Why Creating Characters You Love Will Help You Reach The End.
Deciding to write a novel is a wonderful but huge undertaking. Yes, there are some writers who complete a novel in three months. This, I’m sure, is almost certainly either down to months of detailed planning, or a very empty schedule where the only thing for them to do is write.
For most of us, completing a novel takes so much longer than three months. It may take a year, it make take several years before you reach The End. There will be scenes (hopefully) that come easily, that almost write themselves – this is utterly bliss; hold on to that feeling – but most of the time, writing a novel is about hard work. A commitment. You have to put in the hours, typing or scribbling away, every day (or almost every day) and keep going, week after week, month after month until that amazing story that you absolutely need to share is finished. (And then the hard work of editing, submitting, publishing and marketing begins…but that’s for another blog.)
It's tough to keep going. It’s one of the reasons my clients turn to me: they’re accountable. What have you written this week? Can I read the scene that was causing you problems? Let’s discuss how we can move forwards. I give them encouragement, positive feedback, stop them going down the wrong path, provide honest answers and if they’ve lost their motivation, get them back on track.
One of the ways you can help yourself to keep going is to make your writing fun. If it's a chore, if you’re inventing all kinds of excuses not to write the next paragraph, or you’re not engaged as you read back your own work, then maybe it’s time to have a rethink. For me, any rethink always begins with my protagonist.
You’re going to spend a lot of time this year with your leading lady/man/dog/alien or dragon. You will probably spend more time with them than most of your friends. Which is why it’s essential that you love them. Properly love them. So that after work, or putting your kids to bed or cooking dinner, you can’t wait to get back to them: these funny, sensitive, badly behaved, kind, outrageous, sexy, arrogant, messy (whatever rocks your boat) characters.
There will almost certainly be characters in your book that you don’t love – their whole identify might be about how unlovable they are – but the main attraction has to be someone you can’t stop thinking about. Someone you want to sit down with at 5am on a freezing January morning or at 11pm on days when you’re so exhausted, all you want to do is fall asleep on the sofa. They need to be worth it.
If you love being with your character, if you can’t wait to feed them lines or see how they behave in the situations you’ve created for them, your book will be so much easier to finish. It probably won’t write itself in three months but you will get to The End. And the journey there will have been really enjoyable.
If you’d like to find out how to love your characters, sign up for one of my character-building workshops.
Picture: The Chieftain by George Underwood.