Monday, June 4, 2007

Becoming Your Characters

When you're writing fiction, you become your characters in the same way that an actor becomes the character she or he plays in a movie or play. That's how you make your fiction convincing. You think and feel as your character while you're working. Sometimes the character's thoughts and feelings stick with you even after you've stopped writing for the day. This works out great if your character happens to be happy, funny, empowered, smart, and/or lead a charmed life. Often this is not the case, though, right? Maybe you're writing about a character whose story is pretty dark. In that case, you don't want the character to move in with you for the duration of the writing. But you don't want to avoid unpleasant subjects, either, because sometimes the gnarliest of stories are the best ones! (To the right, I've chosen a still from the most depressing movie I could think of, Midnight Cowboy. I saw it at 15 or 16, and although I recognized its greatness, I was bummed for days afterward. Imagine what it must have been like to write the novel or the film or to act in it!)

Yesterday, a student asked me how to shake a character's darkness after the writing session is over. These are my recommendations:

1. Use music to lift your spirits. Before you write, think of several songs or pieces of music that always make you feel happy and empowered. After you write, play those songs and dance.
2. Exercise. Work out or go for a run or walk (even better, listen to uplifting music with an upbeat tempo at the same time.) Can't beat those endorphins!
3. Use positive, guided meditations to change your vibe from "down" to "up."
4. Watch a funny movie with a happy ending.

If you have any suggestions for shaking loose a character or situation after the writing stops, leave a comment or send me an email!


Maureen and P.D. the Pet Dog said...

Hi Sara, My friend Bonnie steered me over to your blog and since I'm a writer-wanna-be I have enjoyed your advice on how to use intuition when writing! Thanks! I'll be sure to stay tuned! Moe

Bonnie said...

It's me again - I feel the same way about reading. When I read a dark book, I get kind of depressed and not quite as joyful as is my normal mode. When I read "nice" books with good people and interesting plots, I find that life is more enjoyable.
I think it is interesting how a writer can get so attached to their characters - like an actor might do.
I guess if I were a writer I would have to write about giggling children, dogs wagging their tails, and Pollyanna falling in love.