Crafting Emotional Characters


Okay. I’m going to just come out and say it. I kinda hate my narrator.

Okay…it’s more than kinda. I REALLY hate my narrator.

No, she didn’t change directions. She didn’t screw with my plot. She’s following the rules of the world I’ve created (I suppose that’s something I should be grateful for). But damn, she drives me crazy!

Hate is perhaps an unjust feeling for my emotionally raw, immature narrator who is going through and has lived through hell—and thus probably deserves every tear she sheds and every bout of anger she exudes—for her entire existence. And yet, I have a hard time forgiving her.

I hope that me (the writer) saying that won’t drive away you (potential readers). The voice, it fits. It really really does. It’s just that when I set out to write this story, I didn’t plan on writing about a teenager, particularly a dramatic one.

No one likes drama. Just read every profile on Match ;). And of course I try to keep my life as drama free as possible. But now that I’m living and writing in the voice of my narrator, I’m elbow-deep and all I can do is grin and bear it.

Maybe when I take a step back from things—after the next draft is complete—it won’t seem so…so…everything is the end of the world. Because that’s exactly my mission as I work through my second draft. It’s time to make everything seem like it’s the end of the world. I need to up the tempo, amp the emotion and let the drama flow – because I left that out in my first draft.

Truly, I’m being dramatic myself. But when everything you write is supposed to be high intensity, it gets hard to stomach. The Vea I imagined when I dreamed up this character at 17 is nothing like the Vea I created in my early 30s…who actually is 17, and I have been having trouble reconciling the two in my head. To be fair, when I dreamed her up, I had visions of writing her as an Epic Fantasy character and her story ended up in the Dystopian Fantasy category and heroines in the Dystopian category typically skew young – and dramatic. So it’s not all her fault.

Emotions are good. They make us human. We are not robots and we certainly weren’t meant to be. But an overly emotional character can be as frustrating for a reader as the unlikable, grumpy narrator if you take it too far.

So what do you do when the voice of your story is nothing like you imagined? I think you just have to roll with it. Even if it hurts. Even if it drives you crazy. Because, there’s no going backwards and abandoning the project is NOT an option.

As I’m writing, I know I need to walk a careful line. The reader needs to care for the narrator. They need to understand her plight. Emotion in the story is paramount. But I don’t want her to annoy the heck out of my readers or I simply won’t have any readers.

I know I’m doing the right thing. After all, I’m increasing the emotional tension of the story and building the relationships between characters. The going is decidedly slow. But at least it’s going. I just have to have faith. Right? I think I can. I think I can…

I’ll have to go back and evaluate this once I complete this next draft and see if it actually comes out as over the top as it feels right now.

Have you ever written a character that drove you crazy? Or had a project that drove you crazy? Feel free to answer in the comments.

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