, yeah, I've know people my whole life that have said things like, "I wish God would just tell me what to do" [because He's been busy telling other people what to do], but I think I'll pass on that. Usually, whatever it is they're looking for guidance about is already covered in the Bible, anyway, and they're just hoping God will show up and tell them something different.
All of that to say that all those people I have known in churches that are always going on about "hearing the voice of god" and what god is saying to them, or what he's telling them to do, or telling them to tell other people to do, remind me a lot of writers that go around talking about hearing the voices of their characters in their head. I just never know quite what to make of it.
I mean, I get it. I get the whole thinking about your story all of the time, but, me, I never hear my characters talking in my head. And it weirds me out more than a little to hear so many writers talk about that all the time. Am I supposed to be hearing voices in my head? I don't think so. That sounds like crazy talk to me. I mean, like, you need to get help, real help, crazy talk. Or do they just mean they're thinking about their stories all the time?
See, the thing is, not only do those people in church go around talking about how they "hear God," many of them actually believe it. And, yeah, you could say, "Maybe, they are just so much more spiritual than you, and they really are hearing God," and that may be true for some of them, but, with a lot of them, it's just like the whole speaking in tongues thing: they've made themselves believe that it's a really happening when it's not. What? How can I tell? Well, they spend their lives going from one mess to another doing what they "heard" God tell them to do. They wreck other people's lives, destroy friendships, and hurt people, and that just doesn't fit in with the whole "be excellent to each other" thing that Jesus said to do. But, then, maybe these people have some other god that they're not telling anyone about. Or, maybe, they just want to use the responsibility escape clause, "God told me to."
A lot of these writers that talk about hearing the voices of their characters are kind of the same way. I mean that in that they are always talking about the messes their books are in because they've been listening to their characters and they don't know how to fix the steaming pile their manuscripts have become. Well, short of trashing them and starting over. Which always makes me think, "Why are you listening to these voices? It's your story; make them do what you want." Which is not to say that I don't believe in character integrity, because I totally do, but, still, take some control! And, if you can't, if the voices in your head really are that powerful, maybe you really do need some help. Or, maybe, it's just another way of getting around not being able to produce a complete manuscript, "No, really, I am a good and competent writer; it's just that these characters in my head keep telling me to write stupid stuff." It's their fault, not mine.
So, yeah, I know this particular thing may be a sacred cow I don't really want to take a bite of. Everyone has (and should have) their own process, and if yours involves hearing voices in your head, well, I don't want to get in the way of that. But, then, I have known a few people who really did hear voices in their heads, and none of those situations turned out well, so it always leaves me wondering when writers talk about this phenomenon. I guess, if you do hear your characters talking, make sure they stay just characters for your stories. And, well, be the boss of them, too.