The dangers of loving your character too much

Parents want what is best for their children. As writers, our characters are often like our children. We created them. We want them to succeed, to be happy. We hate when they are upset.

In our heads they may be able to do no wrong. They could have all the courage or charm we wish we possessed. And when they are good at something, we want everyone to know how brilliant/nice/brave/good looking/(insert desired character trait) our character is.

And when I talk about characters – this could be any (or all) of your characters – minor, sidekicks, heroes, love interests and antagonists. There is something about all of them that we love. But the problem with loving your character is often, you don’t want anything bad to happen to them. You don’t want to injury, handicap or even kill them.

And sometimes in loving them too much, we tend to make them too perfect. We don’t give them serious flaws or allow them to make mistakes and struggle. Others may follow them without hesitation. But our characters need obstacles – real obstacles. They need to go up against a well-developed antagonist and not one who is merely there to oppose them. We need to know that the hero may not always win.

While we may hate to see our characters struggle, that is what they need to do. They need to struggle because that struggle IS the story. It compels the characters to act. We need some sort of conflict whether internal or external to happen to our characters.

No one wants to read a story about a man who loves his job, comes home to his loving family and goofy dog and is living a completely fulfilled life. That is boring. There is no opportunity for drama, character growth, or even to impart a message besides just “Don’t you wish your life was this good?”

So give your characters hardships and challenges. Bend them until a normal person might break. And as much as you love them – you need to be willing to let them be hurt or possibly die. Killing off a character you love is never easy. And it probably won’t be easy for your readers either. But sometimes you have to do it – no matter how great or how much you love your character.

A return to writing

I have written before the benefits of taking a break from writing. It can be helpful to take a step away, returning to look at your writing with fresh eyes. The amount of time away could be a few days, weeks or even a month. And it doesn’t have to be a total break from writing. It could be just a break from your current project. Write something else – a new project or posts for a blog.

And while I would love to say that I have been on planned break, I haven’t. This is just one of those times where life got busy as I prepared for the end of the school year and a vacation. Then we returned from our break and went on another short trip. It just seemed like there was a lot that needed to get done and before I knew it, I hadn’t touched my current work in progress in four months!!!!

Now, it is time to get back to writing. The first thing I would suggest after any break would be to read through whatever you have written. You might highlight areas to work on or jot down some notes but the goal would be to read it all before delving back into writing or editing.

Another suggestion would be to set up a schedule or goals so you can stay on track and keep on writing. It may take awhile to get back into the swing of regularly writing again. Or hopefully, once you begin writing, it will inspire you to keep writing.

But realize that you may read your work and decide it isn’t good. You may wonder what you were thinking. Maybe you want to go in a different direction. You possibly might decide to scrap everything. And there is nothing wrong with this. Our writing styles can change. Our stories can fail to pan out. Find a new idea and go with it.

The one thing you don’t want to do is beat yourself up about taking a break. Why suck up your energy and focus on something that you can’t change? Get back to work. Do it in small spurts if you need but try to get back into some pattern of writing. As for myself, this is the week. This is the week that I get back into writing.

Gearing up for another #AtoZChallenge

The A to Z blogging challenge is right around the corner.

For those of you, who haven’t heard about it, the A to Z challenge is a challenge for bloggers to post every day in April (except Sundays). Every day (Monday through Saturday) is matched with a letter of the alphabet. On the first day, you write about a topic that begins with A, the next day B and so on.

Now the organizers suggest you come up with a theme to help you get through the challenge. My first year (2014), I didn’t pick a theme. The next year, I did a theme of TV shows followed by characters in 2016, antagonists in 2017, songs about magic in 2018, character flaws in 2019, comic strips in 2020 and finally cat characters in 2021.

The key is to pick something that you will be able to find something for each letter. There are some hard letters – Q, X and Z in particular.

As a fantasy author, I like to connect my topics to something related to writing (characters/antagonists) or fantasy or magic. Every book I’ve written has had at least one dragon character. I’m not talking about just a dragon in the background the same way you might mention a deer or a horse. These are sentient beings that impact the story. And those are the types of dragon characters I hope to highlight during this challenge though whether I can find 26 examples is yet to be seen.

Those of you who want to know more about the challenge, click here. And you can look for my A to Z challenge posts about dragon characters beginning April 1st.

Pros and Cons of Taking a Writing Break

Sometimes you need to take a break from writing or sometimes life happens and you end up taking a break whether you planned or event wanted one. Or maybe you think breaks are for losers and are dedicated to spend all your time writing. And some simply refuse a break so they don’t lose their momentum. But taking a break can be good for you and for your writing.

Pros of taking a break

1,) Sometimes taking a break allows you to come back and read your writing with “fresh eyes.” You now can spot grammatical or plot errors that you didn’t catch before.

2.) This one kind of goes along with #1. Sometimes you are just stuck. You can’t get a scene to work or can’t figure out how to fix a plot hole. Stepping away from your writing may just let you subconscious work on the problem and then you are able to fix it when you return to writing.

3.) Sometimes your mind just needs a break. You can’t expect to go all out writing non-stop every day. You simply need to rest your mind. You don’t want to get writer burn out.

Cons of taking a break

1,) You take too long of a break. Now instead of feeling rejuvenated, you start to wonder if you should even go back. Your life is now filled with other things so maybe you feel too busy to focus on writing.

2.) Taking a break means you get out of any good habits you had with your writing. If you were easily dedicating two hours or cranking out so many words per day, it may take time to get back into the swing of things.

How to take a short break

The best thing is to set a time limit – a few hours, a few days or perhaps even a week or two. If you need to go longer, you may need to take a few months off. But you have to find a way to return to your writing. Write on your calendar “Get back to writing” and then do it!

For those short breaks of a few hours or days, you need to get your mind off your writing. Go meditate, read a book, watch a movie, workout or just hang out with some friends. If you are taking a little bit longer of a break you can take a vacation, visit the beach or visit family in another state. If you want to stay connected to your writing, go visit a place related to your book or interview someone or do some research reading.

The beauty of taking a short break is that your mind is still working on the problems while you are focusing on other things. This is why sometimes it helps to write down your issues or questions before you take your break.

And a writing break doesn’t necessarily mean you have to take a break from all writing. You can stop working on your current project to blog or even start brainstorming on a new project.

Now you may be wondering, how long of a break should you take. There is no one right answer. You may need only a few days while someone else may need a few weeks or even a month. And there are still others who can recharge with only an afternoon away from their computer.

So when you are stuck or feeling burned out, don’t be afraid to take a break. We all need one at one time or another. We need time away to process everything and come back refreshed. You will be better for it and so will your writing.

Top Writing posts from 2021

At the beginning of each year, I usually make a list of my top posts from the past year. But last year was not a good one for me with keeping up with my blog. So instead of having a top 10 posts from last year, you get just 3. I’ll try to do better this year with posting so next year I can make it a full 10 posts on my list.

Creating a dedication or acknowledgment page for your novel

In a past post, I wrote about front matter – all the stuff that goes before your story begins. With the passing of my mother recently, my mind has been on dedications. (Click here to read more.)

Creating a Character Arc

I’ve written numerous times about characters – developing them, naming them and pretty much every aspect about developing what typically drives your story. But I realized I had forgotten one thing – the character arc. (Click here to read more.)

Using an emotion wheel to improve your writing

Creating strong characters depends on putting feelings and emotions into words on the page. Physical traits and character backstory can help create a vivid character, but it is how they behave to a situation that really makes them come alive. (Click here to read more.)