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.
Write By Midnight 2020 starts in 12 days! Start thinking about what you’d like to accomplish during this year’s write-a-thon. Write those goals down and post them where you can see them every day. Then, share your goals for this year’s challenge by tagging us on Twitter @WriteOwls and include #WriteByMidnight2020.
This week, analyze the pacing of your story. Consider printing out a blank calendar to keep track of your character’s actions or experiences. Select from a weekly or monthly format, depending on the time period your story encompasses. A good resource to try is print-a-calendar.com. Next, fill in the days on the calendar with details about what your characters experienced on those days. This task will hopefully give you a visual confirmation of whether your story’s pacing is realistic. It shouldn’t take four days for your character to drive to work, nor should it take four hours for two armies to prepare for battle. You can also use the calendar to pace incremental character change. By tracking the days on which your characters first meet and their subsequent interactions, you can determine whether the time frame for the changes they experience to their world views are reasonable given their personalities.
Today, consider adding more authenticity to your setting by drawing on the emotional connections you have to places. Think about where you fell in love for the first time or experienced great loss and set your story there. It doesn’t need to be the same city or state necessarily, but you can probably use features from the room where you shared your hopes and dreams with your best friend or the atmosphere in the restaurant where you got dumped for the first time. Setting your story in places from your history can make them become real on the page.