I’m going to give you a great piece of advice. Seriously, this is one of the most important things for a writer to do.
There is a time in the writer’s process where they have to distance themselves emotionally from the story. They have to let go of all of the emotion and search for problems and plot holes and factual errors. Every writer has to do that at some point, but never in the first draft. Here is where that key piece of advice comes in.
No matter why you chose to write this book, the ultimate goal is to have someone become interested enough to read it. Unless, of course, you are only writing it for your eyes. Even then, the same rules still kind of apply.
You need someone to care about reading it, to care about what happens to the characters enough to actually follow through to the end. In order to get them to do that, you need to care about the characters.
That doesn’t mean that you should make their lives harder or easier. You decide all of the bad things that you are going to do to them in the outlining process. You figure out all of the factors that go into a great story before you write it. You finalize it. You can’t change that now. But now you have to care.
Until you actually start writing, until you actually start looking at the story through the characters’ eyes, you won’t care. Until then, they are just a plot detail and maybe a name with a couple key words. You read books and watch TV and care about all of those characters, right? You get mad at the writers of that show or book because they killed off a character or they broke someone’s heart. But you get super invested in them.
Right now, I’m hooked on Grey’s Anatomy. I want them all to get their happy endings, but I’ve got four more seasons and so I know that’s not going happen until I get through them. So what do I do? I keep watching. I’m invested in these characters. I get mad when someone dies or when one of them makes a stupid decision.
I fangirl when characters finally fall in love or get through that internship they’ve been working on. I smile when they save a patient. I’m hooked. Even when the show makes me want to stop watching, there’s always that lingering question mark about what happens next that draws me back.
The point is, I keep watching it. I do this with books, too. I’ve done it with book series and with Netflix binge-watching. If you want to keep writing your book, you have to get invested in your characters. It’s like you are reading a book or watching TV, except it hasn’t been written yet.
And you get to decide what happens next. You know what happens next, but you haven’t read that scene, because you haven’t written it. So you’re still hooked. It’s kind of hard to explain. Think of it as watching the story live, but writing it. You need to get invested in your own characters in order to make the story good enough for other people to get invested in them. You might even fangirl over your own characters.
Yes, that means that side effects may vary. You might get overly attatched to the story and break down when you write the last words. But it also means that those last words mean so much more. You might cry when you are forced to stick to your outline and kill off a character you love and want a happy ending for now that you’ve gotten to know them. But it makes the characters more relatable, more personal and real.
If they are real to you, unique from any character in any book you’ve already read, then they will be more real to the reader. If you feel emotion while writing it, odds are that your reader will pick up on that and feel it, too. And it makes writing it one heck of a ride. So the side effects are worth it.
Besides, most of investing is putting what you have into something else to be better off at the end. Like investing money in real estate or the bank. You have to out aside something of yours for a while, like your sanity in the case of writing, but at the end you get an awesome book. Like I said, worth it.
Today’s challenge for you is to get invested in your characters. It’s worth it. If you are having trouble with that, the caring and humanity part, then don’t worry. It might take some time to get to know them, let them surprise you, just like in real life. You’ll get there.
If you don’t, then try going into their backstories even further. Imagine what it is like to be them. Write more emotional scenes with them in it. Put them in situations and see how they react, even if you don’t put those scenes into the book. Get to know them better, and it will show.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!