Writing as Adventure: Living Through My Characters

What's your kind of adventure? What does it entail? Why do you find it exciting, and how can you transfer that to the stories you tell?

What’s your kind of adventure? What does it entail? Why do you find it exciting, and how can you transfer that to the stories you tell?

I’ve doing a lot of thought lately regarding changes I need to make in my life, and about life in general. So much of my life revolves around writing, that I’ve been thinking about my novels a lot as well: that first awful one that will never see the light of day, the two I’ve published, the one I’m editing, the one I wrote last November/December for NaNoWriMo. And one thing I’ve realized:

As different as my approaches to each novel were, they had one thing I common: I loved the ADVENTURE of writing each one. Whether I outlined or wrote by the seat of my pants, whether I knew where a scene was going when I first sat to write it (or thought I knew), or just decided to let the characters take control and see what they would say or do, sentence by sentence, remark by remark, I was 100% invested.

I was invested in my characters and their stories. I fell in love with their falling in love. I cried when they cried and though I succumbed to the necessity of deaths during a magic-driven civil war, it was painful, painful, painful to experience. I sat gaping in shock, I paced the room in frustration, and I was fascinated to discover how the survivors would keep moving forward…. Because I knew they would keep going. I learned from their resiliency, their faith, and their determination. I admired their selflessness and resolve. The story of their “lives” was as much an adventure for me as it was for them.


While I think that each and every writer has to share in the adventure of the stories they write, there is no one way to define “adventure.” Each person–and each literary genre–defines it differently. There are psychological adventures, romantic adventures, adventures of exploration and discovery involving physical danger…. Whatever kind of adventure enthralls you–whether you prefer having an outline to guide the fun, or you consider figuring things out as you go to be part of the charm–you have to be in the writing scene FOR the adventure, because let’s face it: writing is hard. And if you’re not with your characters every step of the way, walking in their shoes, feeling what they’re feeling or wondering how you would react facing their problems in your life, you’ll never care enough to put up with all the frustrations along the way until you work through them:

  • writer’s block
  • dips in confidence
  • rewrites
  • edits
  • cutting passages you like but end up not contributing to the work

Let me tell you, you have to find an adventure that makes trudging through the struggles and the challenges worth the pain. You have to be on as great an adventure as your characters are, or you’ll pack it up and go home. Believe me.

I’ve done that. I wrote 100 pages of a novel once before I gave up…. Because there was no adventure. Nothing was happening. While I liked the characters, I didn’t like what some of them were doing, and I didn’t see how their actions would lead me to where I saw a possible adventure I could really invest in. So I started over, and began with the adventure itself, instead of trying to paint a background for it. That was one of the best writing decisions I’ve ever made!


9 responses to “Writing as Adventure: Living Through My Characters

  1. I’ve had an almost packed in it moment this week while doing an edit. Thanks for reminding me the adventure is still in there…

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