So, during the course of this roller-coaster ride that we call Rough Drafting, I’ve learned quite a bit about the writing process, but even more about myself. Specifically? I tend to be a lazy writer. I wait until I’m “in the mood” before opening my manuscript; I must have the proper amount of coffee and chocolate circulating my system before I can write; etc. etc…
But there’s one excuse on which I fall back almost constantly: I wait for my characters to “speak to me.”
I never used to think of this as an excuse; I thought this was just the way a writer’s brain worked. “I can’t nail this character’s voice,” we sigh. “She’s just not talking to me. I suppose I’ll have to put this manuscript on hold until she decides she’s ready to tell her story…”
No. This isn’t the way a writer’s brain works. This is a subconscious writer’s block. Because, dear readers – and some of you might be somewhat shocked by this – those characters are fictional. They’re not real. That means that when you can’t nail the MC’s voice, it’s your voice that’s not coming through – and you’re the one who will have to fix it.
Don’t get me wrong; I think there’s something to be said for taking a break when you’re blocked. Sometimes words just won’t come; sometimes a character's voice is elusive and slippery. That’s okay. But to blame your blockage on a person who doesn’t exist…um. Yeah. That’s not going to work.
When you don’t understand your character’s motivations or voice or personality, it’s up to you to find one. It’s not a matter of asking the character; it’s a matter of asking yourself, “What kind of character do I want to write? How will they talk/think/dream/laugh/walk? And how will this affect the plot and themes of this story?”
I don’t think writer’s block is a myth…but sometimes, we find pretty creative ways of blocking ourselves, out of laziness or fear or the infamous I-don’t-have-enough-time syndrome.
We need to stop.
We need to quit asking our characters, “What are you doing? What do you want out of this plot?” and start asking ourselves, “What do I want out of this manuscript?”
~ Kristin Otts