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Liking your characters– or risk developing writer’s block

Donald Swain was a writing teacher who concentrated on developing character or “story people.”

I’ve read his book, Creating Characters, three times but when I picked up again I saw something in the first chapter that I had missed.  It was simply:  like your characters.

It stopped me because I don’t particularly like most of them. Ambivalent is the best word.  I suddenly realized that if I didn’t like the characters, what was the chance of a reader sticking through the whole novel.  If I don’t like the character can I be caught up in what’s happening to him or her.  That makes for unpleasant reading.

And if I dislike them enough I won’t want to spend time with him/ her/them and that can cause me to avoid writing, ie develop writer’s block.

I went back to something that I probably wrote about earlier– about casting current and past actors in the roles.  For my hero, I have the 1960’s film star, Alain Delon. Thanks to the web, I have pictures of him at my fingertips and do not need to send long-distance letters to Paris.

Scripting the characters also helps me identify less with each character so they can become more their own person.  But I also get the thrill of entering the body/mind/spirit of each character to bring them to life.

I needed to do all these things before I wrote the second draft.  In the first draft I became aware of my weaknesses.  And I am scrambling to learn how to do things I need to know.

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