Yesterday I wrote about writer’s block and two specific ways an author might want to solve that kind of problem with his or her draft.
You can delve deeper into your characters’ psyches, discovering new parts of them that will help them push through the barriers they face.
You might also opt to change a character (or two or three) in some substantial way, making them someone they weren’t before, even if they have the same name (and that’s a toss-up, especially if you change a character’s gender).
I’m not claiming these are the only ways to approach writer’s block. But these strategies just might help you get over the mountain. Personally, I have never “changed” a character to any notable extent.
I have always opted to get to know more facets of my characters as they are. If needed, I introduce new ones and edit in a previous introduction earlier in the novel.
Here are the reasons I prefer not to change my characters:
- My writing process is based upon getting to know my characters as real people. When you think of characters as real people, “changing” their essential qualities just doesn’t feel right. It’s one thing to realize a character has three brothers instead of the one you always knew about. (That’s happened to me.) It’s another to make that character ten years younger than she originally was and of a different ethnic background.
- To “change” a character has never occurred to me as an option. Again, I think of my characters as set people. When I have a “plot twist” in life, I don’t think, “the best way to fix this problem would be to make my sisters Canadian.” That would be absurd to think, because it’s impossible. Changing something that fundamental about a character would feel equally “impossible” for me. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad tactic; it just means it doesn’t mesh with the way I approach my fiction.
- I love any and every chance to get to know my favorite characters better. When a block presents an opportunity to let one of my characters, the way I know and love him or her, show me what s/he’s got, that’s thrilling for me. I enjoy watching my characters struggle, stretch, and grow, because that’s what I have to do as I go through life. It helps me relate to my characters better.
- I write to figure out how to deal with my current problems. I use writing as a kind of therapy. I think we all do to some extent. Well, I can’t change the fundamental parts of me with the stroke of a delete key. Fixing problems with my draft by changing who a character is at the core isn’t going to help me come to terms with or learn how to face my disappointments and challenges.
- If I can solve the problem by introducing a new character rather than changing one, that brings in someone new to shake things up. Someone new to deepen the plot, complicate relationships between characters, and help my novel feel more realistic. I love that! Totally worth the editing work involved where previous scenes are concerned: I get excited when the new character makes those scenes more complex, more weighty. It’s almost as though I subconsciously had left a hole for this person to fill.
So, that’s my experience with solving writer’s block by deepening and creating characters, rather than changing the ones I have. What’s your experience with writer’s block? Have you turned to characterization to solve your writer’s block issues?
I talk a lot about writer’s block in my chapter “On First Drafts” in my upcoming writer’s handbook, “Writing for You.” If you’re interested, you can enter a giveaway and add the book to your shelf on Goodreads here: release is July 31! (Coming up, WOW!)