Good writing draws us in through relatable, layered characters. Even when those characters are experiencing things we’ve never had to endure, we connect to them through shared emotions. In all likelihood, you’re encountering a variety of emotions as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds. Whether you’re dealing with new feelings or stronger versions of familiar ones, it may be cathartic to journal about your inner thoughts and reflections. Then, when you find yourself writing about a character who is experiencing negative emotions like fear, anxiety or isolation, or positive ones like gratitude, solidarity or generosity, you can return to those journals for inspiration. Even if your characters aren’t facing the same situations that evoked the emotions within you, they can inform your writing as you infuse your characters with an authentic heart.
Select a point during the writing process, whether at 10,000 words, a quarter or halfway through your manuscript. When you reach that mark re-evaluate your characters motivations goals, strengths and weakness. Chances are they have changed since you started the manuscript. Make notes on what you will need to do when you’re ready to go back and revise.
This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving – a day when families gather together and carry on long-held traditions. As you work on your manuscript, decide how family traditions, or the lack of them, will shape each of your characters.
The more writers can put themselves into the shoes of the people populating their stories, the more authentic the characters will be to the reader. This week, try writing a scene from a POV other than your protagonist’s. Even if your novel is going to be single POV, the exercise will deepen your understanding of the supporting cast in your story, which will translate into more rounded and believable characters on the page.
When it’s time to tighten a scene, study your characters’ thoughts and feelings and ask yourself what purpose they serve. If they don’t help your readers understand the character’s motivations, consider cutting those lines.