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Old 02-11-2016, 05:56 PM View Post #12 (Link)
owl (Offline)
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You've got some great replies, and I especially second Dab's and Keladry's responses!

1. What makes me attached to a character includes details, as Dabs and Keladry said, and whether I recognize them as human. A character who is a specific, complicated person will be very interesting to me but also ring a bell of recognition, which we feel when we encounter someone else who is specific and complicated the way we see ourselves to be. I also really, really respond to a character's voice. I love first person narration for that reason, but dialogue and free indirect discourse can be valuable tools for creating a character that resonates with the reader.

2. Like Dabs and Keladry, I hesitate to list specific things that I find upsetting or sad, because how I react to events really, really rises out of character. If you turn to death, entrapment, violence, etc. to create a strong emotional reaction in your readers, you risk making your reader feel emotionally manipulated. A character's personal failures, frustrated ambitions, intense loves and losses -- these can all happen on a more mundane scale, and be more moving than a simple death scene.

Not that death can't be extremely affecting. I recently read Sunset Song, which is a beautiful novel, and the protagonist loses a number of men that were important in her life, for good or ill -- and what made me cry were her complex, intense reactions to those deaths, many of which were bittersweet. When abusive people in her life passed on, and she felt sadness and entrapment still, I cried -- because I wanted her to be happy and free. So it really, really must be character driven.

3. I really don't care about whether a character is described.

4. An interesting character, a sense of movement or suspense, and an interesting narrative voice are what keep me writing (and, incidentally, reading). I will say that I hit a wall with every story I write, when I hate myself and my work and feel like I can't go on. Because I write short fiction, it's easier to slog through and get to the end -- I just need to toss back some coffee and write until it's done then hide the file and tell myself I'll never write again for a couple weeks. However, I USED to write novels, and here's what worked for me (and still works for short stuff, too):

- make smaller goals. When you've hit your wall, it is entirely possible you're hitting a wall because you're bored and tired. It's okay to write more slowly than your usual/desired pace. Try writing sentence by sentence or paragraph or paragraph.

- take breaks! Can be a day, can be a week, can be however long or short you want. Again, I'm a real proponent of the tired-brain theory of writer's block, and you need to take care of yourself and the other stuff you like! Get out into the world. Do something intellectually engaging...but that's engaging in a different way than your novel. Hang with friends. Learn something new about the world.

- while taking breaks, meditate. Make yourself notice things about your environment that you usually take for granted.

- Schedule writing time in a specific place and just make yourself do it. Apparently science says it takes twenty minutes to really get into a task: try writing for half an hour and see how you feel?

These aren't guaranteed but they help me get my brain back in the game after a long time of not writing OR after a long time of writing vigorously. I hope some of it's useful!
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