Writer David Mitchell- on conversing with the characters in his novels

Hearing voices others don’t and think you’re going crazy?
Think again.
In some cultures it’s those who don’t, or can’t  hear voices  who are regarded as troubled.

Know that all kinds of people do hear all kinds of voices – and all the time.

The biggest problem you’ll face is that in our society  we’ve made it nearly impossible to talk about what is remarkably common- weève been indoctrinated to assume you must have a broken brain and are thus a danger to all human life and the very future of the entire planet [ even then , you’d be well qualified to become a politician or CEO.]

This is why we don’t often hear people talking about voices when they are not troubled or find it a valuable experience.
If you don’t believe that then try telling someone you hear a voice or voices and see what happens. And keep your fingers crossed.

Well, if you do hear voices that others don’t hear then know that not only are you not alone but that you are, in fact, amongst very good company  indeed. Here’s a few…

Socrates – well that didn’t end well but he did make it his mission to piss everyone of with his bloody questions..  Joan of Arc, well that was rough, too, but she is the patron Saint of a great nation. Charles Dickens – wrote about the voices he heard: you likely know them as his, very real, characters.

Many writers have talked or written about how they hear the dialogue that ends up on the page an that you read . When you’re reading their work you may be one of the lucky ones who gets to hear the characters speak rather than simply have the words run through like a string of data..

Ray Bradbury was very open and matter-of-fact about his own experience,

“many people hear voices when no one is there. some of them are called ‘mad’ and are shut up in rooms all day and stare at the walls.
Others are called ‘writers’ and do pretty much the same thing”

He was even convinced it was not possible to be a writer without hearing voices:

“all writers hear voices – otherwise they couldn’t do dialogue.”

-Ray Bradbury

david mitchell new yorkerAuthor David Mitchell talks freely of how the engages with the characters in his books, many of whom crop up again and again hopping  across time, place, lives and novels: unbound by limits imposed by living with in a human body and more akin with existing as spirit or  free-floating consciousness.

Mitchell has written a theological novel of sorts, in which human beings are mere pawns to be used by his feuding immortals.

Credit Illustration by Sachin Teng

He talks of how he is always “talking to himself” -and “must be very difficult to live with”, how he  thanks family and friends who “put up with me” and has found his own ways to make it work.

He invites the characters to write letters to him – in his notebooks- and has conversations with them . He even interviews them for roles  in his  new projects whilst  in the shower.

David Mitchell, and what he gets up to in the shower…
Short video [5min] at this link



David Mitchell reads from The Bone Clocks

The Bone clocks is told prom first person perspective of six different characters, the first of whom, Holly, tells us that from an early age she has had visions and has heard voices, which she used to call “the Radio People.” At the age of seven, she woke up to find a spectral visitor, Miss Constantin, sitting on the edge of her bed.


David Mitchel Interview on



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This entry was posted in Crazy World, Difference and Diversity, Emancipate yourself..., hearing voices, Ideas, The Mad Ones and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Writer David Mitchell- on conversing with the characters in his novels

  1. maieliiv says:

    Thank you for this – wait til I share what doctors had to say about me – I write, I hear dialogue.


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