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‘I’ve learned I need to treat my characters like people’: Varieties of agency and interaction in Writers’ experiences of their Characters’ Voices

Foxwell, John; Alderson-Day, Ben; Fernyhough, Charles; Woods, Angela

‘I’ve learned I need to treat my characters like people’: Varieties of agency and interaction in Writers’ experiences of their Characters’ Voices Thumbnail


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Abstract

Writers often report vivid experiences of hearing characters talking to them, talking back to them, and exhibiting independence and autonomy. However, systematic empirical studies of this phenomenon are almost non-existent, and as a result little is known about its cause, extent, or phenomenology. Here we present the results of a survey of professional writers (n = 181) run in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Participants provided detailed descriptions of their experiences of their characters in response to a phenomenological questionnaire, and also reported on imaginary companions, inner speech and hallucination-proneness. Qualitative analysis indicated that the phenomenology of the experience of agentive characters varied in terms of the characters’ separateness from the writer’s self and the kinds of interaction this did or did not allow for. We argue that these variations can be understood in relation to accounts of mindreading and agency tracking which adopt intuitive as opposed to inferential models.

Citation

Foxwell, J., Alderson-Day, B., Fernyhough, C., & Woods, A. (2020). ‘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, 79, Article 102901. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2020.102901

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 12, 2020
Online Publication Date Feb 26, 2020
Publication Date Mar 31, 2020
Deposit Date Mar 11, 2020
Publicly Available Date Mar 11, 2020
Journal Consciousness and Cognition
Print ISSN 1053-8100
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 79
Article Number 102901
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2020.102901

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