Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesdays, where I post (you guessed it) tips on writing every Wednesday at 5:00 PM ET. This week’s topic:
Hello, everyone! Happy to be back with you this week; last week I had a nasty bout of the flu that left me extremely exhausted and out of it, and I would much rather be enjoying time to work on this blog. So, without further ado, let’s begin!
This week is all about love. Gushy, mooshy love. But perhaps not the kind you’d think—this week, we’re going to embrace the slightly narcissistic side of ourselves, and fall in love with our own creation. How and why?
Let’s find out.
When writing a book, or planning one, it can be easy to get lost in the elements that make up a book: plot, scene, drive, conflict, and, perhaps most important of all: characters.
Characters are the living, breathing pieces in your book. They are, in a lot of writers’ eyes, the tools that help your story move from point A to point B. And this is true! …Except that it isn’t.
The second that you look at your characters solely as tools, is the second when you have, in a sense, betrayed your readers. Your readers are looking to connect with people. Reading is not only empathetic, but it’s casuistic, a fancy word that essentially means making a case for something/trying to resolve moral problems through theoretical thinking, and trying to apply these rules to new instances (See Wikipedia entry “Casuistry.”)
In order to explore the morality of something, the right and wrong of it, the blurred lines, and still have your readers interested, however, your readers must care about your characters.
If your characters feel like they are only there as a tool, to serve some authorial purpose, your readers will know, and feel, they are being preached to, and lose interest quickly.
SO, HOW DO WE FALL IN LOVE WITH OUR CHARACTERS?
Well, firstly, what does it mean to fall in love with our characters?
It means being invested in their exploration, their growth, and their (*gasp!*) character. Essentially, this means that you strap on your empathetic abilities and, essentially, play pretend as you write, feeling what it would be like to be in your character’s shoes.
This does NOT mean being silly, this means being a writer, and a good one.
Empathetic writing breeds empathetic reading.
Once we have worked to empathize, to care for our characters, to enjoy living life as them, through their struggles, their hardships, and their happy times, we can stop worrying about whether they will feel preachy or be seen to the reader as merely a tool to move from point A to point B.
You can definitely still plan, and your books can still be heartbreaking, sad, etc., but if written without care—if killing for the sake of killing, instead of for some character-building moment, then that’s when it leans heavily toward the negative side of readers feeling like characters are just things that either live or die at the author’s whim.
When things happen in your book for a purpose, and when these things affect your main character deeply and profoundly, the reader forgets the author’s existence in a positive way, because they are so invested in the story and how the events are shaping the main character(s).
So, my challenge to you this week is this: spend some time with your characters. Stare out a window. Go to a park. Feel the breeze on your face as you look out at the water. Wherever it is, find a good spot to simply think about what it is you want from your characters, and think about how, if you were them, how you might wind up getting there and changing as a person. Is it because of happy happenstance? Difficult life events? How would you, as your character, react and be changed?
Being a good writer is so much more than a mathematical formula for excellence—it’s really digging into the heart and mind of someone else, someone who, ironically enough, does live inside you.
Alyssa Grace Moore
Do YOU have any great tips for falling in love with your characters? Let me know in the comments!
You can also find Alyssa on Twitter: @alyssagracem
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