I’ve been falling back into my writing groove lately. We’re pretty settled into our house now and getting used to life as a family of four. In my new town, I immediately reached out to other writers and was so lucky to connect with two very talented women I now meet with once a week. We give each other deadlines to encourage weekly progress and then we exchange work and give feedback. That day is my favorite day of the week, not only because it’s the only time I get out of the house and get to talk to people about things other that potty trips and spit up, but also because I love hearing their feedback on how to dig deeper into my story. And they’re always forcing me to dig deeper.
A couple of months ago, I started a complete overhaul of my novel, including relearning my characters. I really enjoyed writing the first draft but I often smoothed over the things that weren’t working instead of examining why and trying to fix them. Once I got out the magnifying glass and took a closer look, I found a lot of inconsistencies in my main character that gave the story a back and forth affect. It took me a lot of brainstorming to figure out exactly who she was and wouldn’t you know–she’s seeming to be a lot like me.
That’s why I couldn’t help but laugh when my writing partners told me my character was strung out and needed meds.
I get it. I’m no stranger to my character flaws. We’re quite close, actually. I don’t take it too seriously because, as in writing, I’m always trying to improve and none of us are perfect. In fact, as I strengthen the story and my character arc, I find that I’m learning about myself through her growth. I look at her and see how uptight she is and think maybe we both could use a little more fun in our lives. I see where she worries about trivial things and know we could both learn to let go and accept things as they come. I think it’s acknowledging those things in ourselves and being willing to grow as people that leads our characters through a believable and touching journey, themselves.
I’ve always heard about writing as therapy but I imagined journaling, not fictional stories about characters we don’t know. But the truth is, we do know these characters because they come from within us. Their experiences come from our experiences. They’re desires are a reflection of our own. This is what they mean when they say it takes a brave person to be a writer. We’re revealing a lot (if we’re doing it right–too much) of ourselves. We’re admitting our flaws to create conflict in the story and then attempting to be our own therapists by solving those problems by the end of so many pages, so many months of work, so many sleepless nights.
It’s a tough thing to expose and scrutinize ourselves before the reading world and for the first time, I feel like I’m actually doing that. Many times before, I’ve taken from my thoughts and things I’ve experienced but never before have I faced the things that I don’t particularly like about myself. It’s a new road that I’m happy to go down because it means a better story and hopefully in time, a better me.
Have you infused any of your characters with your own flaws? How did that make you feel? Did you learn through him or her as you wrote?