Birthing a novel creates a new dimension of life challenges for aspiring authors. Balancing family, friends, work, errands, and the occasional clogged garbage disposal means that free time is really writing/editing time. But that’s okay for us. I’m not ashamed to admit that my ideal “me time” consists of sitting in my recliner for hours straight with my laptop and a box of Cheerios. (Total darkness is also my preference.)
Unfortunately, finding the time to write forces authors into a realm of other difficulties. Sometimes the sacrifices we make to construct our work in progress leave us too caught up in our heads and not in the world where we and our characters exist.
As the result, the characters that we thought were so thrilling and titillating end up falling into clichés that we didn’t recognize until we wrote them. They just look through their windshield and think for an entire chapter. They have complicated dreams that are just like real life, except they’re not. And worst of all, they sit around and stare in the mirror, realizing for the first time that they have brown hair.
You may wonder what is wrong with writing those scenes. Yes, dreams are often exciting and symbolic. And who doesn’t look in a mirror and study their old acne scars while reminiscing about past lovers? The problem is that these moments of deep thought and self discovery aren’t interesting to read! At the very best they don’t further the plot of a book, and at the worst they bore the reader and damage the author’s relationship with him or her.
If writers want to create interesting and thought provoking characters, they need to break away from their computers and remind themselves of what it means to live a life beyond feeding their kids or typing a memo about synergy before returning to their novel. They should try their darndest to engage in some of the activities that even non-writers love, like volunteering, going to the zoo, and getting some exercise!
Taking a break to do some living will help a work in progress in wonderful ways. You will remember to let your characters move away from their thoughts and into an interesting world where they can define themselves through their actions! So, get a life and reap the richness that your experiences will bring your story.
How do you keep your characters fresh and active? Share your method for writing interesting characters under the comments section for this post!