Topic: Are you ever emotionally drained by writing certain scenes, and how real are your characters to you?
Every once in a while there is a solid thumping sound emanating from my desk. It alarms the cats most days but I think my son is mostly used to it.
Alright, so three or four times a week there’s an incessant banging going on in my little corner. This is the sound my head makes as it smacks repeatedly into my keyboard. It generally happens when I’m having to deal with one of the “problem” characters.
Right now that character happens to be Liana, who I’ve talked about before. She’s just too full of angst for me to deal with and I can’t handle her for more than a few minutes at a time. But I’ve had other characters that drain me. Brodis Windringham from Saboteur was a deeply bitter man who put me through a ringer.
Generally speaking, having to write in the antagonist’s voice is always difficult. Their scenes only ever range between 600-1000 words long but once I’ve finished, I have to run off to soak in a bath or take a long walk through the park. Anything to refresh my mind.
Death scenes drain me too.
One particular character died near the end of a book and it took me a week to recover. I gorged myself on mint chocolate chip ice cream and Netflix that week, and once I got back to work it was still traumatic for me.
I suppose that if the death of a character can affect me in such a way then my characters feel very real to me. And in truth they are all, in some fashion or another, a part of who I am. Or at least a sample of traits I would like to inhabit; Trenna with her fearlessness, Megan with her gentle bravery, Seach’s selflessness, Elsie’s sense of duty …
You get it.
The characters on the page are alive because they display the gamut of human behavior. I imagine this is the same as when you’re reading a favored book. Take, for instance, The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. I recently reread this series from start to finish (it’s 3 books long and includes Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess) and I was asking myself why I loved them so much.
These books can be found in the young adult section, which I rarely read but in this instance I find the books beautiful. Clare’s handle of language, the way she weaves classics into the narrative and lets books affect the characters on the page, never ceases to impress me.
Beyond that, however, are the characters themselves. Tessa and Will and Jem are unique and yet, they couldn’t possibly exist without each other. Together they tell a story of love and loss and grief and hope; a story I am very grateful to have been able to read.
It is my hope, and I imagine it is the hope of every author out there, that their characters come alive for those who take the time to read. It’s only when those characters really breathe on the page that they have any hope of being memorable.
So, essentially, if the characters didn’t feel real to me, then I think I would have missed the whole point of being an author.
Join our Round Robin discussion this month and take a peek at what some of my fellow authors have to say about emotionally draining scenes and the realness of characters on the page …
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
A.J. Maguire https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Dr. Bob Rich htt http://wp.me/p3Xihq-Wo
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Kay Sisk http://www.kaysisk.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
7 thoughts on “March Round Robin – Emotional Rollercoasters”
I relate to everything you’ve said. It’s scary for me, an introvert, to know how much of myself I might be giving away in a story.
Although, in my post, I say that my characters don’t affect me, it’s not true. I have been away from The Whispering House for a few months now and hadn’t remembered how I cried, squirmed in discomfort, smiled gleefully, or gasped because I didn’t know where that scene was going as I wrote some of the scenes.
I love how you describe your characters. They must be very vivid for you to have such a visceral reaction. 🙂
I love the way you described your reaction to writing off one of your characters and turning to ice cream for solace. I’ll have to remember that.
Thoughtful post! I agree that writing a scene of death or conflict can be exhausting. I tend to binge on TV rather than ice cream, but come to think of it, one could easily do both. I remember a friend once saying that she could never write, “Because then I would expose myself.” Probably the best writers are the ones who expose the most.
Interesting: my reaction to my negative characters is very different. When I write entirely from a person’s point of view, I temporarily adopt all their self-justifications, ‘poor me’ reactions, hates and likes.
One of the bad boys in my current work is Luke, who decided the way to force Kirsten to marry him is to violate her and get her with child. Horrifying as I (and other characters in the story) find this, it made perfect sense when I entered his reality.
So, maybe this can be the way for you to protect yourself, too.
A.J., Cassandra Clare does write beautifully. Like, holy cow. I read those a few years back. Death scenes ruin me, too. I wrote this scene for my main villain–she had done a LOT of nonredeemable things, but I still bawled because I knew why she’d done it and she was offered a way out.
Loved your post and how you describe and relate to all your characters. I’m sure it comes through in your books.