Trying to Connect with Characters

Sometimes when I work on a story, the words just flow. I barely even need to think about what I’m going to write; I sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and off we go. It’s as if the character has become a real being and is dictating the words to me. All I have to do is type them.

Other times, the story doesn’t flow as easily. That’s partly because I tend to get a little too perfectionistic; I have to have exactly the right words and phrase things exactly the right way, and if I’m having a day when my language center crashes, finding those “right” things is a struggle that sometimes leads to me writing a sentence or two if I’m lucky. (And then often either deleting those sentences or agonizing over rewriting them the next day.) The perfectionism, in turn, comes from my dislike of editing, which isn’t a helpful dislike when it comes to writing quality stories that I’m happy to have people read. The oppositional part of my brain tells me that the better I write something the first time, the less editing I’ll have to do after I finish the first draft. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to the first draft either never getting finished or taking far longer than it needs to, because I agonize over the words and get bogged down.

The lack of flow is also sometimes because I don’t feel as connected to the character I’ve created. Maybe I haven’t fleshed them out as well as I need to; maybe they’re very different from the type of character I usually write, so I’m having a hard time getting into their head. Without that connection, not only does it become more difficult to write the story, but I’m not as interested in it, which makes me less likely to work on and finish it. I write partly because *I* want to see what happens; although I do usually have at least a vague brainstorm of where I think a story will go, once I start writing, I don’t necessarily stick to the brainstorm. The story and characters sometimes carry me off in a different direction, and I’m okay with that. But if I don’t feel a connection to the character, I’m not as interested in seeing what happens to them.

As the author, it’s up to me to create characters my readers want to read about–and that I want to write about. Even though some of my characters feel like they’ve become autonomous beings who tell me their stories–I’m looking at you, Kyle Slidell–ultimately they are the creation of my own mind. And if I don’t feel enough connection to a character to write about them, it’s up to me to either forge that connection or forget about writing that character’s story.