When Characters Get You Down

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If you’ve been following my posts for the past couple of months, you’ll have noticed my productivity go down and my excitement over my current project wane considerably. I’ve written about a few of the causes but I’ve been somewhat in denial about a major reason, one I’m going to talk about today.

At the starting point of my current work in progress (WIP in writer-short), I have chosen to showcase my main character at her emotional rock bottom. She’s in a place I almost hit many many years ago. I’ve chosen to do this because I want my series to showcase her emotional growth and her ability to bounce back despite all the pressures on her. I want to make her struggle and show her that she really can make it in the end. It’s a small part of the novel and series arc, and it’s an extremely important aspect to me.

However, delving back into that mindset is hard. Far harder than I ever thought it would be. Seasoned writers can affirm that the emotions you put your characters through can have a parallel effect (probably the wrong term but the one I’m going to go with) to the point that you as the artist feel whatever they’re feeling right along with them. Or are at least weighed down by their reaction.

I read a blog post by Ilona Andrews awhile back where she said that she was down in the dumps and sad for no particular reason. Then she said her character Kate is sad about something in her current WIP so she’s probably feeling the effects of that.

After reading that statement from a veteran writer I knew I had to face my own problem. I have been having the most difficult time diving back into my own WIP because I don’t know how to get myself out of the emotional tailspin I need to enter in order to write my character effectively. Switching back and forth between my past and present mental states is exhausting.  I’m still so excited about the project and think about it all the time, I just can’t seem to open up my draft, centre myself, and add words.

Maybe realizing this problem is the first step to getting back on the horse, but I think I need to find some sort of after-writing activity to get me back to my current emotional plane. Because I sure as heck am not where I once was and I hate feeling like I am even for the sake of art.

Has anyone out there had this problem? If so, what do you do about it? I am really at a loss with this one!

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  1. I understand your problems completely. I am writing a book on abuse and grief. About half-way through I’m bogged down with your exact problem – how do I bring her up from her suffering. So I put the book aside and am writing other stories. But the half-finished book is waiting for that time I can go back and actually lift her out. Maybe you should write something else and go back? Because we, as writers, can’s seem to stop the stories consuming our mind.
    All the best. Know you will overcome the obstacle and finish it.

    1. Any productivity list for writers I come across says do not work on other projects, write notes but stay focused on your current WP. I just don’t think that’s feasable! I think you’re right, I should work on something with a better mindset to get me out of the funk this current project puts me in.

      Thank you!

  2. I have a few stories on my to-write list that I keep avoiding and putting off for this same reason. I’ve alerted my husband that they exist, and I plan to warn him when I start. Character connection can be a hugely powerful thing.

    But I know the shapes of those stories. So I’m hoping that when I get to that point and my main character has lost sight of her goals, the goals/actions/momentum of the other characters will drag her forward in the plot and story. The other characters don’t share her mental state, so hopping into their heads for a bit would help my own.

    When all else fails, being creative in non-writing ways is a wonderful thing. Acting, drawing, dancing, singing – those all center me in myself. Well, maybe not the acting, but that’s at least a different head-space from where writing takes me.

    Whether any of that is useful for you or not, good luck! It’s not an easy balance.

    1. I’m so quiet about my WIPs (which I just realized I did wrong in my post and am off to go fix, ha) at home….it might be beneficial and liberating to warn my household who can then perhaps help me out of my funk.

      Character head hopping would be incredibly helpful, unfortunately this project is exclusively first person. It’s HARD.

      You know, I was just thinking to myself that I wish I made more time for drawing and painting. That might really help.

      It’s all useful! Thanks! I’m learning that. By golly I am learning that.

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