In the last few months, my life has gotten a little hectic. Of course, Halloween just passed us by and Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us, so that makes things even more intense. A writer has writing/editing to worry about, day jobs, pets, partners–and I’ve been taking furthering education classes and trying to get more exercise and having more of a social life. Not to mention all of the little appointments and responsibilities (chores, doctors, grocery shopping, and whatnot) we all have to deal with each day.
Because of this, I’m constantly tired, often frustrated, irritable, and threatening to run away at any given time of the day.
That’s just life, right?
All of us writers don’t stop being human beings with lives to lead once we start writing and/or publish a book. Or two books, three books…
In a funny way, all of life’s daily frustrations and being a writer keeps me from losing my cool from one minute to the next. One second I’ll be about to blow my lid and snap at someone…and then I realize that these emotions are helping me to understand the human experience more. How is that not helpful in writing multi-layered and believable characters?
That thought always comes to me when I feel that my emotions are going to creep into “extreme” territory. Whether that is extreme joy, extreme anger, extreme frustration…feeling those things and understanding what is causing them helps me to create characters that readers feel more connected to in my stories.
It especially helps when having characters interacting with each other in scenes. Writing over the top characters (especially villains) is incredibly easy to do, but unless a writer is trying to write something over the top or campy, readers might be turned off by this. For example, Ursula from The Little Mermaid is a classic villain…but it would get old really quickly if every character was that…fabulous?
Knowing the nuances of human emotion and what causes people to experience different levels of certain emotions is integral to writing believable characters. If you haven’t lived, you probably can’t write–unless you are very good at observing others and have an innate intuitiveness that informs your writing.
If I were to give a writer advice for how to create believable characters, I would simply say: “Live.” Live especially when it hurts, when you’re angry, when you’re frustrated, when you’re in love, when your heart is broken, when you feel alone, when you feel celebrated, when you feel like a pariah…experience life in all its ups and downs. And you will know how to create any character you need.
But don’t forget what I said – Life is a uniquely internal experience. Each of us have our own version of what it means to live and what life is about. Don’t forget to (discreetly) watch and listen to other people. You will learn so much from watching and listening to people when they don’t realize you are doing it.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,