How well do you know your characters?
Senior year in college, I decided to write a novella for my thesis. Since I didn’t have to take as many courses, I thought I could handle it. I quickly learned how much work would go into plotting and writing. I had deadlines to meet – scheduled office meetings with my advisor where I had to hand in a new chapter each time. Things got hectic, and some chapters got rushed. But at the end of everything, I’d done it. My thesis was written and revised. My group of advisors passed my novella (during the most stressful meeting I’ve ever had). It was a wonderful feeling …
But when I went back to look at it myself, the magic of it began fading away. It didn’t read as well, didn’t seem as exciting as when I had been writing it. I fell out of love with the main characters, whom I had once been obsessed with. I didn’t feel sure about anything anymore, and actually felt ashamed of the finished product. Despite being good enough to pass as my thesis by a board of professors I admired and respected … I felt like a bad writer.
They say that if you find yourself disliking your writing that you should take a break – clear your head, and come back to it later. And yes, I could have been feeling burned out after writing, reading, and rewriting all semester. But more time passed, and I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up again. I felt like it deserved more, but that it wasn’t something I had a spark for anymore. Maybe that’s why I like writing short prose so much.
I was daydreaming at work last week when something changed. Instead of wandering to the universes of recent shows and audiobooks … I came across the main characters from my novella. “What if Lucas was [spoilers] and how would that relate to his new friends?” It was a simple, single thought that meant so much to me. And in that moment, something clicked. It felt like a piece that had been missing from one of the main characters was finally returned.
Because when I wrote that novella, I never felt like I fleshed out my characters enough. I have roleplaying characters that have bigger biographies than my novella characters ever did. So I want to flesh out my novella characters; if I can get that far, maybe I can breathe new life into the story, too.
Writer friends: do you use certain sites or programs to put together character biographies? I used to use Charahub, but the site goes down too often to enjoy it. I’m currently housing them in Google Drive via Google Docs, but I do miss having pretty profiles. I think it makes the process more fun, and helps put more love into your characters.
If anyone from my college years reads this, I’m going to feel really embarrassed.