Believe In Your Characters, Or Fail In Your Writing

In my last blog post, I discussed how to make it past “writer’s block” to continue crafting your prose and create prose with less filler. But then arises the question of How do you keep your momentum?

Even if you don’t hit a wall of writer’s block and not know where to go, how do you prevent just…well…just not caring about the prose anymore? How do you prevent yourself from finding everything and anything else more desireable to do than sitting down and typing out words? How do you ensure that your words just flow from your fingertips in rapid speed without dragging along for page after page?

One word:

Characters.

Think about your favourite books, television shows, comic book characters, movies, etc. What do you like best about them? I’ll bet you just thought of a character. Maybe several characters. The first thing you thought of when picturing this beloved craft was a character related to that craft. And there is a reason for that.

Think about a series that you used to love that has since then gone into the toilet, yet you continue to hate-watch or hate-read anyway. Pretty Little Liars. Lost. Riverdale. The list goes on and on. The series makes you rage with its absurdness, but you continue to consume it anyway. You know you’re most likely going to be disappointed with the episode/book, but you go forth anyway.

This damn show went from amazing in Seasons 1-6A to terrible in 6B-7. Yet I continued watching those last 1.5 seasons because I loved these girls and wanted to see their stories played out. Create characters that do the same thing (but also don’t nuke your show with bad writing and unbelievable plotlines).

Why?

Again:

Characters.

Believable characters are the key to making or breaking your product. If your audience loves (or loves-to-hate) your characters, then they will keep coming back for more. If your characters are stiff and dull–despite an amazing setting, descriptions, and plot–, your audience is going to tune out, or put your product down and forget about it. It lands on the shelf of “I’ll come back to it eventually”.

The same is true for you and your writing. You need to love your characters. Care about them. Make them stand out enough that it’s easy to keep going no matter what rut or other life responsibilities you’ve found yourself in.

Let’s look at the primary characters from my series, the Belle Âme Chronicles: Blythe, Nathalian, Edwin, Sevii, Ramona, and Jaxyn (yes, I know that there are more primary characters from that series, but those are called SPOILERS). I can literally pull a random scene out of a hat and write a good 1000-1500 words of dialogue and action within 15 minutes that correspond to that scene. That is because I care enough about those characters to instantly know what they will say and how they will react, both to the situation and to the other members of their family.

Wha this means is that–even on a bad day–I can sit down, take a look at my outline, and know what scene needs to be written. And then I can just tunnel-vision churn out that scene (or entire chapter, in some cases) without having to stop and strain over “What would they say now?” Enjoying and truly knowing your characters makes the writing process so much easier.

Real talk: I wish I still had my old typewriter. My mom let me use it from ages 4-9, and then it was GONE one day. Maybe I’ll try to find one on eBay 🙂

When you do not care about a character, it is almost a guarantee that your audience will not care about them either. They will cause your writing to drag, and you will start to hate scenes that this character is a part of. While it is hard (and sometimes heartwrenching) to kill off a character–especially a protagonist or anti-hero–, it is quite therapeutic to kill off a character that has just fallen too flat to meet your expectations 🙂

A lot of people recommend doing those lengthy, 200-question surveys to develop your characters. If that works for you…cool. Do it. But to me, there is a much easier and much more practical way to develop characters that actually mean something to you (and to your readers). I will discuss that in our next blog installment, so stay tuned!

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