As writers, we can tend to become emotionally engaged with our characters and what happens to them. There are times when a theme or topic can move us so deeply, that sometimes we may need to step away.
While writing my short story The Ghost at Willow Creek, my husband and I were having a few issues at the time (which thankfully have been resolved and was nothing really too drastic), but I began to really feel for my main character, Eleanor, and what she was going through. I had put myself in her shoes. In one of my stories for my collection Legacy and Other Short Stories, I wrote about an incident where I began crying. I was going through the same hurt as my main character. Once again, I had put myself in their shoes, and I needed to walk away and spend some time to gather my thoughts.
A few years back, during a session of National Writing Novel Month (NaNoWriMo), of all times, I was doing fine, until I hit a rather awkward moment. I just had to stop, because what happened to my character caught me completely by surprise. I know some characters can tend to take over the stories we create, but as the creator, I did not want my character to go down this route. Although I did manage to finish NaNoWriMo that time by writing other scenes, I have not returned to that novel. It has since evolved into something a bit different, but what happened to my main character in that scene won’t be repeated. It is a subject that I find too disturbing. I wouldn’t want to impose it upon my characters and I would find it too difficult to write.
We need to put ourselves in our character’s shoes in order to empathise with them and if we feel that emotional bond with our characters, then our readers will too. Our characters then become real people to us and sometimes they may even surprise us with their actions.
It is for these reasons that being a writer can be a roller-coaster of emotions, but when we get it right, it can be very rewarding.
Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? Do you become emotionally engaged with your characters? Have you had to step away from your writing when it becomes too emotional?
*Side Note: My short story, The Ghost at Willow Creek is now available as an eBook through Kindle Unlimited. It will be available for FREE from 3-7 February 2020 in Australia, as well as various other countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
The purpose of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.
Main image courtesy Pixabay
14 thoughts on “IWSG: Has Your Writing Ever Taken You by Surprise?”
I haven’t become so entangled with my characters that I had to step away, but I did surprise myself once by bawling my eyes out when I killed off a character!
Hi, Priscilla. That is a particularly hard time, especially when you don’t see it coming yourself!
I’m paraphrasing that writing saying – get your characters up a tree then throw rocks at them. I hate doing that to my people but sometimes it must be done. 😮
That sounds brutal Madeline, but yes, sometimes we have to do what is necessary.
I’ve been taken by surprise by my protagonist a few times. The first time I followed along. Several years later, when it happened again, I really struggled to revamp the story to fit the new direction. The third time it happened, I pulled hard on the reins and yelled, Come back here! It’s currently happening to me again, hence it’s taking forever to complete my 4th novel. I mean, I’m God after all. I’m the boss. I say what goes. LOL. Right??? Happy IWSG Day, Debbie!
Sometimes we need to show our characters who’s the boss. 😉 Thanks for stopping by Joylene, it’s lovely to meet you!
Yes. Once I was writing about bringing a person to a psychic that everyone knew was faking it. The closer I got to the scene the worse I felt, because I had no idea what would happen next. So I jumped to the end of the meeting.
When psychic’s client walked out the door, she muttered, “I knew it. Follow my heart. Believe in myself until things turn around.”
Anna from elements of emaginette
That sounds interesting Anna. I’m glad it worked out for you in the end. 🙂
Yep, I definitely have an emotional link with my characters. Sometimes it’s hard to kill them off, even when it’s necessary for the story.
Killing off our characters can be the hardest thing for a writer to do. I’ve only done that in short stories for now, but I know when writing a novel and having more investment in the characters, it will be harder to let them go. 🙁
It’s kind of amazing to me that I can develop such emotional bonds with my characters. They really do become part of us sometimes.
Your Willow Creek story sounds so good!
Thank you, Julie! I think I get on better with my characters than I do real people, sometimes! 😉
NaNo ended as I got to the point where I needed to kill off a character I really liked. I put off the deed for over a month, writing an entire 10K word short story to avoid the inevitable. Normally, though, I do my best writing when I’m emotionally engaged with what’s happening to a character. I’ll be exhausted and drained when I’m done, but the words just fly out.
Hi Janet! I believe I also do my best writing when I’m emotionally engaged. When that happens, I find it helps me get into the ‘zone’. It’s a great feeling! 🙂
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