I originally wrote this post for my Coach’s Corner Column over at Speculative Chic. It’s a fantastic blog covering all things Speculative!
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that writers love having written, not actually writing. We all know people who say they are writers, talk up a good game but haven’t written anything yet, or in a long time. Many people want the life of a writer, but not to sit down and write. Who wants to sit alone at a computer staring at the screen for hours, day in and day out? Well, it sounds rather ideal, but we all know how difficult it is to do it, to keep our butt in the chair, and put down those creative ideas.
What would help — we all say it — would be if writing was fun the way it was when we started writing.
For most of us, writing loses its charm when we start learning just how much we’re doing wrong. This usually happens when we start to get feedback, take a writing class or two, or even when those first rejections come in. Our desire to improve as writers takes away the joy of writing, which is why we wrote to begin with.
This series of blog posts will focus on a few different areas that give us joy in writing.
The first is the characters.
I love hanging out with the characters in the novels I write. They often become my best friends.
As a child, though I made up stories all the time, I never had any imaginary friends. Well, I did have one, but she didn’t really serve any purpose other than just for the sake of having an imaginary friend, so I dropped her at the city bus stop one day after school and sent her off to Ontario. I’m sure she’s thriving there. I don’t know. We never stayed in touch.
The characters in my novels, however, I like to keep them around. So what makes them different? For starters, they’re usually the ones that have approached me to tell their story. I take the time to get to know them as I both write and as I edit. Sometimes they’re honest from the start, sometimes I catch them holding back.
One character, Melanie, of a novel that will never likely see the light of day, by choice, hounded me for months to tell her story. I didn’t like her at the start. She was crass, rude, had the foulest mouth, and had a very different moral compass to me. As I got to know her, hear all that she had been through, to make her the way she was, I found I liked her a lot. Every chance I had, whether it was a pause in a busy work day, doing the dishes, or going to a movie, I took the time to get to know her, see how she reacted, asked her what she thought in those situations.
Does this make me crazy? Well, maybe. But what it also does is give me greater understanding of the characters I’m writing about, making them three-dimensional. It also helps me to know the best way to move the story along. But best of all, it helps me immerse myself in the world I am creating.
Most of us started telling stories as children because we loved being in imaginary worlds. When we worry so much about the technicalities and the business end of writing, we lose sight of the creative aspect of writing. Spending time socially with the characters helps restore what we loved most about books and about writing.
Take your characters on a date. Invite them to a movie or to dinner. Ask them to keep you company while you’re doing the dishes or cleaning the house. What are they like when you get to know them outside of the struggles of the plot?