Friday, April 27, 2012

When characters do bad things

I came back Wednesday from a week's writing retreat. During the days, our group kept silence and I wrote and wrote and wrote. But since I've been back, I have written very little, even though I am faithfully showing up for my early writing hour each day. At first, I thought it might be post-retreat slump settling in early, but then I realized it was where I was in the story.

My character, Callie, is sliding into major heartbreak and is about to take a self-destructive path. Having been both of those places myself in earlier years, I think I am finding it difficult to keep enough distance from the story. Describing her reactions, her emotions, her behaviors is so familiar and so sad that I don't want to go there.

There's a belief among non-writers that we writers control our characters but that isn't my experience. I feel no more able to stop Callie from making these decisions than I could stop a sister or daughter or myself. And so I show up and write a little bit of it each day and try to soften the blows when my character does bad things.